Balance and Borrowing

Along with some other willing – if slightly crazy (and in some worlds that is the exact same thing, believe me)  – allotmenteers I have been involved in raising a project that was in some danger of dying the inglorious scrubbing-brush death.

Levelling, slabbing out and putting in raised beds. Five of the beauties have been transformed from a paper dream into reality.

But it has been mentally challenging, juggling the logistics, materials, personalities and finances. Physically demanding too. Lifting, holding, carrying, shovelling, mixing, barrowing, even the waiting!

But a rhythm became established. And – to be honest – now that has gone with the completion of the phase, I kind of (remember the “crazy phrase in the first sentence?) miss it all.

It was quite the opposite of working the soil, tending the plants, gathering the harvest; although that has its own special moments of course. But this was cement-dust-on-gloves and concrete saw buzz noise intensity. A team being moulded and working well together, model of cooperation and growing mutual respect.

… and it came to mind, that these very allotments were once the pride and joy of men who worked long, hard hours. Down the coal mine. In the iron foundry. In the brickyard.

And, getting back to the less-pressured round of turning the soil, digging in home-made compost, is such a different way of life. And, for the very first time in my life I realised how much joy these manual workers would get from their plots of land. On top of producing food for home of course. I saw how the allotments: not any old allotments, but the very ones we are cultivating now – in the GPS/mobile phone and Voyager leaving the solar system twenty first century – would have meant to those who were here in Victorian times.

In the last century, my own great-uncle Ted was a coal miner and he always derived such great pleasure from his back garden greenhouse. He proudly grew and showed one and all his tomatoes and chrysanthemums. Bright flowers and warmth after the dark, eat-the earth shifts down the pit. How the sun must have felt to him in his wooden framed greenhouse on the best of days.
Conditions in factories were hard and grim too. And many men kept racing pigeons. I stood for a moment, mulling over this new perception,  in the warm autumn air and imagined how, after days (or nights) in the dark factories, mines  and mills they treasured the chance to look at the wide skies. The thinking made me feel both small and grand; humble and proud.

I am doing my bit, borrowing for  a time a little bit of history, a piece of land which owes so much to those who went before … and will, I am sure go on to mean something in the future, though it almost certainly will not be for me to say exactly what.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Nothing like a bit of honest graft to make you appreciate the world. Keep up the good work it will be worth it.


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