IT'S THAT time of the year again. National Gardening Week, flower shows.

In the tourist information office there are the golden books, all bright and full of promise. Throughout the country talented people have opened their gardens to the public, and the booklets list them in all their glory.

My own garden's joy lies in it being a secret but I doubt I would ever have the skill to produce one worthy of such admiration. I wonder, too, at the sheer generosity of sharing to what might be a critical audience.

The National Gardens Scheme has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 1927. Then, Elsie Wagg came up with the idea of asking people to open their gardens to raise funds for nursing organisations.

She asked a lot of people and 600 opened that year. Now there are around 3,800 garden owners with 650,000 visitors. I love it. The sheer variety from great houses with acres, tended by professional gardeners, to tiny plots, simple back gardens, is wondrous.

People travel a long way to visit a garden and the faces can be familiar. You take from it whatever you want. My personal wish is not to envy but to come away with an idea for my own newish garden.

It may be a plant that is new to me, or a way of grouping, but more often it is the spirit of a garden. On a hillside near Painswick the owner showed me that in a formal garden with impressive trees and architectural structure there can be playfulness, an unexpected humour, a relaxation of the 'rules'.

Gardening books and television programmes talk about the right way to do things. A daunting list of what we should be doing, when and how.

That owner showed that the garden was hers and ultimately the one person she wanted to please was herself.

There is no such thing as good or bad taste, just what delights your eye.

So, when I wonder if I really want nine rusty nude ladies dancing through the planting or two huge metal herons pecking at me as I pass along the narrow path, then that is entirely my business.

I am glad, too, to see that it is now fashionable to plant vegetables and fruits among the flowers, and that there are wild and ragged areas to encourage creatures of all sorts.

More gardening, that's what the world needs.

ONE of the (many) things that makes me angry is the way older people are encouraged by the media to be fearful of the wider world.

While caution might be advisable in anyone, the cult of seeing anyone over 60 as somehow 'vulnerable' is both patronising and exploitative.

If you believed that what you read or see is representative of the dangers of modern life you wouldn't leave home.

So, it is good when we hear of something life-affirming and, I believe, much more common than acts of unkindness.

Mr Richard Blake, of Tetbury, contacted me recently to tell me about an accident that he had walking near his home.

A trip, a fall, a damaged arm, a bleeding head, such as might happen to anyone.

He described lying on the ground unable to see anyone and what happened next. Complete strangers, on foot or in their cars, immediately came to his aid.

A vet (yes!) treated and bandaged his profusely bleeding face and a passer-by drove him to Tetbury Hospital.

The damage was severe and required further hospital treatment. Being a gentleman, he has done all he can to thank those concerned who were so kind and has asked me to let people know how grateful he is.

In many ways he was lucky. It was an awful fall with dramatic damage done, but it could have been so much worse. And how lovely that people were just so very practical and kind.

Thank you!