I only want to talk to the gardener.

There’s a story I like to tell about one of my experiences as a young journalist on the Watford Observer in Hertfordshire.

It concerns the late, popular singer, Val Doonican.

I was a district reporter in Rickmansworth and my area covered Chorleywood an expensive part of the world by anyone’s standards. Large houses standing in their own grounds, with big imposing drives.

My head office newsroom was covering a story about a row in a local organisation. They needed some comments from one of the organisation’s committee members and were having trouble getting hold of him.

We are back in the early 70’s and there were no mobile phones. He worked as a gardener for Val Doonican.
Val’s house was in Chorleywood so I was dispatched to go round there.

I drove a bright orange VW Beetle and I pulled in to their drive and got out of the car.

I walked boldly up to the front door and rang the bell.

Val’s wife Lynette Rae came to the door.

“Hello,” I said brightly, “I’m from the Watford Observer.”

I flashed my press card.

Her face froze. “Yes,” she said in a fairly frost manner.

TV personalities and their families don’t normally take too kindly to members of the press ‘rocking up’ announced at their front doors. It normally means bad news of some sort.

“ I am so sorry to trouble you but I wondered if I might have a word with your gardener.”

Well, the look of bemusement on her face was a sight to behold. I bet I was the first person to ever knock on Val Doonican’s door and ask to speak to the gardener.

Val’s wife’s face turned from surprise, to greater surprise, to an almost total loss of words. When she regained her composure she dispatched me round the back of the house where I found the gardener having what looked like a well earned cup of tea in the shed.

I got the quotes I needed for the story and all was well.

So apart from being an interesting story – what’s the point?

We all make almost instant judgements. We base it on the way people look, the clothes they wear, their make-up, their tattoos, the way they sound and even the jobs they do.

It takes less than a minute for us to look at someone and make a judgement.

How often are we proved wrong?

How often are you proved wrong when you see or meet someone for the first time?

So take some time to allow the people you meet to say what they have to say, to be who they are, before you jump to conclusions.

You never know. They may just want to talk to the gardener.

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