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25 July 2014

Whack down the alpaca poo

The radio column.

By Antonia Quirke

The Garden Party
BBC Radio Norfolk

“I’m firmly against peacocks. They don’t like glass, they get stroppy with their reflections, and they don’t like being cornered. AND they leave a vile-smelling dropping. I hate peacocks.
Vile, vile, vile.”

“Well, if I was a bird I’d crap on you.”

Another week, another compelling exchange on the horticultural show The Garden Party (Saturdays, midday) on Radio Norfolk, hosted by Thordis Fridriksson, with the usual panel of guests who sound as if they come directly from Danny, the Champion of the World: Alan from the old vicarage, Ben from Blacksmith’s Cottage, and Boris and Bets, “who do butterfly things” and who just spied a rare white admiral “swooping down in a circle grabbing nectar”.

By far the show’s greatest achievement is that, unlike all other gardening programmes, it can go on for up to three hours at a time and yet nobody gets lazy and starts pushing fake bonhomie into every other sentence. Also, everybody refers alluringly to people we don’t know. “Margaret’s friend Annie likes those birds, too, but then Holly said they look like little gentlemen who’ve had their arms stolen.” Far from coming over as cliquey or even confusing, this merely gives the show epic scale, suggesting a whole hinterland of contributors and their friends, and friends of friends, or just anyone really, calling up or stopping by to offer advice, mouth clamped down on a pipe.

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Under discussion today: the Plant Society of Kent. “And the ladies turned up,” marvels someone from a local allotment, “didn’t want a wee or a coffee but just wanted to look immediately at the plants. I’ve never seen so many elderly people move so fast.”

Things continually get said on The Garden Party that one might never otherwise hear. For instance: “Last night I had some people round and we caught some house sparrows”; “Don’t for God’s sake try to rot alpaca poo – just whack it straight down”; and “Indian runners are frisky. They’ll sexually assault the dog.”

Seldom has the neurotic turmoil of gardening obsessions and romance been so transfixingly rendered. Time between episodes is time wasted.