Surprised by secateurs


I love my secateurs – oh, thanks, I had a lovely time in Shetland, but let’s get things in perspective. I really love my secateurs.

And I lost them.

secateurs with giant tom

I had them, oh, I had them. I was fiddling about with them, in the way that you do, and put them down to do something else. Then when I went back for them – no secateurs.

Admittedly I wasn’t sure where I’d popped them down, so I went round the entire garden about 85 times, fossicking through ivy in case they’d disappeared into the maw of the overgrown walls, ferreting through the long grass in case they’d fallen down. (I have a lot of long grass which now looks as though wildebeest have been migrating through it. That would be me and Next Door’s Cat, who was – let’s just say ‘Not Helpful’, and the ‘not helpful’ needs its caps; I emphatically did not need his contribution, and how a mangled mouse was supposed to help I do not know.)

I even cleaned out the shed – dried up shrew, gee, thanks, NDC – which (let’s face it, and quite obviously given the level of rodent mummification as evidence) has needed doing for some time. I might have left them in the house, but thoroughly checking that would have led to housework – ergh – so I looked everywhere obvious and left it at that. By this stage I was even looking in places I’d already checked thoroughly, just in case.

No secateurs.

I rang up P, as we have a long-running joke about Felco theft. No, he had his own, thank you very much – very, very clear on that point, his have the turny handle which I can’t use. So I went round and checked one more time – well, you do, don’t you?

I’ve had these secateurs for years. They’re Felco 8s, and were a deal. Well, an exchange. For several years I was involved with selling books at Chelsea Flower Show, and the last day was always the usual last day mayhem:

Chelsea old(old last-day-Chelsea photo from about 1990, maybe 1989 given the shoulder pads)

but it wasn’t just members of the public trying to fit eight-foot-tall delphiniums on the 19 bus. The madness spreads to exhibitors too.

Non-exhibitors were eventually shooshed out of the show ground, but we had to wait for the lorries to come over from Battersea Park in their meticulous convoy which carefully and inexplicably (all this was apparently organised by the Army) brought them to a position exactly outside the correct stand. This was the time for all the deals which had been arranged during the week to take place; for example, my colleague almost always sloped off to a particular show garden with a heavy carrier and came back with boxes and boxes of plants on a trolley. I used to go skip-surfing for plants myself, and often had the car so full that I could barely see out as I drove away – the irises I found one year still flourish. But one year I was less ambitious: I swapped a signed copy of something on roses for a pair of Felcos. Maybe I didn’t have the car park pass that year. But they’ve lasted longer than almost everything else. Or they had (sniff).

So they are at least 25 years old. And they’re wonderful. Were wonderful.

They’ve been used and abused. They’ve been left out; they’ve cut things thicker than they should have; they’ve cut things in gardens in rented property, in the tiny patch I had with the first studio I owned, in the garden of my last place in London and now here; they’ve been used to give scale to unlikely tomatoes and strange unidentified flowers. They were an extra hand. And they were gone.

I went out and spent money. Well, OK, I spent £2.50 in Wilkinsons. (I could have spent £1, but even Cheapskate Kate realised those weren’t worth the quid). They’re OK. They have a sharp flange to hold them closed and I kept hurting myself on it, but I soon got the hang of avoiding injury. Ish. They’re grey, they’re boring, they’re not brilliant. But they do cut.

My kitchen is partly into the hill, so I see legs going past on the path by the ground-level window when I’m washing up. This time it was legs in motorbike leathers. Strange men in leathers are not a usual feature of early evenings round here (though they probably should be). Open door: is it George Clooney, bored with married life, come to me at last? No.

It is P. Removing my secateurs from his jacket. MY secateurs. MINE!

secateurs recovered

(He was very shamefaced. Picked them up by accident. Didn’t realise until he used them and thought ‘funny, the handle’s not rotating’. Can use this for years, like the time he hedge- trimmed the hedge-trimmer’s lead. Oops, I’m not supposed to be mentioning that.)

And on the plus side, I not only have my secateurs back; I also have a clean shed, sans rodents. Though I still have Next Door’s Cat, currently frozen into immobility on top of the rowan stump, staring into the grass. Mouse number two, no doubt.


19 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    What a super tale, I think we would all recognise that feeling of not being able to find the secateurs, fantastic that they were found in the end. And now you have a second pair for gently snipping flowers!

    1. kate says:

      That’s true, I do indeed. I can feel myself wafting about the garden snipping lightly at blooms while wearing a big floppy hat and a gauzy dress – and swearing like a docker when the new secateurs nip my hand!

  2. croftgarden says:

    Perhaps you were more pleased to get your secateurs back than to discover George Clooney, or is P a GC clone? Next time you see him (P not George) can you ask him if he has my favourite weeding fork please? I lost it in the garden last summer and was sure I’d find it this spring in the compost or half buried in the border. No such luck!
    I was so upset that I had to buy a whole new set of hand-forged Dutch hand tools as consolation!

    1. kate says:

      Er, no, he isn’t. Bechod (shame in Welsh). Well, not quite, I better add that!

      I already have to check he’s not absconded with my perfect trowel which I have to prise from him, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’d got your fork too. Will check. Maybe I should let him trowelnap it, though. I could do with some posh new spades and forks!

      1. croftgarden says:

        Oh you’d like these – beautifully balanced, wooden handles and designed to use. I don’t usually make recommendations, but if you twist my arm I’ll whipher the name.

        1. kate says:

          Go on… shhhhhhhhhh…

        2. croftgarden says:

          OK, but don’t tell everyone. The compay is called De Wit. I had to buy mine from the on-line retailer we all love to hate, mainly because most companies won’t deliver here unless you pay enough to charter a private jet, but you may have more choice. I’ve only bought the hand tools, but I’m so pleased with them.

  3. I lost my favourite secateurs this week too, and nearly had to revert to the half-price-seemingly-bargain-but-actually-a-false-economy ones which locked shut after every cut unless you held them at a very uncomfortable angle.

    …Luckily Mr MBaF saved the day, and discovered the good ones on the floor of the junk/utility. Phew!

    1. kate says:

      Ok, a wormhole in space has clearly opened up and is eating secateurs. I know mine have reappeared, but who’s to say where they went before MBaF / P found them? Hm?

  4. VP says:

    I was going to suggest looking in the compost heap – my go to place for lost gardening implements… and tea spoons. So glad you don’t need to 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Done that one – and I’ve thrown them in the brown bin after I put them in a drug and dumped loads of rubbish on top, too. I did manage to resist doing the brown bin thing as I’d put a mouse in there. Well, it’s a) organic and b) garden rubbish, though Next Door’s Cat may disagree on that one.

      Phew all round!

  5. wellywoman says:

    You’d think the red handles would mean this didn’t happen but I mislay my Felcos on a regular basis. It has become such a thing that a photographer I work with has suggested a chain that attaches me to said secateurs at all times. I have currently lost my flower snips. Now these have green handles. Green!!! That wasn’t a bright idea, was it? I haven’t seen them for about 6 weeks now. I lost them for an entire growing year once. Turned house and shed upside down and then one day found them sitting quite brazenly in a spot I very definitely would have checked for them at least 3 times. Maybe it was a poltergeist.

    Very pleased to hear you have been reunited with them.

    1. kate says:

      So glad it’s not just me!
      I always thought that was the idea with the red handles – easy to spot – but it hasn’t stopped me losing them regularly either. The cheapo cheapo ones from Wilkinsons were bright yellow, which I thought might be a good idea, but they were such terrible secateurs that I suspect I’d have been actively trying to lose them… green is just silly.
      My mother always had a handy explanation for this sort of reappearing tool thing. That would be the fairies.

  6. hoehoegrow says:

    Nothing beats a pair of well loved Felcos ! And they are so easily lost ! I share your pain as I have had exactly the same crawl of shame around the garden, trying to locate them. On the plus side think of all the weeding and general tidying you have done during your search! And you got them back in the end !

    1. kate says:

      They are now attached to me by a very long piece of ekastic. Oh, all right, they’re not – but I am trying to be careful (and watching P like a hawk, secateur-napper)…

      Are there any as good as Felcos? Worth every single penny. Er, as long as ypu don’t lose them…

  7. I love my ancient felcos too! Can’t imagine how I could garden without them. I was so glad to get to the end of your post and find you were reunited!

    1. kate says:

      They are now chained to me with huge hand-forged links, almost as strong as the psychological ones…

      Oh, all right, they’re not. But I did nearly end up with P’s Felcos yesterday in some sort of revenge…

  8. Cathy says:

    Forgot I hadn’t read the outcome of this now ancient story – hurrah for the secateurs that were lost but are now found!

    1. kate says:

      And, strangely, I have developed an affection for my Wilkos emergency secateurs… I think my Felcos need a good sharpen. Hm.

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