There is surely nothing more harmless than sitting down on a Friday evening to watch BBC’s Gardeners’ World. Monty, and the ever endearing Nigel, draw us into a gentle and charming world of beautiful gardens, whilst sharing hints and tips on how the viewer can get the best out of their own garden along with suggestions of gardens to visit.
Whilst keeping us all unto date with the wonders of Monty’s own garden and introducing us to other gardens worth a visit, the programme seeks to keep its feet in the realm of the more typical garden by championing saving front gardens from tarmac, tackling overgrown back gardens and following community garden projects.
Yet even in embracing those so-called more ordinary projects Gardeners’ World shows how far it is divorced from the reality of gardening for most people. Monty shows off his five (or is it six?) compost bins where as most of us just have one local council issue plastic compost bin, indeed the area he has given over for composting is bigger than many people’s gardens. When Monty is showing us a quick cheap way to propagate plants he has great vats of different varieties of compost whilst most of us have one sack of multipurpose which has to do for everything, and then places his cuttings in one of his glasshouses , which in turn are bigger than many people’s homes. And when an “ordinary” front or back garden is shown, the project undertaken usually involves a payout on new plants that would leave many of us struggling to pay the next week’s food bill. It is rare indeed to see on Gardeners’ World the kind of pocket-handkerchief garden many of us have on modern housing estates, or an allotment or our one north facing balcony in a block of flats.
The divorce between the gardening world presented by the BBC and the reality of most people’s gardens reflects the growing sense of disconnect between the powers that be and the nature of most people’s lives. There is a growing sense that politicians, policy makers, media, Church, and others who fall in the classification “establishment” simply do not get how the majority live, how they think and feel, the reality of their lives. Even when they talk of “ordinary” lives, just like Gardeners’ World, they get it wrong.
And when you feel so regularly unheard, mis-represented, over-looked, you inevitably look around for those who offer a different take on the world we live in. Politicians who do not speak and act like the mainstream, news sources other than the traditional outlets, belief systems that do not rely on bishops and synods, all start to seem much more attractive, more real.
Gardeners’ World is a parable of modern Britain. It appears warm and friendly, in touch with everyday folk. It presents an image of how we might want to see ourselves but, albeit in a kind harmless way, it just offers a fantasy that bears little or no resemblance to most people’s worlds. It seeks to present as normal something which is far from normal.
Gardeners’ Wold is an innocent enough program but unconsciously it has become a symptom of a wider malaise. Until we are able to fully acknowledge the diversity of ways people live, work and have their being, Britain will remain a divided land. As long as the world view of a particular elite is presented as the norm for everyone we will remain disconnected one from another. Our nation at the moment feels rather lost, lacking a sense of direction and ill at ease with itself – there is no sense of common ground or understanding of what is the common good.