Hartley Magazine

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Last Word

The following article was first published in Kitchen Garden Magazine (July 2016). who have kindly allowed us to share it with our readers.

Irving Robinson from East Yorkshire tells how a cold, rain-drenched motorbike ride to check out a greenhouse in Wakefield landed him in some very hot water.

Irving Robinson from East Yorkshire, next to his Hartley greenhouse

Back in 1971 we moved into a new semidetached bungalow standing on a large plot, 180 feet by 40 feet. The back of the house was a building site, so I spent my two-week Christmas holiday digging it over, turning it from a rubble tip into a workable garden. I used all the brick rubble to make a path. The next thing was to get a greenhouse; I read all the ads and one seemed to fit the bill. I wrote to the company who then sent me a list of addresses where I could see one erected. The nearest one was 30 miles away near Wakefield, not a great distance but as I only had a 50cc Honda motorbike, 20mph max, this was quite a challenge. So one bright, cool, Saturday morning in April I set off dressed in a sports jacket, flat cap and tie, no crash helmets in those days. Halfway into the journey the bright skies clouded over and it started to rain, lightly at first.

With nowhere to shelter I decided to keep going, then the rain turned into a downpour with hail thrown in for good measure. By the time I arrived I was soaked to the skin and shaking with cold, so cold I could hardly speak. I found the address at the top of a steep hill. So I thought I would park at the bottom so that if I ran back to the top I might generate some body heat and stop myself shaking.

That did not work and only made me out of breath. I started to have second thoughts considering the state I was in. But then I took a deep breath, walked up the drive and rang the bell. A smart, attractive lady opened the door. Still shaking with cold I said: “I’ve got a letter here from…” “Never mind that,” she said. “Come inside, you will catch your death.” She took me into a large room with a real coal fire burning. “Now stand there and get warm, I’ll go sort something out for you.” Moments later she returned with a dressing gown. “Now get out of those wet clothes and put this on while I go and make you a hot drink.” She came back with the drink and took my clothes to dry round the boiler. I sat there with a warm fire and a hot drink and started to feel much better. But this was short-lived. A sense of fear came over me when I heard a car pull up on the drive. “That’ll be my husband,” she shouted from the kitchen. The door opened: “I’m home darling.” A tall, well-built man walked into the room. “Who the hell are you?” He asked me. “What are you doing in my house with my wife and in my dressing gown?” “Nothing,” I said. “I think you have some explaining to do!” “Well,” I said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve only come to look at your greenhouse!”