He explains; “I never bothered with gardening before that – apart from the lawn. I loved a Millennium Stadium (like Wembley but better) type lawn.” He chuckles, “Complete with the stripes; it was my forte.”
Also well known for his written work (Bill has written 20 books and illustrated 70) and broadcasting. He tells me proudly, “We’ve got quite a big garden and once I started, I did very well. I even developed our paddock into a vegetable garden which looked amazing until about 4 years ago.
Sadly, the neighbouring weeds have drifted in and taken over. I’m frightened to go in there now, it’s probably turned into a Rhubarb Forest.”
He explains what happened – “I grew brussel sprouts for the first time and was quite excited, until one morning I went out to find all the plants had been completely stripped by something pesky overnight. It was a major blow; I was left with a little row of skeletons. I thought, I don’t mind sharing some of my veg with the wildlife but to take them all was bad sportsmanship. It really set me back,” he admits.
Although still much in demand for after-dinner speaking and commissioned personalised cartoons, Bill has found the time and inspiration to ‘get growing’ again. “We’ve got a small greenhouse that’s got a bit of everything in it and I grow most of our veg in pots now,” he explains. I’ve grown fabulous artichokes and courgettes in pots and my wife Rosa cooks the flowers with a raspberry sauce. They are delicious, I could just keep eating them.”
“We’ve also raised two figs this year. I looked after them like children, but the birds still managed to have one of them. I’ve netted my blackcurrants though, he adds. “They’re not having those.”
Well known for drawing as fast as he speaks, Bill is happy to adopt a slower pace in the garden. “I give all my plants time and talk to them all” he admits. “Only yesterday I had to chastise the tomatoes plants as they were dropping the tomatoes and they had been eaten before I could get to them. I had to tell them to hang on”.
“Its been a really good growing year,” continues the cartoonist. “Runner beans are like a currency around here; people take little bundles of them to the pub and trade them,” he laughs. “I love them too.”
“I think raspberries are my favourite, though,” he muses. “They’re so persistent and taste so good. And potatoes are very rewarding too. You can even grow them in sacks now. It all helps as I don’t have to bend down so far. My hands are as steady as they were when I was 20 but the rest of me is a bit creaky! “ he confides. “What I need is a sort of guillotine style platform that I can lie full length on and hover just above the ground to avoid bending to do the garden. Perhaps I’ll sketch you something?” he suggests.
And bless him, he did. And it’s fabulous.
Find out more about Bill at www.billtidy.com