I’m Lovage, a gardening entrepreneur with more taste than testosterone. Search the gallery for images of eco-friendly gardens made for women by women. My design service is called Blissful Bees and I run the maintenance service Weeder Women.
All about me
I was born in Northern Ireland in 1971 and began my gardening career in a London backwater in 2018. Between those dates, I made sensible life choices – except my ex-husband – so I was often bored. But not anymore! These days I’m either creating beautiful bee-friendly gardens or helping Erica, the manager of our local community centre, run events. That’s right, folks. I have an alter ego. For a few happy, hilarious and heart-warming hours each week. I’m Lovey the volunteer. If you’d like to read more about my volunteering adventures, my previous blogs are HERE.
Bub and I met at the annual Winter Warmer Festival in November 2018. I was running a stall and she was on the prowl for freebies. After a battle of wills over a bowl of sweets – which she won – I convinced her to join the Over Fifty Club. Since then, we’ve shared many adventures. Sadly, in 2020, a pandemic put a stop to our fun.
The 2021 Winter Warmer had to be postponed twice before being cancelled for the second year running. A few days before, things had been looking up. We’d all had our jabs and Covid-19 was in retreat. To kick off the festive season, Bub and I were planning an après-Warmer party with mulled wine and mince pies. Then a cunning little variant named Omicron snuck up and put our social lives back on hold.
‘Cheer up,’ says Erica. ‘It isn’t the end of the world.’
‘If that’s what you think, you ain’t been keeping up with your newsfeed.’
Erica ignores Bub’s doom-saying. ‘Come on, help me to salvage what we can from this fiasco. First off, we have to track down the Knitting Circle. Have you seen them anywhere, Lovey?’
‘It’s happy hour at the Crown and Cabbage. They’re drowning their sorrows in prosecco.’
‘We offered to pack up their stuff,’ says Bub. ‘By the way, the Knitting Circle has been rebranded. Our new name is Social Knitworks.’
‘I didn’t know you could knit, Bub.’
‘I can’t. I’m their social secretary. And Lovey is the cheerleader.’
For some reason, Erica thinks this is funny. ‘Do you knit your own pom-poms, Lovey?’
‘It’s an honorary position. The knitting gang are good fun.’
‘They certainly are,’ says Erica. ‘And generous too. All their profits go into our platinum jubilee celebration fund. Thanks to them, we can have a proper knees-up in June.’
Erica scutters away to harass some other volunteers and Bub and I head for the hall. It’s a dismal sight. All around us stalls are being dismantled. Only the trestle tables allocated to Social Knitworks remain untouched. We spend a few minutes admiring the rainbow display of woollen goods before we start folding baby clothes, shawls and toys into the bottom of a large suitcase. The next layer is made up of jumpers, scarves, hats and socks.
We lug the suitcase to Erica’s office and park it behind her desk. Then we sadly collect the provisions we bought for our cancelled party. At the house Bub shares with her partner Clive, we heat some of the mulled wine to cheer ourselves up. It’s a mild evening and Omicron is less infectious outdoors, so we take our drinks to the bench in front of the house. That’s when we see trouble coming round the corner of the street.
Bub squints through the gathering dusk. ‘Is that Mel from Social Knitworks?
‘Yes, and her heavies are with her,’ I say. ‘They’ve got it in for somebody.’
‘That somebody had better look out. Mel don’t take no prisoners.’
Minutes later the head honcho of Social Knitworks is standing over us with her arms folded. Meliora is a recently retired marketing executive. She’s tall, stylish and, when she’s on the warpath, absolutely terrifying. Two younger women, Maeve and Lucy, flank her. With a shudder I recognise them as the only Social Knitters who can pull off a Fisherman’s Rib.
Bub greets the newcomers with her usual attitude. ‘Hiya girls. What’s up?’
Mel isn’t in the mood for conversational niceties. ‘Where’s our knitwork?’ she snarls.
‘It’s in Erica’s office,’ I tell her confidently.
Maeve leans threateningly towards me. ‘We looked there. The door was wide open and there was no sign of our suitcase.’
‘That’s not our fault,’ I say. ‘Blame Erica. It’s her job to lock up.’
When no one speaks, the full horror of the situation dawns on me. Social Knitworks don’t want to challenge the boss lady, so Bub and I are being set up to take the rap.
‘One hundred pounds worth of our knitwork is in that suitcase,’ says Mel, in a voice so harsh you could use it to grate cheddar. ‘Find it within twenty-four hours, or….’
‘Or what?’ says Bub pugnaciously.
Lucy squeals, ‘Or we’ll never speak to you again!’
When they’ve flounced away, I turn to Bub. ‘What a nerve. I don’t care if they do dump us.’
‘Speak for yourself, Lovey. Put any three of them knitters in a room together and it’s a party. Being their social secretary is a blast. And who else is going to ask you to be their cheerleader?’
She knows me too well. I’ve always dreamed of being a cheerleader and, now I’m fifty, this could be my last chance. Within minutes we’ve set off on a quest for the missing woollies.
By the time we reach the community centre it’s dark. Erica has gone home, but fortunately Bub has a spare set of keys. She doesn’t have a key to the manager’s office, which is now locked, but when we look through the glass door the suitcase is nowhere to be seen. A frantic search of the premises reveals nothing of interest until I check the recycling bin. A discarded beret is perched on the tin cans and wrapping paper. Immediately we recognise it as the property of a local wheeler-dealer. We high-tail it round to her lock-up garage where a tell-tale light is shining under the up-and-over door.
Bub hollers, ‘We know you’re in there. Show yourself!’
The door rolls up just enough for Myrtle, who is surprisingly flexible for her age, to duck under it. She’s wearing her familiar polyester business suit, but on her head is a brand-new woollen beret, expertly knitted in blended primary colours. Immediately I recognise Maeve’s handiwork.
‘Myrtle, where did you get that hat?’
‘None of your business, Lovey!’
Bub is trying to peer under the door. ‘You can’t fool us. Where have you stashed the loot?’
Myrtle shimmies back inside the garage. Before Bub and I have time to react, the door rattles shut.
‘We can’t look for the suitcase any more tonight,’ says Bub. ‘It’s too dark and cold. Clive’s mate Ray lives just up the road. Let’s go and schmooze him into giving us a lift home.’
When Ray opens his front door, I do a double take. For once, he’s not wearing his usual frayed navy sweatshirt. Instead, he’s resplendent in an Aran sweater knitted from top-of-the-range oatmeal wool in Lucy’s trademark style.
Bub’s jaw drops. ‘Who gave you that sweater?’
Ray, an ex-serviceman in his late fifties who is six foot tall and built like a brick outhouse, blushes bright red. ‘It’s a present from my new lady friend. What can I do you for, Bub?’
‘Lovey and I have had a tough day. Is there any chance of a lift home?’
‘Sorry, no. I’ve just ordered pizza. It’s a special offer. Two large pizzas, two cheesy garlic breads, and two cookie dough ice creams.’
Instantly my suspicions are aroused. ‘Two of everything? Who’s in there with you?’
Without saying another word, Ray shuts the door in our faces.
‘He’s hiding the gear, Lovey. Call Social Knitworks!’
I get busy on my phone. Very soon, an estate car pulls up and Mel, Maeve and Lucy tumble out. In their protective masks they look like a gang of bank robbers. At the same moment, the pizza guy arrives. At first, he refuses to hand the food over, but he caves-in when we have a whip-round for a generous tip. Naturally, Bub is in control of the situation. She calls out, ‘Pizza delivery! Get it while it’s hot!’
When Ray opens the door, Bub wafts the garlic bread under his nose and marches down the hall. She’s backed up by Mel, Maeve and Lucy, who are holding the pizza boxes in front of them like battering rams. Armed with the ice cream, I cautiously bring up the rear.
‘Hey!’ Ray moans. ‘I didn’t invite you lot.’
‘We ain’t staying,’ says Bub. ‘We just want to meet your lady friend.’
In the lounge, a middle-aged woman with pink hair is curled up on the sofa, enjoying a glass of fizz. She’s wearing a long, slinky red dress and four-inch heels. At her feet is the missing suitcase.
‘Yvonne!’ Bub cries. ‘I heard you was in Bali with somebody else’s husband.’
‘Well, you heard wrong,’ says Yvonne, trying to hide the case under the hem of her dress.
‘What are you doing here?’ Mel asks.
‘We was on a date until you barged in,’ says Yvonne.
‘So it was you who stole our knitwork. We’re going nowhere until you give it back.’
‘That ain’t going to happen, Mel, so bugger off.’
It’s a socially distanced showdown. Bub, Lucy, Maeve and I back away. Ray draws closer to the warring women, his face swivelling from one to the other.
‘Not all of this stuff is yours. I was a member of the Knitting Circle until you staged a takeover and changed the name. Social Knitworks indeed! What’s that about?’ Yvonne says.
‘Actually, it’s about marketing. The Knitting Circle sold next to nothing, but social Knitworks’ profits are off the scale.’
‘Money ain’t everything, Mel. Myrtle and me kept the Knitting Circle going on Zoom last year. It helped us get through the first lockdown. Then you come along and spoiled everything. That’s why Myrtle pinched the suitcase and I asked Ray to look after it.’
‘This nonsense has gone far enough!’ Mel screeches. ‘Hand over my knitwork!’
Mel takes hold of one end of the suitcase and Yvonne grabs the other. A tug-of-war begins. Yvonne is ten years younger than Mel, but Mel is a rock-hard gym bunny. It looks as if Social Knitworks will prevail over the quivering rump of the Knitting Circle, until Ray loses patience and seizes the case in his powerful hands. When he lifts it above his head it bursts open. Instantly he’s showered with hand-knitted matinée sets, toddler’s cardigans and teddy bears.
Bub, Maeve, Lucy and I can’t help laughing out loud at the sight of the burly ex-Marine surrounded by infant goods. Yvonne giggles behind her hand. Even Mel cracks a smile. But Ray doesn’t think it’s funny. He falls to his knees and starts shoving the items back inside the case.
‘Yvonne,’ he says miserably. ‘Is there something you want to tell me?’
His expression is so hilarious we can’t help laughing. We’re still cracking our sides when he bundles all of us, including Yvonne, into the street with the pizza feast clutched to our bosoms. There’s nothing for it but to chuck the bulging suitcase into the boot of Mel’s car, pile in, and drive to Bub’s house.
In all the excitement, I forgot the ice cream. Yvonne thinks this is just as well because Ray will need it to help him get over their breakup. ‘I don’t never want to see him again, after he threw me out with my arms full of cheesy garlic bread. I’ll never get them stains out of my dress,’ she says.
Bub shakes her head. ‘He ain’t going to ask you, babe. Finding yourself knee-deep in baby clothes on the first date is a passion killer.’
After all the fun and games, everyone feels in need of some seasonal good cheer. None of us are sure what the current Covid restrictions are – it’s all been a bit confused recently – so we play it safe by having our delayed Winter Warmer party in the street. When Bub’s neighbours come out to join the festivities, Clive plays music on his iPad and Mel organises a socially distanced Conga line. To everyone’s surprise, it turns out that pizza and garlic bread go well with mince pies and mulled wine. By the time we’ve eaten all the food, drunk all the wine and sung party anthems the words of which we can’t remember, the War of the Woollens is forgotten.
As a grand finale, I line up the partygoers on the pavement and show them how to do the Spread Eagle. It’s my moment of glory. I might not be able to knit my own pom-poms, but I’m a cheerleader at last.
Loarn has self-published the first ten stories from ‘Up the Community Centre’ as a novella, ‘The Thank You Sweets’, available on Amazon. Her next adventure will be her first crime novel, ‘Accounting for Loss’. Loarn blogs about new books and self-publishing journey on her website, www.patersonloarn.co.uk She has Level 2 BSL skills, and her day job is supporting hearing-impaired university students. Loarn is also a conservation volunteer. Story images via WordPress and Unsplash.com.