Down at the bottom of the garden

19th August 2011 at 01:00

Right now I am relaxing on a lounger in the garden of a luxury villa on the Costa Almeria. Where better to celebrate the miracle of our school spectacularly achieving near-impossible targets? Where better to dismiss the implications of upwardly revised targets for the year ahead? Where better to ignore the gathering storm clouds of September and the prospect of inspection under the new framework (where deprivation counts for nothing and Dr Gove's miracle cure for the statistically challenged is academy status)?

It doesn't take much for my half-full glass of Sangria to appear half empty, does it? That's because, for some reason, lazing on a sun lounger can't stop this teacher's thoughts turning to the educational implications of little Brandon Turner's garden.

Gardens can say a lot about family life. For example, our garden confirms Mrs Eddison's view that a man with six weeks to spare should make sure it is a work of art for the two weeks during which she will be home to enjoy it. To this end vast quantities of physical and financial resources have been expended.

Of course, a lack of financial resources can never be used as an excuse for horticultural underachievement. Blood, sweat and tears, combined with resilience to nettle rash and a stoical disregard for lower back pain, are all that is required. What one lacks in the ability to finance, say, the construction of superior duck accommodation on an exclusive garden pond development can be made up for by toil and imagination.

A tour of the gardens near our school reveals many imaginative low-cost landscape and design ideas. Some gardens have adopted a culinary theme and feature abandoned fridge freezers or clapped out cookers. Others have embraced the theme of transport through the ages with interesting arrangements of dismembered bicycles wreathed by brambles, privet hedges screening the skeletal remains of a Ford Sierra and mixed borders of rusting engine parts.

My favourite garden features a group of decapitated gnomes gathered surreally around a derelict wishing well. My least favourite is a bare concrete yard guarded by a dog on steroids that constantly drags its chain through a collection of faeces in various stages of decomposition.

Brandon Turner's garden is largely eclectic. Its borders are well stocked with assorted beer cans, broken toys, discarded trainers, an obsolete TV, a mangled umbrella, three dead socks and any number of feral cats he likes to call pets. What raises it above the ordinary is the fact it has a complete three-piece suite in it.

No one knows how long it has been there. It was definitely there last winter when it became home to an oddly dysfunctional snow family. It was almost certainly there the previous autumn because one of Brandon's sisters used it as a trampoline to catapult herself into Accident and Emergency (Brandon and his five siblings spend a lot of time in Accident and Emergency).

The rumour is it first appeared two summers ago. There are stories about several police cars arriving at two in the morning to pour cold water on a barbeque that had become a little overheated. Apparently someone's girlfriend was lying on the settee thinking of England when someone else's boyfriend offered to put his sausage in her bap.

From the safety of my lounger I entertain a vague hope that come September the three-piece suite in Brandon Turner's garden will have been replaced with more traditional garden furniture. But in my heart of hearts I know it will still be there. It won't affect his learning though. How could it?

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.

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