The jasmine that I grew some years ago across a huge piece of trellis appeared to have died.
Thin strands of sorry-looking wood stretching up in disparate directions from the ground it was hard to see anything much on it that looked like green shoots.
It was hard to hide my disappointment in what has been a fairly disastrous year in the garden.
I can comfort myself that at least the snails and slugs have been well fed in the damp days of early summer and that the birds have enjoyed an unexpected harvest of cherries having left it two or three days too late to beat them to the ripe heavy crop, but at least the butterflies haven’t got to the greens. But only because there haven’t really been any butterflies.
Tomorrow, some people will wake up disappointed. They always do when so much is riding on a single experience.
Thankfully, sport gets to me less than it once did.
The days when, at a family party, the men were crowded around the TV watching the FA Cup semi-final, I had to leave the house and walk around Greenwich Park so that I didn’t have the endure the final half-hour, are behind me.
As is the time that I had to leave the ground when a goal went against us in the dying moments, only to be ushered back into the ground by the stewards when we equalised with the final kick, only to see the team subsequently beaten on penalties.
I can still hear REM’s “Everybody Hurts” in my ears when I think of it and I have not listened to that song again since.
My mother, had she still been alive on either of those occasions, would have said to me, “Oh well, never mind, somebody has to lose.”
Why did it always feel as if it was me?
It wasn’t only football where disappointment struck. It was anywhere I allowed my imagination to run much further forward than it had any business going.
When the children were tiny, we had a holiday in Cornwall in a pretty pink cottage on the top of a hill overlooking the sea.
We all had a sickness bug by the time we arrived after a seven-hour car journey, the idyllic house smelled of cat’s piss, and my three-year-old son wanted to go home after a day because the vacuum cleaner wasn’t as good as the one we had at home.
In July 1994 I was in my friend Martin’s garden ready to watch the World Cup Final.
Italy, my second team by virtue of my grandfather, was playing Brazil. England had not even qualified for the tournament. Italy lost, on penalties.
“I wonder how many World Cups we have left in us?” Martin asked, opening another beer.
It was funny then because it still seemed as if we had plenty of time.
Now six have passed and alcohol might well have taken him before now had he not spent the last nine years in recovery.
I’d much rather watch England lose with him than see them win without him.
In the garden, almost without my noticing, the jasmine made a miraculous recovery.
The first verdant signs were followed by the tiniest buds, and then, just this past week, an explosion of white flowers heady with scent.
My mother had wonderful jasmine in her garden that you’d brush past as you walked down the steps from the French windows. The perfume always reminds me of her and of how, after all, she was right about the football.