Handsome Harry

A reposting from 2012 in memory of my Dad and the allotment we shared… 

The day finally comes: a tall dark stranger appears at the allotments.

He has broad shoulders, a manly chest and an unflinching gaze. He strikes one immediately as the strong, silent type, seeing much and saying nowt.

He wears a faded denim shirt with pockets, suggesting practicality.  He has proper shoes. Even more appealing, he is modest and plays down his obvious attractions: despite the impressive breadth of his chest he keeps his sleeves rolled down and his shirt buttoned to the neck, even on the hottest of days.

Alright, he wears beige slacks. But his hands compensate for that. Instead of the usual lumpen gloves that pass for fingers around here, he has – ladies and some gentlemen may want to sit down at this point – multi-coloured windmills.

Oh, how they whir in the stiff breeze! How they intimidate the birds! How they glitter as he looms threateningly over the broad beans, his hands full of rainbows!

I make discreet enquiries and discover that his name is Harry.

Everything to play for

The Lady of Shallot can hardly contain herself. She beams in his direction and takes to rotating her head, like Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

Harry plays it cool, staring fixedly if thoughtfully at the ground. As anyone knows who has dealt with a man like him before, there is a torrent of emotion raging beneath his calm exterior. He may look uninterested but a lifetime’s experience of ‘treating ’em mean to keep ’em keen’ cannot be thrown off overnight. And although tough in matters of scaring birds, he is shy when it comes to love. He only dares sneak a look at the Lady when her head is revolving the other way.

I tell the Lady that there is everything still to play for. But then it all goes horribly wrong.

You will be wondering why. Surely, you will cry, someone like Harry recognises an allotment as a long term commitment? Surely a man with such spectacular appendages can’t be a fly-by-night?

You’re right on both counts. Harry stays put, keeping his stolid, vaguely menacing vigil. And the Lady of Shallot keeps grinning and spinning. But the course of true love never did run smooth. One of our allotment neighbours erects a dirty great polytunnel between them. The all-important sight line is broken. Harry’s downcast gaze now looks like the sign of a broken heart.

The sad thing is that the Lady will never really know for sure. Granted, she could move to the front of our plot, where she could see Harry around the edge of the polytunnel.

But there are no crops there to protect, and a Lady has her pride.

I reckon she’s leaving it up to Harry to make the next move. I haven’t said anything to her, but based on my own experience of the strong silent type, she might be waiting a long time.

Illustrations by Janis Goodman