Watering costs… and right here’s where you start paying

… in cat feeding. I love living in south London via Trumptonshire – my road where neighbours unaccountably talk to rather than knife each other. One of the greatest assets is my neighbour who is so outstandingly nice that she’s not only agreed to water the garden every day for 3 weeks while I’m away in France but actually claims to ‘enjoy it! (I know, weird…)

But here’s the tricky thing. How do you brief a non-gardener (for, despite her efforts with lettuce, she is one) on the intricacies, skill and exact levels of water required for each of your precious plants to make it to fruition without sounding like you’re mad? You may start well, affecting nonchalance and simple gratitude – ‘Oh, just wave the hose over the raspberries, the salad is in the shade so doesn’t need much…’ – but it’s not long before you’re agonising over whether your instructions have been sufficiently detailed. You invite them over for a ‘watering briefing’, jabbering, pointing at things like a maniac and demonstrating how to hold a garden hose. This is to stop yourself shouting in the middle of a Ryanair flight ‘THE POTS!!! WHAT ABOUT THE POTS!!!!’

No doubt she’ll have similar anxieties when she goes away later this month. She might say ‘Oh just feed the cats twice a day and give them fresh water’. What she probably wants to say but won’t for fear of sounding like a loon is ‘that one likes his ears tickled and that one will only eat her food if you arrange it in a pyramid formation. And they both like The Today Programme.’ I wouldn’t really care but I suspect she may have installed CCTV.

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