An unusual birthday gift

Sandy – an elegant vision at her 60th

Cliff in reflective mood (or possibly taking a quick nap!) at Sandy’s Arabian Nights-themed 60th birthday bash

Being a member of the Bella a Capella singing group is not just about the music – it’s about love and friendship – and having a damned good time even in the face of adversity.

A couple of years ago I wrote on this blog about my friend Sandy’s Big Birthday, at which her partner Cliff gave her a moving accolade.

This week Sandy had another birthday but, sadly, Cliff is no longer here to celebrate it with her because some weeks ago he died, after a long illness, leaving Sandy to cope with a large house and garden alone.  She has decided to make the most of her assets by converting part of the house to a B and B.  It’s a big challenge but Sandy is full of grit so she’ll undoubtedly make a success of it.  To help her get off to a good start, her friends in Bella a Capella decided to give her the best birthday present they could – a working bee.  First priority was to restore the vegetable garden and ornamental border adjacent to what will become the guest quarters, which had become neglected during the long period of Cliff’s illness – and that’s what we did yesterday afternoon.

Eight of the Bellas* turned up for the occasion, in our scruffiest clothes and armed with gardening tools (and food and wine!). At first sight the job seemed overwhelming for a bunch of not-so-young women but despite occasional showers we got stuck in and after 2 ½ hours this section of the garden was transformed – cleared, weeded, tidied, raked, swept, rubbish bagged up, beds fertilised and mulched.  All ready for Sandy to plant out with a selection of organically-grown foodstuff.

The thing about being a Bella is that we always have fun and just love being together.  It’s a very varied group of women that includes health professionals, writers, artists, scientists, teachers, social workers and corporate executives – among others.  Most of us are good gardeners and cooks, too (okay Bernice K, that excludes you but then you do have other talents!).  So taking on a gardening task gave us a chance to share our knowledge and reminisce about vegetables we have grown, herbs we have harvested, fruit we have turned into jams and pickles.

Mind you, all this knowledge didn’t stop some of us pulling out Sandy’s chives, thinking they were nut grass!  And there was some disagreement as to whether the asparagus foliage should be cut back or not!

After the work was done and we’d straightened our backs and washed our grubby hands and swapped our muddy boots for other footwear we gathered on Sandy’ big verandah from which you can see nothing but trees (the B and B will prove very popular with birdwatchers) to consume our wine and nibblies.  Dianne, the El Supremo of cake-making, had of course made a gorgeous birthday cake for Sandy and we toasted her and each other (and Bernice for organising it all) and then did what the Bellas do best – sang!

We all had such a good time I think we shall have to do it again!

*(Bernice, Brenda, Louise, Sue, Julie, Linda, Dianne, Renee)

Before we start, Linda checks her s ecateurs and Dianne check s her phones.  Meanwhile I am checking out Sandy’s wine cabinet!

At first sight this once-flourishing vegetable garden looks overwhelming in terms of work to be done – weeds everywhere

I’m certainly raring to go, with my mattock and weed basket

A very weedy corner

Brenda, Sue and Di get stuck into the central bed ….

Until Di comes to grips with a particularly tough Siratro root – and the weed wins. Though not for long. This was just one of many hilarious moments during our weed-busting afternoon!

Even the rain doesn’t stop our LindyLou – she’s come prepared with a shower-proof jacket

Not everyone likes to garden. Louise and Bernice opt to do some painting instead – here they inspect a piece of furniture which Bernice has first had to clean off the mould before trying to restore it to its former glory.

Gradually we create order out of chaos – Di has almost cleared this bed of weeds while Sue cleans up in the background.

The end is in sight! Renee drags a final barrow-load to the bagging area

Hurray! It’s just about done!

Brenda and I dance for joy – and hope nobody mistakes us for a pair of scarecrows!

Food for the weary workers – and wine. Those are my potato and cheese scones in the foreground.

The birthday cake, made by Dianne. Beautifully decorated but with a mysterious indent in the chocolate icing. Many wild theories were put forward as to how this got there – Sany’s cat? Linda’s nose? Somebody else’s thumb? We never did find out but ate the cake with great relish. Lucky for us Di’s talents include cake making as well as singing and directing.

At the end of a very happy afternoon and evening, Sandy tells us ithe working bee was the best possible birthday present we could have given her.

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About Tamborine Dreamer

I am a horticulturist, writer and photographer who lives on Tamborine Mountain, one of the world's beautiful places to live with plenty of sunshine, good rainfall, moderate temperatures, lush rainforest, splendid views of both the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west. I love writing about the place in which I live, in all its moods and seasons. Besides gardening I love good literature and poetry, bushwalking, birdwatching, history, Japanese language and culture, and music of several kinds.
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