This post was inspired by Hilary’s post over here.
If you read down this blog you will eventually come to some bits about my new allotment and far, far back some bits about my old allotment, perhaps there may still be pictures of the two-year old genius who is now eight admiring proto broad beans and generally beaming.
The day I took over my old allotment was a cold March day, one of those with a glowering sky, that promised much, all of it not nice. I was wrapped up in an old green Harris tweed gents car coat that I’d got for the Artist in the charity shop downstairs and was not afraid of the plot or the weather. The neighbours were slightly more scary and though few and far between that morning due to the impending inclement weather were obviously of a certain generation. The allotment site was not geared up for women (no toilets) and the sheds there were were ramshackle self-builds, that had evolved over time, not the neatly aligned rows of a modern, planned allotment plot. That aspect suited me quite well; I’m a free form gardener, I tolerate pests as long as they don’t eat everything and weeds are just a fact of life.
I had big plans and got started digging, turning over the soil which had recently been rotovated by the City Council. I had plans for beds and could see it in my mind’s eye. After about an hour of digging, the heavens opened. Torrential rain turned to the kind of hail that exfoliates better than anything they used on that Ten Years Younger programme. I took shelter on the next plot down. It was clearly vacant and unloved and happened to have an old, dank shed made from an Anderson Shelter. It smelled musty and was full of cobwebs and old snail shells but it kept the worst of the weather off. Once the squall had passed I returned to my digging; the plot was going to house not only beautiful fruit and veg but also my lovely rescued roses. After about ten minutes an old man arrived at the plot above mine on the sloping, terraced allotment field. He introduced himself immediately and was clearly a talker. Then he said he had been watching me all morning from his bedroom window; he indicated one of the houses surrounding the plot. I suppose I should have felt startled or a bit creepy but with someone with their own overblown sense of natural curiosity, I took it in my stride. We spoke a lot of over the next few months and Tom had lots of advice, teeth-sucking, I wouldn’t do it like that stuff, which should have irritated but didn’t; I did things my own way but was happy to have Tom’s input. We spoke about lots of things, about our families, my housing situation (imagine Beirut in the late eighties with a large pinch of Shameless thrown in for good measure) and about life in general.
I extended my plot to a second full of fruit bushes but John got ill again and the plans I’d made and the time I could spend there became less and less and inevitably I suppose, the Council took back the plot, fruit bushes, veggies, roses and all it was something I just had to live with – life had intervened in its usual callous way and I just had to roll with it.
We got back from a much-needed holiday to find a message with my older daughter that Tom was trying to get hold of me – he’d left his telephone number but I was too embarrassed to ring. Then one day, his wife and daughter arrived downstairs. I went down and spoke to them, there was no way I was letting nice people into the flats of doom. They said that Tom had saved my roses and they were at his house and they would look after them until we got a house with a garden where we could put them.
We moved in May 2007, and once we had moved, John collected the roses in the car one day when I was at work. They are now flourishing in the-garden-of-the-house-that-is-soon-to-be-demolished (in the Court of King Caractacus) and will come with us to the new house. I never saw Tom again and he sadly died a little while ago but I have never forgotten his or his wife’s kindness. Thank-you Tom and Mrs Tom