the m john harrison blog

Month: April, 2021

secrets of the gardens

This garden is paved and narrow but crowded with shrubs, mainly box, yew and privet, many of which have been carefully sculpted into cones, spheres, cylinders. None of them are much taller than a person. Distributed among them are some benches; a replica Edwardian streetlight; two small circular netted ponds with raised stone sides, containing fish; and an accurately coloured plastic rendering of a heron. The topiary forms are not Platonic, or even properly geometrical. They have a raggedness of outline. Their shapes are not quite right. The cylinders are tubby and their walls inconsistently vertical. A cone resembles an upended turnip. To the eye it will always have an organic nature but not its own nature. It will always be a reference to, a picture of, some other form. Yet sometimes, on a dull day, when a shaft of light strikes between the still shapes and picks out the plastic heron, the bird can seem almost real; observed like this, from the window of a neighbouring second-floor window, the whole becomes less like an illustration in an early 1950s children’s fantasy than something presiding and real.



They always look the same, tired round the eyes, too old for their age, strange haircuts. They’re dressed in clothes that would have carried information forty years ago but don’t say anything now. They look like the victims of some political process to which, if you aren’t careful, you’ll be introduced whether you like it or not. When ghosts slip away from the crowd at the base of the statue, they first make a little eye-contact. They slip away visibly. They want you to know that they know that you spotted them. Before they go they want you to know that we’re all in this together.