We are allowed 10 days to build our gardens for the Gardening World Cup. Ten days is little enough time but we didn’t begrudge a moment of the first day today to break off for a traditional Shinto “Breaking Out” ceremony. This is when all the designers, constructors and organisers get together in the Drawing Room of the Royal Palace to receive the blessings of the Shinto priests, who will bring all the participants good luck (not in equal measure, otherwise there’d be no point in the competition) and protect them from accidents. The ceremony involves the pouring of Saki out onto a symbolic pile of soil, which brought a gasp of horror from our Australian contingent, for whom there is nothing more sacrilegious than the squandering of good liquor.
Work began in earnest on Mr McGregor’s garden immediately after the ceremony and all the workers took advantage of their protection from bad luck by discarding their hard hats. Their first job was to dig the foundations for the Dabbin Cottage and the digger had just created a nice big hole when an enormous jet of water shot into the air. They had fractured the mains water supply and the hole soon filled with water, creating an impressive pond complete with fountain. Clearly the breaking out ceremony hadn’t created the right amount of luck. The message for next year will be – whatever the Australians say, don’t stint on the Saki.