A post from 2014 in memory of my Dad…

Last year, a romance at our allotments suffered a setback.

The blossoming affair between Harry and the Lady of Shallot was stymied by an unfortunate erection. A polytunnel appeared on the plot next door to ours, breaking the all important sight line between them.

The Lady considered moving, but being an old-fashioned girl (1833) she decided it was up to rainbow-fingered Harry to make the next move. Mr Mandy Sutter, who seems to know how Harry’s mind works, advised me not to hold my breath. Incurable romantic that I am, I never stopped hoping.

That hope, however, takes a terrible knock on my visit to the plot this week, the first after a wet and snowy winter.

Harry is stationed on a corner. Dog MS and I always walk past him on the way to our plot. All last year I searched his face for clues as to how things stood between him and the Lady. All in vain because as noted before, Harry is master of the poker face. I have come to accept this. Even so, when as usual I try and catch his eye in passing, I’m shocked to see that he has taken his stubborn unresponsiveness to a new level. His face is now completely missing.

I peer into his plot, trying to see under the shed. I wonder if he is merely saving face and that it’s hidden nearby, safe and sound. But it is nowhere to be seen. He has obviously become so afraid of losing face that he has, well, lost his face.

My fears are all for the Lady and how she might be taking this. I hurry to our plot, nearly going arse over tit on the path, turned to a quagmire by snow and slush.

If the state of affairs on Harry’s plot made me blink, the Lady’s plight makes me gasp aloud. My worst fears are realised. The twists and turns of this fated love affair have taken their toll: she has lost her head.

It lies a little distance from her body, grinning up at the merciless grey sky. With another shock, I see that she has splintered at the waist. It is no exaggeration to describe her as a broken woman. It was hard to know what to do, so I run around lamenting.

Dog MS, keen to contribute, starts chewing the Lady’s head. I shoo her away and dig up one of our last turnips as a substitute. Wizened and rock hard though this is, she accepts it enthusiastically and wedges it between her paws to begin the long task of grating it with her front teeth. This sound, which strikes me as charming, calms me down instantly. It’s strange to think that if Dad or Mr MS were producing it at the tea table, I would find it very irritating.

I crouch down by the Lady and take her hand. She has taken off her Baco-foil ring, symbol of Harry’s devotion, and thrown it onto the compost heap. Who can blame her?

Words are inadequate in the face of such disaster. Cliches are all I can summon.

‘You’ve taken a bad knock. But you’ll come out of this stronger.’

‘A man without a heart is no man at all.’

‘We can put your head in the shed and make you a new and sturdier body out of a broom handle.’

Cold comfort when one’s heart is broken, I know. But I lodge her head on the little triangular shelf that Dad made when he put the shed up. She is back in her bower and from here, she can see out of the window. I retrieve the Baco-foil ring. It’s rather tinny. And big. Vulgar, my Mum would have called it. But who knows, it may yet be called for. I am sure this romance still has legs, even if it is only one leg each.

Drawings by Janis Goodman