After a period of time away, returning to the allotment feels more like catching up with friends and family
It can be an odd relationship, one with land, like with an awkward relative or friend. Sometimes the plot can feel almost absent-minded, needing reassurance, hand-holding, company. Though maybe that’s me.
I have been away, you see, on holiday following surgery, so I have been absent more than before.
It’s not as though the work isn’t done. One of the great things about gardening is the difference a day or two of focused graft can make. It’s pretty much all hoed now. The muck is spread, with more coming, and some Bloody Mary nasturtiums sown.
Green clumps of overwintered chervil are happily growing. The last radicchio I have left alone. The broad beans and shallots are thriving, the wild calendula shining through.
Two of last year’s sweet pea structures still stand, also a beautiful blackened sunflower skeleton, like giant antlers, maybe 8ft tall.
I have issues with abandonment, guilt about leaving, old swirling feelings not thought through. I spend more time at the plot either side of going away, just to be there, to pull a weed or two, stroke a seedling, almost as though we are quietly holding hands. It’s not so much about doing anything as simply breathing each other in.
There is companionship in constancy, whatever the weather. At each other’s service, almost. I help the land express itself, it gives me food and flowers. I give it loyalty, yes, and love.
It needs me (I tell myself) though not as much as I need it. It holds happiness, waiting in the early morning, with just me, the fox, the owls and the sun-sprung blackbirds. I realise, of course, this likely tells more about me – and my past – than Plot 29, but anyway I am happy to think of this piece of land as my friend.
Allan Jenkins’s book Morning: How to Make Time is now out in paperback. Order it for £7.91 from guardianbookshop.com