Thirteen years ago, I had 'the interview'. The interviewer was (and is) a stand-up guy, shrewd, horticulturally aware (the roses he has bred over the years are stunning!), and with wit and approachability, you just can't help but like him. Like him and respect him – he's 'proper' and firm and honest.
The estate is huge, with most of it being unused woodland but it was only a small area, relatively speaking, that I had to tend to. At the time, I didn't think much of the job, the contract was a good one, the pay was three times more than I was on at the time, and the 'leave for the day' clause was fine by me – although it did frustrate me initially, it keeps me on my toes.
I'm a gardener, to put it bluntly. I trained at Kew Gardens and spent a few years there before relocating to Wakehurst. After a decade there, I got 'the call': a private estate was looking for a specialist, ideally long-term. Standard three month probation period, I figured 'what the heck' and went for it.
At the end of the first month, I almost quit. Not because of the job, the work was great. The boss was great. The Big Boss was a bit of an enigma (I couldn't figure him out). It was those darn paparazzi that broke in three times, and that nutty houseparty that went out of control and destroyed the fourth greenhouse. Do you know what it's like to have your work trampled and torched?
The boss asked me to give it another month, and I relented. Picked up the pieces, got back into things and even got the go-ahead to look for a couple of additional hands to help on some projects.
Finding out the secret changed things; helped put things in perspective. I don't officially know, but I know that they know that I know…and that's enough to know…y'know?
Finding out the secret made me aware of how important my work was in keeping things 'normal', and in protecting him. I know he looks out for us, even though we're not part of the team. We're 'extended family' – those cousins you've heard about but never seen.
The rest of us? We've never told or asked if anyone 'knows'. We just know we do. We're 'the collective', and we'll do whatever we can to help.