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Poppy arch 2 June 2014It never ceases to amaze me when I meet other translators at networking events to find that so many of us share similar interests. Yoga and walking are two such activities, and many translators are, like me, keen gardeners and cooks. There is now even a Facebook group specifically for gardening translators: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1004847709528281/. It’s only a very small and informal group, but it is lovely to exchange information, tips and photos of our achievements (or failures!) with like-minded colleagues. At the last ITI conference up in Newcastle, I even met a colleague who, when asked what she hoped to see on social media for translators, expressed a desire for more on the subject of gardening!

I’m sure she was only joking, but there’s no doubt in my mind that gardening is the ideal counterpart to the intensive and solitary life of a freelance translator. My sons always say they can tell when I’ve been gardening, as I’m generally more relaxed. There’s definitely something about working the land, with your hands in the soil, that enables you to switch off from everyday worries. I suppose it’s a form of mindfulness in that you’re concentrating on what you’re doing, be it weeding, sowing seeds, harvesting vegetables or dead-heading, but at the same time, your brain can wander and observe the beauty all around you, the quiet tranquillity of your little corner of land or the wildlife in even the tiniest plot. As for hacking back trees and shrubs or vigorous pruning, that’s brilliant for taking out frustrations – much better than brooding silently about perceived injustices or irritating clients!

Stress relief is a huge part of gardening therapy: it’s a recognised tool for dealing with depression and mental illness and I know myself that I’m much more likely to have stress-related stomach cramps over the winter months, when gardening inevitably moves onto the back burner. I liken it to feeling grounded: the physical act of getting your hands in the soil is tremendously satisfying, and I miss it in the dark days of winter.

Equally, the satisfaction of creating something beautiful from a patch of bare earth is beyond compare. I’m onto my sixth garden creation now, and, whilst it’s always a wrench moving on, the challenge of starting something new is very exciting. It’s excellent exercise too, as digging and chopping are aerobic activities, using up a surprising amount of calories! (We’d probably better gloss over the negative side effects of bad backs and, in my case, gardener’s elbow from shifting 10 tonnes of topsoil in my big garden in Scotland! Still, the resulting RSI eventually led me to invest in Dragon speech recognition software, which has had hugely beneficial effects of my translating productivity, so all’s well that ends well.)

I’m convinced that gardening is in the genes: my parents have always been keen gardeners and although I didn’t get my hands dirty until I had my own garden in my early 20’s, it was as though a light bulb had suddenly come on. All those years of garden visiting and spending time in my parents’ various gardens had obviously paid subliminal dividends, and I was soon hooked, creating patios and rockeries, growing vegetables and devouring gardening books…. My sons, now in their 20’s, have not yet got the bug, although they do surprise me even now with their knowledge of plants I wouldn’t have thought they’d know! Family tree research suggests that my mum’s side of the family, at least, were farmers not too far back in time, so perhaps we’re just getting back to our roots?

As a translator, the Latin names have always appealed to my magpie mind, despite the fact that I’ve never actually studied Latin, much to my chagrin. My grammar school stopped it a couple of years before I reached the appropriate year group, and I’ve always regretted it. However, I still find that I have a photographic memory for plant names, much as I did for terminology lists when learning my languages at school. Once seen, I rarely forget a plant name – unless the taxonomists change them, of course, which is very annoying!

Office roses June 2015Growing flowers and vegetables down on my allotment not only enables me to have a healthy diet and plenty of fresh air and exercise, but also armfuls of flowers for the house. I invariably have a posy of some description on my office window ledge, yet another benefit of working from home. The view of the front garden from my window is pretty special too. As for the ability to wander down the garden with a cup of coffee in my regulation break from the keyboard, that’s priceless – I just have to be very careful not to get distracted as hours can disappear in the twinkling of an eye if you start dead-heading or weeding…. Many’s the time I’ve walked the dogs down to the allotment, intending to just call in and harvest some beans for dinner, only to realise that two hours have passed and I really should get back to my desk!

Any other gardener translators out there? Or do you get your relaxation fix in different ways? I’d love to hear your views.

Sept 2015 from front door