There was no one else there, just me, the sun, the moon and the stereo robins. I like my allotment neighbours very much, but I like them best when they’re not there.
And so the combination of tasks and solitude was able to work its magic once again. “Taskitude” is such a renewing experience. Solitude of itself is wonderful, but combining it with a task somehow seems to allow your mind to wander even more freely.
And the joy of a scruffy allotment like mine is that there’s always a task of some sort waiting to be done. It means you can pick a job to suit your frame of mind or energy level – whether it’s full-on aggressive digging, fence-mending, fiddly weeding, trying (again) to salvage the swaying shed, or even breaking new ground in the less-cared-for corners.
This time, post-viral and weary, I had only gone to gather sprouts and leeks for tea, and took the fork just in case I had the energy to dig up more potatoes.
Well, dig the potatoes I did, and the leeks, and harvested the sprouts. Already re-energised, I gazed at the wreckage of the beanpoles, tottering and fragile even before they were brought down by the Christmas storms.
Ah yes – the perfect task for a weary body! The wreckage was slowly unravelled and triaged into long sticks, short sticks and bonfire fodder. All the wire ties were salvaged for reuse next year. The sticks are willow, grown on arches in the garden and the allotment. They’re not ideal – a bit bendy for bean poles to start with, and a brittle within a couple of years. But they’re free, sustainable and rustic looking. And they do the job. What more could you ask of a stick?
It was glorious slow-motion, time-wasting allotmenteering. Gardening for other people is always against the clock, balancing appearance, thoroughness and time. I’d done just the same task – deconstructing beanpoles – for customers a couple of months earlier and remember feeling stressed at the time it was taking. “Pottering” gardening is the truly restorative kind.
And so eventually I left the sun and the moon and the stereo robins, bearing almost more than I could carry in mid-winter bounty and feeling restored. And that’s what allotments are for.