I am forced to take a break from the allotment. Hip bursitis has struck (I always said those nettles would be my undoing) and walking is difficult, much less bending.

Dad is absent too. He’s had some ‘funny turns’ and a 24-hour heart monitor has shown nothing wrong, much to his disgust. ‘I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of an up and downer with the surgery,’ he says one morning at his flat.

‘Oh?’ I say, pretending to eat a stale Jacob’s Orange Club biscuit by working my jaws while breaking bits off and slipping them into my handbag. I have ruined several bag linings this way.

‘That bloody woman is trying to put me on heart tablets again. Heart tablets? I mean, what good will that do? She must be an idiot!’

He is getting annoyed all over again. I say various reasonable things. My tone strikes me as unfortunate.

Dad pounds his fist suddenly on the table, sending coffee jumping out of our mugs. ‘Whose side are you on?’

I stare at him in dismay. ‘Yours, of course!’

It isn’t the right moment to ask him to fill in for me on the allotment.

Later at home, Mr MS is kindly and willing but I can’t let him go down there unsupervised. So what with one thing and another, the place is left to stew in its own juices for several weeks. I miss it desperately and am miserable.

‘Why don’t you go down there and just sit on the bench?’ asks Mr MS. ‘Enjoy being there.’ A reasonable suggestion that annoys the hell out of me. ‘Because I hate seeing all the work that needs doing and not being able to do it,’ I say.

Mr MS stares, as at a totally alien viewpoint.

‘Oh, alright then, I’ll go,’ I say. ‘Will you make me a flask?’

Limping to the plot, I see that while I’ve been idle, other creatures haven’t. The place is covered in little mounds of soil, finely churned as though a mini rotovator has been at work.

I consult a neighbour, who had similar earthworks on his own plot last year. He says that Mr Mole is an insectivore so although he 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, especially since doing nothing is my new forte.

But as suspected, it’s depressing sitting on the bench watching the weeds grow. I go for a hobble around the other plots. More new creatures have arrived a few plots down: three pigs. A notice on their gate says they’ve been brought in to clear the undergrowth. They seem to have done that already, including eating their own shed door.

In other news, the GP agrees to a 7-day heart monitor for Dad. This is more revealing than the 24-hour one, and a pacemaker is recommended.

‘Well, that’s good news,’ I say to Dad. He mutters something incomprehensible.

Mr MS visits the allotments twice, not to weed but to see the pigs, which are growing fatter by the second. ‘They’ll eat anything!’ he says, admiringly.

Then he brings them some Tesco’s mushrooms that have gone slimy in the fridge and discovers that they won’t. He settles for scratching their bristly heads through the gate. He doesn’t mind their stinking to high heaven, being plastered in mud and pestered by ceaseless flies. That doesn’t put other visitors off, either. Children flock down the river path. I get into the pig routine too, bringing them pea pods, which they shove each other out of the way to hog down.

But a day comes when I visit the pigs’ plot and find no sign of their itchy pink bodies. I peer around the place, refusing to believe the obvious. I am not good with Death, despite years of meditation. That’s why I’m 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.

‘Oh well,’ he says, ‘we all have to go some time.’

This makes me worry about Dad. But when I pick him up after his pacemaker operation he insists that he feels right as rain, and chooses the stairs over the lift down to the ground floor of the hospital, not allowing me even to carry his overnight bag.

Mr Mole moves on, followed by my bursitis, though little ‘itises’ follow the big one like tiny fish in a whale’s wake. As the summer passes, the weeds on the plot die back too.

Dad seems fit as a flea and has no further funny turns. He is cautiously optimistic, though doesn’t like the fact that the pacemaker is battery operated. ‘What if it’s a dud?’ he asks me on the phone. I know he’s thinking of Cheeky Looks, and the suspect car battery he was recently sold.

When I come off the phone, Mr MS says, ‘See? It all worked out in the end.’

There is no coffee table at our house to pound. I settle for muttering something incomprehensible.

Drawings by Janis Goodman