I’m a little late in posting today. I’ll tell you why…
When I woke this morning, the sun was shining. Now, in our dismal northern European summer, this year that’s been a rare event. I drew back the curtains and did a little boogie at the day. It must be quite a thing to see me dance in my boxer shorts at the bedroom sash window. Normally it’s only a dog walker or two I startle with my hip wiggles and shoulder shakes. Matt is always still in bed and laughing.
I decided, before writing the Posse entry, I needed to be outdoors. The clouds were already boiling up a heavy quotient of rain on the horizon and I had planting to do.
I have an allotment. I’m not sure there’s any equivalent to this on the north American continent, but it’s a plot of land for which I pay a nominal rent – and I can grow anything I like on it, as long as there’s no financial gain to be made from the process. So far this year, I have a glut of potatoes, peas and zucchini/courgettes (depending on your penchant for the Italian or French of this cucurbit…) More on allotments here.
Anyway, by 8 this morning I already had my fingers in warm soil as I planted my oriental greens. I’ve managed to tame about a fifth of my 10 rod plot (about 10 by 25 yards, I think) – the rest is swamped in brambles and nettles and bindweed and nameless other prickly beasties, sporadically brightened by the silken red of poppies. It’s a battle against nature which I have done nothing but lose since gaining the plot in April. Back then, it was an unsightly mass of broken glass, dumped rubbish and metal wire – that bit was easy. But it’s wonderful to grow at least some of what you eat, and I accept that I’ll only ever clear the entire plot bit by bit, slowly slowly. Meanwhile, the old men tut-tut at my wild land, and look in puzzlement at my planting patterns whilst they hoe between their serried ranks of veg.
But the allotment isn’t really what I want to tell you about, because the best bit is the walk home. Matt dropped me off this morning – to return to our house, I have a twenty minute cross-country amble, where I only have to meet one road, and that’s the one on which I live. This journey, this morning, made me sigh with delight.
I live in a truly beautiful place. We seem to have these moments (spiritual hokiness warning!) where something in us vibrates in harmony with our surroundings – on this walk, that’s what I had. First, I cross the river and lose sight of the church tower which marks my home (I live in its shadow). Sometimes, there’s swans, but not today. Instead, there’s the gush of water as it falls down an incline, and the heavy sussuration of trees in the wind. Then I’m faced with the ‘behind the village’ walk – dog walkers (a Staffie and another wire haired terrier were play boxing, the aged owners looking on with laughter on their lips but worry in their eyes), back gardens, old remnants of former cottages, long gone. The scout hut. It really is a disapppearing England.
When I cross the river once again, I’m in a different sort of landscape, a tunnel of green between two arable fields. It’s like something from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – a footpath so hemmed in by hawthorn that you only have glimpses of the world outside. There’s only ahead and behind as the trees meet above and shut out the sky. There’s a stillness here: although the wind whispers above and alongside you, it doesn’t seem to reach your skin. Long skeletal fingers of cow parsley – in May, a froth of white blossom – reach out to your arms, leaning in to the cool of the shade. It feels like a place you dream.
Eventually, of course, the outside world returns, and I cross a field to a jumble of houses, one of which is mine. There’s a transformation to the light, from those verdant restful hues to the umbers and faded browns of the harvested wheat, their remnants a regular geometry from a distance, up close a chaos of disorder. Underfoot, the ground is covered in a rustling mat of stalks and straw, the hue of summer heat. Although we’ve had the coolest summer I remember, the wheat pretends for me that all is wonderfully warm.
And, so I’m home again, typing in my study and looking south to the short journey I’ve made. There’s dirt under my nails, and the smell of the outdoors on my shirt and skin. I want it to last. It won’t. Still, it’s all the justification I need to buy a bottle of Chàªne.