Home-grown with love
I've been spending some time at my parents' allotment lately, and I am astounded at how good it is for the soul to be somewhere peaceful, away from the buzz of everyday life; somewhere to truly switch off.
Last night, as I picked the evening's dinner (it's okay - my parents knew I was doing it!), it struck me what a great thing it really is. My Dad managed to create a shack made out of an old shed, with chairs perfectly positioned to watch the sun set over the trees. "Perfect with a beer," he said. It's paradise.
Despite being minutes from the London Road, here was a haven of tranquillity. Over by the blackberries, crickets buzzed frantically in the hedgerow. A couple of plots over, there was a steady, soft thud as a chap threw new potatoes into a trug. Bees fuzzed their way around my Mum's staggering dahlias, dipping in and out of cornflowers. I picked a raspberry to eat, and a soft brown moth the size of a 50 pence piece fluttered out of my hand and out into the evening light.
It was hot, in that late August evening way. I wiped my brow and sipped a Doom Bar. Jo was busy digging up beetroots for a Sri Lankan curry to cook later. The door of the shed lightly creaked. I picked runner beans next, with their distinctive rough-squeaky skin. People said hello as they walked past. Jo's friend came by; we gave her some dahlias.
My parents have put so much time and effort into their plot, loaded with vegetables and fruits both ready for picking (hence our visit - they physically can't eat it all themselves, and there's only so many times you can crowbar runner beans into a dinner), and those growing away for later in the year. Dad proudly showed me pumpkins that he's growing for Halloween - the size of a canteloupe now, hopefully enormous for carving come October.
Growing up in Leigh-on-Sea we had an allotment for many years, not far from this one. I feel as though my memories of it are rosied through time; I can draw on my childhood allotment memories as though they're through a lens smeared with Vaseline. I remember being sent to the water troughs with a small pink watering can. Now, I can see the troughs are barely bigger than a cardboard box, but in my memory, they were like great looming swimming pools, murky and frightening - I must have been tiny.
I don't know if I've made this up, but I'm almost convinced I have a memory of being pushed up to the allotment in a wheelbarrow, and having to walk home instead later because it was so full of veg - no room for me. I also remember going up on a cold Sunday morning with my Dad to pick parsnips for that day's roast dinner. It must have been me and my Dad there on our own. He had a compost heap, loaded with straw, that I used to climb on and for some explicable reason, called it 'Flat 7'. I could sit atop it, watching my Dad work away, surveying my kingdom of rows of veg, munching on fruit, or raw chives if I was in a savoury mood.
I've blogged about how I am trying to get into gardening and not kill the plants that have been either left in our garden or gifted to me, and I'd love to get into growing veg just like my Dad. The produce is muddy, knobbly, sometimes imperfect to look at but gorgeous to eat. Jo said to me last night as we picked enormous courgettes and sweet, sun-warm tomatoes, that we should definitely do this when we're older, and have more time, and better plant knowledge. It's certainly something to aspire to.