Regular readers may have noted the Reluctant Gardener’s recent absence from the blogosphere.
I got hip bursitis this summer, caused by incorrect weeding posture (I always said those nettles would be my undoing) and for months, the allotment was left to stew in its own juices.
Short of human visitors, though, it hasn’t been short of animal ones.
Health-wise, things aren’t quite back to normal for me. Little ‘itises’ follow the big one, like fish in a whale’s wake. But one of these is ‘allotment-lack-itis.’ Despite the frustrations of gardening in a jungle of nettles, rabbit burrows, flooding and heavy clay soil, my mood drops when I can’t do it.
‘Why don’t you go down there and just potter?’ says Mr MS.
Is this his way of telling me to eff off? Deciding not to make a mountain out of a molehill, I obey. Then I obey again, until wandering around doing nowt becomes a new way of life. While I’m idle, other creatures are doing good work.
Chief among these is Mr Mole. His appearance isn’t really a surprise. A neighbour reported extensive earthworks on his own plot last year.
I say ‘appearance’, but I’ve never seen this underground interloper in the flesh. I just find fresh mounds of finely churned soil every time I visit, as if a tiny phantom rotovator is on the loose.
What to do? My neighbour says that although Mr Mole scoots under the roots, he won’t actually munch our lunch (those weren’t his exact words). So it’s best to do nothing. I’m inclined to agree, as doing nothing is my new speciality.
Mr Mole, an insectivore, came in his own time and will go in his own time. That’s what happened on our neighbour’s plot, anyway. Hmm. I put two and two together but our neighbour is very nice, so I decide not to make four. It’s a boring number.
A few plots down, more new creatures arrive. Three pigs. A notice says they’ve been brought in to clear the undergrowth. They do so in record time. They are like eating machines, consuming everything in sight including it seems their own shed door. What they don’t eat are some Tesco’s mushrooms that Mr MS brings down, leftovers from his fry-up.
He is offended. ‘I suppose they’d prefer them pan-fried with garlic.’
Nevertheless he scratches their bristly heads through the gate. He doesn’t mind their stinking to high heaven, being plastered in mud and pestered by ceaseless fleas. It doesn’t put off other pig visitors, either. Children flock down the river path.
But a day comes when I visit the pigs’ plot to feed them pea pods and find no sign of their itchy pink bodies. I peer around the place, refusing to believe the obvious. Then tears come to my eyes. I am not good with Death, despite years of meditation. That’s why I’m prepared to be soft on Mr Mole. And I’m not looking forward to the children’s disappointment and the pathetic age-appropriate explanations given by accompanying adults.
When I burst through the front door, wailing, Mr MS is at the cooker making a bacon sandwich.
‘Well, we all have to go some time,’ he says philosophically. ‘Speaking of which, have you spoken to your Dad today?’
But here comes the happy ending (or happy not-ending) to today’s story. Dad, 90 this year, has had a pacemaker fitted. It has given him a new lease of life and he now has more energy than Mr MS and I combined.
Whether he will use any to help me out on what is still technically his allotment remains to be seen.
Drawing courtesy of Charlie Lyons.