Thursday, 22 April 2010

A hit as Mapperton reaches the top ten

I hardly have chance to draw breath this morning as I open up the Pot Shop doors at Mapperton. People are already getting out of their cars, clutching their admission fee and copies of the Mail's Live magazine.

We have been featured in Clive Aslet's list of top ten great gardens and we're at number four: 'Hidden away in its Dorset combe, Mapperton is a dream of England at its loveliest...handsome, yes, but not overwhelming...Daffodils dance on the banks, and the backdrop is of fields where cattle and sheep can safely graze. Perfection.'

My thoughts entirely. So, as the world and his wife descend on Mapperton, with 70 guests by four o'clock, I have no time for lunch and only a quick visit to the lavatory.

Lord Sandwich towers above a party of ladies as he takes the group on a tour of the house. A steady stream of visitors to the shop buy plants, Ulster Weavers aprons and pretty notebooks. People sit outside the cafe, enjoying the sun and a cream tea.

By 4.30pm, even the bantams have had enough, going to bed early and settling down to roost in the old yew tree next to the church.

It's been a busy day and I'm pooped. But I managed to get the till to balance this week. Think I'll reward myself with supper in my local pub.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Gone with the wind

Back behind the Mapperton till, I manage to overcharge someone for two teenagers. Granny challenges me with a glare and I instantly apologise and appeal for sympathy by claiming it's my first day. She smiles, pats me on the arm and then I immediately feel guilty for telling fibs.

It is overcast with a chilly wind. It is also very noisy. The oil tanker is making a delivery and the lorry engine is running right outside my shop. The handyman is mowing the lawn with a great big machine. With his woolly hat and ear defenders, he looks like a Russian tank operator.

The phoenix jungle fowl mutter, the cockerel shrieks and an Indian runner duck rushes by like a tall person late for a train. The bantams yell in unison when a large and breathless dog tries to break free from its lead and then an old man with a trilby hat walks up to the shop and breaks wind loudly before venturing in. A car alarm goes off in retaliation.

I pick up a note I was left after last week, telling me two things I got wrong. But, like all the best tickings off, it ends in praise: 'Well done with the till total.'

Not only was it a decent sum, it actually tallied with the takings.

I'll keep you posted.

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Round and round the garden

I entered Mapperton Gardens as a visitor this week, accompanied by my little helper.

I was armed with my camera. But she saw things through different eyes with a pair of binoculars.

These are some of the things we found:

The north wing.

The orangery.

An ancient urn.

Sunny steps.

Snake's head fritillary.

Hellebores under the pergola.

Stern-looking fish.

A blossom-strewn path.

Textures and colours.

And, finally, thank goodness for binoculars used the wrong way round. My little helper would never have spotted it otherwise.

I'll keep you posted.

Love Maddie x

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A flock of visitors

The sound of contented, hen-like mumblings is coming from the car park. I peep out of the Pot Shop doorway expecting to see a couple of bantams scrabbling around in the mud, only to find two elderly ladies in deep conversation around the plant table.

They are joined by their husbands and then a man comes in wanting admission tickets for seven people. And still the cars come in. I have a slight panic attack when the till malfunctions, the digital display telling me 'operator error'. But visitors to country gardens are generally a cheerful and patient lot. Which is just as well, bearing in mind the terrible combination of maths, electrical equipment and me.

It has been busy at Mapperton since Easter. Glorious weather means scores of visitors coming through the gates. The cafe is now open and people are enjoying their lunch in the sunshine, joined every now and then by a bold bantam cockerel.

A member of staff hands me a brown envelope. My wages! I feel like I did back in 1979 when I had my first pay packet. The amount is about the same too.

Meanwhile, her Ladyship has discovered the blog. Summoned to the office, I stand close to the door as she peers over her spectacles, looking at me and then at the computer screen. There is a pause.

'You write very well,' she says. 'Light, humorous, rather in the style of the English essayists...'

This is quite something coming from a woman who has letters from Samuel Pepys. Is she being sarcastic? I edge closer to the door. Did I complain about the rate of pay? Or mention the time when her Ladyship took me on a guided tour of the gardens with the pet cat wrapped around her neck like a living stole?

Plucking up all my courage, I stammered: 'I can feel a "but" coming on...'

'Not at all,' her Ladyship says. 'How can we get more people to read it?'

So there you go - all followers gratefully received.

I'll keep you posted.

Love Maddie x