We're getting settled here in the south now, and I don't expect we'll migrate back. But every now and again some little thing triggers a memory and whisks me back to my old long-gone life up north. Today it was bamboo.
A couple of summers ago we upgraded our square of Cheshire soil. It went from being a nasty patch of water-logged mud with a pile of bricks in the corner, to a pretty peachy little garden with flowers, drainage and a path: "well stocked", as estate agents say. We had help from 7-foot tall Matthew - who had won rosettes at the Tatton Flower Show - and his troop of wheel-barrow pushing, earth-shovelling Manchester lads who trampled mud and testosterone all around the place.
We took Matthew's planting plan and phoned the trade-price garden centre. Upon hearing the man's quote, we spluttered a few heavy-duty swear words, picked ourselves up off the floor, cut the volume required in half, and ordered the plants. I don't remember what most of them were called - they were selected on the basis of being oriental-looking, clay-loving and reasonably hard to kill.
When the plants arrived on a truck, late one hot and humid Saturday afternoon, we off-loaded them and stood them on the deck. I put the kids to bed and poured a glass of icy cold wine. I went outside and sat amongst our new army of friends with roots and leaves: bushes, ferns, young trees, handsome, mysterious plants with Latin name tags in all shades of greens, yellows and reds. Some had stripes, some had prickles, some were just lush. It was quiet out, and almost dark. The bamboo swished in the breeze; I was elated.