The Garden

I am not sure I have ever seen a hospital which does not have that hospital feeling about it.

While it is a pastoral organisation, bent on keeping us comfortable and maintaining our dignity in the face of illness and infirmity, the sheer practicalities of a hospital mean it must have easily scourable floors, echoing resonant corridors, public spaces peopled with those experiencing a plethora of human conditions. There must be many people in pyjamas and even a few in those rather injudicious surgical robes. There are newborns and the operated on and the inoperable, all in the same space.

Today the Celt and I were heading for the Neurology department, South Block, Outpatients 1. I could have been a number but the staff did their damndest to make me feel like a human being, and they succeeded. They confounded the municipal blue walls and rasping corridors to meet my eyes and smile and orient me.

I was only there about an anomaly,and I will cut to the chase and tell you that I have been pronounced absolutely fine. For we are not here to talk about me.

You may be familiar with hospital gardens. Often overlooked, they can be quite bare; zen gardens with cobble-allotments and pebble-crops abound, for they do not have weeds and foster a sense of uncluttered peace.

But they always leave me feeling a little short changed. For to me, that is not a garden. A garden must be green, lush, provide shade and surprise, even have water trickling somewhere in its arbours.

The lady had taken my details and checked me in. Maybe, since we had some time, she said, we might like to wait in the garden.

We bought excellent coffee and tea, and went to sit in the nearest courtyard space to Outpatients 1. It is a new garden, for which special funding has been obtained. We sat on benches over which green fronds trained along wide arches. Containers overflowed with greenery and gorgeous blue sage. Everywhere there was green, and we felt unaccountably happy, as if on a date, not visiting a hospital.

Was it the sound of gently trickling water which lent the space such magic? A stream ran along the length of the garden. Sculptures of nudes swimming lent energy and grace. The Celt and I sat sipping happily, discussing how anatomically correct the swimmers were.

And the sun beat down in a most un-English way, and my head was getting hot. That way, for me, lie migraines. I held the tea tray to block the sun and continued to marvel at the green. And then the Celt said: I have an idea.

He reached into his bag and brought out a black umbrella. And he put it up and lo, it provided the most perfect shade.

We sat in Elysium shaded by a black umbrella for a few more minutes before leaving for my appointment, conscious of being indebted to the hospital for putting such a beautiful, such a very un-clinical space there for us to use.

All England is a garden: but this corner of it was inordinately precious.

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15 thoughts on “The Garden

  1. Migraines are just hell.
    The main hospital in San Jose…San Juan de Dios…has a Victorian core with garden patios which have been echoed in the more modern parts of the hospital. Great places to rest between appointments.
    I do like the Celt’s black parasol.
    Even if it s first purpose was to be a para aguas.
    What a kind and thoughtful gentleman.

  2. I am very glad to know you are under good care and truly hope for continued good outcomes, Kate. I don’t know when hospital gardens, both large and open and small and intimate became a prominent feature in most facilities, but they are so important, I think. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals (with loved ones) and always seek out the garden for at least some fresh air and maybe a cup of coffee. They provide space to quietly meditate that antiseptic interiors discourage. Your thoughtful Celt had a wonderful idea to provide even greater comfort. I think you may have provided others with a very good idea!

  3. Another thought provoking thought for the day Kate. My own part of paradise is returning to green, the transformation is magical. How fortuitous the Celt had an umbrella.

  4. If only all institutions, and businesses, and dwellings, would allow for the importance of some sort of garden space as an essential ingredient. In the centre of Durban is one such haven of peace and growing splendour β€” on the roof of a building. I must revisit it again soon.

  5. A beautiful garden and an exceptional gentleman! Hospitals hereabouts have been gradually putting in gardens and spaces of beauty.
    I hope you are up to snuff and all is well soon, Kate.
    PS – Excellent tea and coffee. Now that I have not had in the hospitals here. πŸ™‚

    1. We were quite impressed ourselves Penny! An exceptional gentleman indeed. I could not have put it better. and great to hear hospitals in your neck of the woods are garden-rich too πŸ™‚

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