front door painted the colour of ivy and peeling.
front garden filled with brambles scrambling.
there are wellies in the hallway.
there are packets of seeds neatly compiled in wooden boxes on the kitchen table.
there are brown paper bags filled with bulbs.
rachael is a to-the-point but ever so kind sort of a person, she’s got white hair and asks rather a lot of questions about california. from a chipped cup (i don’t know why it is that i find chipped cups so incredibly charming, but i do), i most gratefully drink the very hot tea that she has made for me. an eighteen-year-old cat, with the palest blue eyes, watches over the scene with some amount of lazy curiosity.
it’s a five minute stroll to the allotments. on springfield road, there is a towering magnolia almost as tall as a house;
goblets or stars or waxy white and pale pink petal porcelain cups and saucers catching and then spilling over with sudden springtime showers. though it’s still quite cold, the top of the tree flowers, the ones most out of reach of me, closest to the sun, are opening up.
rachael walks more quickly than me, pulls a very heavy looking ring of keys from her coat pocket, there are perhaps 20. she searches a few moments for the correct one, it’s silver, and smaller than you might think, for a padlock so very impressive looking. chains and bolts, the size of my palm. the metal gate swings open.
devil’s claw, hellebore. elderly gentlemen, one even wearing a cap, perhaps he’ll be my mentor, wave to say hello. their plots are almost industrial, stripped bare black soil, i imagine they grow prize potatoes, submit them to country fairs, that sort of a thing. rachael warns me of the devil’s claw, i sign a few pieces of paper, hand over £72, and then assist for a few moments with the picking of the last few woody parsnips, left over from the winter.
my plot is long, thin, a jungle. my very own little piece of pretend wilderness.
speedwell scattered about like spilled sapphires.
bumblebees, no wasps allowed.
there’s a lot of evidence that a family were here before me. plastic toys, yellow diggers, monster trucks, a trampoline and sandpit, even. i don’t know where i’m going to put all of these things, i will have to rent a pick up truck. i pick up plastic bottles, and with all of my strength, and with bare hands (soon to be blistered), i lift a few logs and place them in a pile. if i want to burn them i’ll have to do it on saturday, after the farmer’s market, after beeswax candles and pastel de nata.
– a hand-painted wooden post.
– sweet pea swirling tendrils, climbing roses.
– one of those ornate french country tables, white, for bottles of wine and much-deserved lunch breaks.
– the ugliest pumpkins you might ever see.
– the surprising of my fellow plot-owners by not failing horribly or immediately.
– a miniature wildflower meadow.
– orange and yellow tomatoes.
– perhaps even a chicken or two.
– a sunhat, a linen skirt, freckled shoulders.