So I walk away from the words, and go look at the words of others. I go and visit some of you, and the words that you have been writing. You always seem to write in such a lovely manner. You write down words that tell me stories. Stories about your family life, and the ups and downs all of that entails. You share birthdays, happy times, sad events. There are funny stories and memories of times long past. A creation is shared. Progress in the garden. Or just general everyday flights of fancy.
I read my current novel. This week it's Lucy Wood's 'Weathering' and Thomas Hardy's 'Far From The Madding Crowd.' There is a passage in Lucy's novel that describes why one of the characters takes photographs:
"Why did she do it?.....She knew why. She could remember exactly why, even now. For the way time seemed to slow down and stretch, measured in the river's ripples rather than by clocks and mealtimes. For the invisibility. For the hush. To forget. To make some sort of record - but of what she wasn't sure exactly. To notice things she wouldn't otherwise have noticed: dragonflies hunting, the patterns of light, the specific way that water poured over a dipper's back."
Isn't that wonderful? It reminds me of why I want to write my words. To slow down. To remember. For the quiet and the calm it gives me. To make a kind of record, although it's debatable what kind of record it is. To appreciate and observe. To breathe.
Olly and I went to allotment on Sunday, armed to the teeth with vegetables grown lovingly from seed in the greenhouse. Green and leafy and pulsing with life. We took trowels, forks and a hoe. Some bamboo poles and twine. A flask of hot chocolate and a couple of kit kats.
We strode along the path towards our plot. Plot number 10. It's the one that's nestled between three of the more established plots. We walked through the lush grass with purpose, saying hello to fellow plot holders as we passed them. They were all busy as bees; digging, weeding, planting. We were surrounded by industry of the nicest sort.
I stood at the boundary of our plot and stared out over it. What I saw was a wasteland. A wasteland that I am futilely attempting to tame. The part that we have already gamely tried to cover with plastic sheeting in order to suppress the weeds, is being teased apart by the winds that race in from the Atlantic. Even though we have pegged and battened it all down, it has been ripped in places and rustles ominously. It felt as if it was growling at me as I stood there, feeling a sinking sense of dismay. And when I looked underneath...well the weeds don't look particularly suppressed to me. Rather they look in rude health; dock, nettle, thistle, couch grass and bramble pushing up and out. They object to being reined in. They are gathering like a protest in strength and number.
The ugly green netting has been secured by Marc, and I thought that at least the rabbits will be put off. But it looks so unattractive. There is no bucolic vision here. No Pinterest worthy vista. My naive visions of fruit bushes and honeysuckle draping and obscuring the boundary of the plot is a long way off. The reality of the plot is hard edges and green plastic.
We plonked the seed trays down, and I gave a long sigh of despair. Spring has arrived here. There are millions of little weeds staking a claim on the vegetable beds that we have made so far. There was nothing for it than to do battle with them. I felt a slow rise of panic, as I began the onerous task. What on earth was I doing here? This is supposed to be enjoyable. This is meant to be an engaging hobby. This is meant to assist me on my journey towards positive mental health and well being. I could come here for a month of Sundays and I'd still not tame this wild plot. This very British jungle. It will never, ever look photogenic enough for me to share it publicly. With pride and just a little hint of smugness at the wonderfully bucolic heaven I have created. All by myself on my own.
I turn to Olly and admit defeat. I tell him that perhaps his Mum has bitten off more than she can chew, and that maybe it would just be best to walk away from here, now, today, and let someone more deserving take over this almost virgin plot. Olly looks up at me, and I see a real disappointment in his face. Where, he inquires, would he plant his carrots? How would he be able to grow and harvest his Halloween pumpkins? He collected the seeds for them from last years pumpkin, and he's always had a yearning to grow carrots. He planted the seeds himself, and has helped me water them. He has watched their growth in the greenhouse with a keen interest.
I admitted to him that it all felt too overwhelming. I said it. Out loud. To another human being. That I find this as overwhelming as I find much about my daily life. That I lack commitment and confidence. That I have become the very person my younger self used to scoff at. Olly shrugged his shoulders, and suggested that we weed what we can and plant the vegetables anyway. He had already spotted three different beetles and a massive spider. He'd poked some sort of grub out from the soil, and patted earth over a worm. Olly wanted to stay, and told me in no uncertain terms that we were not to give up the plot.
So I did the only thing I could do. I gave myself a silent talking to. Whilst I could probably use the help of the army to knock the plot into shape, it's just me, Marc and Olly. I can only devote a limited amount of time to it every week. And yes I have avoided coming here, because that's my go to behaviour option when things seem too much. And when did my little boy suddenly get so grown up and wise? My five year old pragmatist. So together Olly and I weeded the beds again. We chatted away as we sat side by side. We saw lots of different bugs, and stopped occasionally to look and marvel at them all. We agreed that the iridescent green beetles scurrying to and fro over the emerging bare earth were our favourites. The swallows swooped low and fast around our heads as we sat engaged in our task. They wittered encouragement, as they gave us a free aerobatic display.
And finally we got down to the job of planting. Runner, borlotti, broad and french beans. Beetroot, chard, mange tout and Olly's carrots, pumpkins and squash. Olly inspected their roots very solemnly, and watered them all thoroughly. He stood looking at the plot. "We need a shed," he said.
Plot number 10 is the biggest thing I've ever tackled. Although that's not really saying much. I live such a small life. I have stopped all risk. I fear most things. I talk myself out of so much, and convince myself to do so little. The plot is 12mx10m in size. That may not seem such a big number, but for me it might as well be the size of a football pitch. It is virgin territory. No-one tended the plot before I came along. The council purchased the land about six years ago in order to offer the people of St Ives an allotment site. I'm actually very lucky to have secured a plot, because they have all be taken up now, and I've heard that there is a waiting list.
In the short time that it has been an allotment, a thriving community has grown around it. Like-minded people gather here. People who want to grow their own. People who feel the benefit of getting outside and doing some physical labour. People who derive pleasure from the land. There are those that also keep bees. There is a plot where nothing but sweet peas are grown. The smell in summer is intoxicating. A couple of young chefs have two plots. On one they encourage the nettles. They make great pesto, apparently. Every year there is a produce show. I have found everyone to be friendly and helpful. William has offered the use of his shed, until I get one of his own. He's also giving some cauliflower plants to Olly.
I shall stick with it, and maybe one day my plot will be both beautiful and bountiful. Plot number 10 will always be a work in progress, and perhaps I should just embrace that idea and go for it anyway. It may just be the making of me.
Have a lovely week, and I hope that the words come for you too.