Abby checked her appearance in the mirror and was quite pleased with what she saw. She’d always been the tallest in her class at school which had been a problem as an insecure thirteen year old but now at twenty-six and a graceful five foot eight she didn’t mind it so much. Short dark curls – easier for work, blue eyes behind her glasses, ready smile, long legs encased in her dark green overalls which she wore as part of her uniform to work in the gardens of a wonderful stately home in the South of England.
She had only been there a couple of weeks, it was her first proper job since completing her BTec in amenity horticulture and she was enjoying being taken through the basics. It helped that it was May and the weather was starting to warm up nicely. Who wouldn’t want to be working in the sunshine under blue skies in the fresh air?
‘Oi you lot pack it in! Where are your parents?’ shouted Cathy, her supervisor. Abby laughed as she saw a group of children trying to jump between the carefully carved mushrooms placed around a tree as seats.
‘Surely they’re not doing any harm?’ she said gently.
‘Maybe not, but if they fall off and hurt themselves and their parents try and sue the estate it doesn’t bear thinking about.’ Replied Cathy as they ran off. ‘Anyway are you okay to start weeding here while I go and get the bedding plants?’ she asked. Nodding, Abby started to work. It was a lovely spot that had always been popular – a grassy slope heading straight up with the flowers of the herbaceous borders growing in riotous shapes and colours along each side. It had a little summer house at the top so you could sit and admire the view after the climb.
She had been working steadily for about ten minutes when she heard shrieks of laughter. Turning round and leaning on her fork she had to smile because the children had returned and were having great fun rolling down the hill. Some hadn’t got the hang of it and kept rolling off into the bushes, but a couple of the older ones managed to get to the bottom. She felt a twinge of envy – they were having so much fun!
As she was sitting in the stable-yard coffee shop having lunch– another perk that she enjoyed – she opened her magazine and turned to an article that she’d spotted on the train earlier; ‘10 things to do before you’re 30’. She was pleased to see that she’d already been to Australia and she volunteered in a charity shop some Saturdays so that was two down already. It also suggested taking your parents to dinner, ‘That’s a nice one,’ she thought ‘I’ll definitely do that – when I’ve paid off my overdraft.’
‘Hmm date against type… most of the men she’d dated had been creeps or mummy’s boys so maybe she could try dating someone nice? Definitely worth a try.
‘Do something completely childish.’ That’s when the idea popped into her head, she couldn’t stop it. It was seeing the children earlier rolling down the hill. She just had to try it! Of course she wasn’t going to roll down a hill in front of the public and her colleagues. She wasn’t that daft! An idea started to creep into her mind though. As the new girl, one of her chores was having to be in first to get everything for her and Cathy. She tended to get in to work just after 8.00 and the gardens didn’t open til 9.00. Most of her colleagues strolled in about ten minutes before work started so she often had the place to herself – and the hill to the little summer-house was well away from the offices, shop and restaurant area where people tended to go first.
So next morning there she was trundling her wheelbarrow loaded with all the things they’d need for the morning. She left it at the bottom of the hill; glancing round she saw that no-one was around. The only other people already on site were Michael and Kerry but they were loading up tools ready to work around the lake further round on the other side of the gardens.
It was the most perfect morning as she climbed up the grassy slope, the air was cool but the sky was clear with the promise of a lovely sunny day. It took her a few deep breaths to get her courage up even though she still couldn’t see a soul.
Taking her glasses off she tucked them in the pocket of her overalls – probably better if she couldn’t see where she was going properly! Then lying down right in the middle of the slope she tucked her arms in to her chest and tensed up her long limbs and pushed off. It took a couple of rotations to get it right – ‘don’t try and push off too hard with knees or elbows’ she told herself; and then she was amazed how exhilarating it was to roll at speed feeling the damp grass on her hands and face each time she rolled round.
Getting up at the bottom of the hill, her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkling she was brushing herself down when saw Cathy walking towards her carrying two travel mugs of coffee.
‘Morning, love – thought I’d make an early start seeing as it’s such a lovely day. You look a bit pink, have you been running?’
‘No – just looking forward to getting started.’ She said, relieved that no-one had witnessed her little escapade. They both got to work planting out red begonias in a large bed to make a startling splash of colour.
Cathy grinned as she heard Abby humming to herself as she worked. Maybe now wasn’t the time to mention that the site had CCTV and everyone in the office had enjoyed her carefree roll down the hill – then rewound it and enjoyed it again.
But then it was probably also a good job that Abby had decided against number seven in the list of things to do before she was thirty. Something about going naked in a public place.
This story was inspired by a day out at the RHS garden at Wisley