went to the allotment this Sunday for the first time in two weeks. With the days getting shorter after work visits are out of the question and I have so much I want to do during my precious two days off a week that there is only time for a visit of a couple of hours, normally on a Sunday morning. Last week my visit was cancelled due to thick fog which lingered all day, this Sunday I awoke to a heavy downpour and thought there would be another aborted trip. However the sun came out and so off we went.
It is ‘we’ as my eldest son was building me a raised bed and had prepared all the wood a couple of weeks ago and was just waiting for an opportunity to install it. As he is a busy chap with lots of voluntary commitments as well as a full-time job and a social life I have to grab his time when I can. So, as normal, we were the first at the site early on Sunday. However, our solitude did not last more than a few minutes as my parents arrived. In the past this has led to mixed emotions as at the beginning of the year they helped me tame my plot but then it was difficult to regain ownership. But this has all changed now and my mother has acquired half a plot of her own. I cannot begin to explain what a difference the allotment makes to her. As I said to her on Sunday asking them to help me clear the site in February was the best thing I did this year even if it did send me mad at times. Many people say that gardening is good for you health wise both physically and mentally and although I have always endorsed this view whole heartedly seeing the effect on my mother this past year has been wonderful and I suppose humbling to watch.
As long-term readers of this blog will know my sister died suddenly just over two years ago. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a child, its something no parent should experience and I watched both my parents visibly age in front of me. They tried in their own ways to cope and for them being busy was one way, it kept the mind occupied but there is only so much decorating you can do and in the winter it is difficult to keep busy in a small suburban garden. I didn’t realise when I reluctantly asked for help that I was actually helping them. They had a purpose each day to get up and tackle the allotment for an hour or so. They found themselves getting fitter and had a sense of purpose in helping me achieve a goal. As the new site started to acquire more plot holders they met new people, some who they got on very well with and even told about my sister which I thought was a very positive step forward. They were intrigued with the politics and all the comings and goings and gossip especially about the ins and outs of what was happening at the old site where many of the plot holders were having to move from. Personally I’m not interested in all this side of allotment life though it can be amusing to listen to but this new cast of characters kept them intrigued for months.
A small corner site appeared only enough for a few potato plants and some brussels but the committee members agreed to Mum having it as my site was so immaculate they knew she would look after it well. Having an engineer as a father meant that their small corner soon had a raised bed, path and recently piped drainage! They kept going down and chatting to people, there were other available bits available but at the other end of the site and my parents like our end, they like the people there so they declined. Mum went on the council waiting list and prepared to wait. I should say at this point that my parents have never been keen veg growers apart from some runner beans but it was the whole aspect of the site, surrounded by open fields, the exercise and people that Mum loved.
Recently in a move to get all the plots up and running they were asked to help out by looking after half a plot and on Sunday they were starting work. Dad was there with his strimmer cutting back a years worth of weeds and Mum was busy digging. They are two plots from me, near enough for privacy but close enough for shouted queries, such as “what sort of raspberries should I have?”, “I’m thinking of growing Pentland potatoes”, “Can I leave my rhubarb on your site for the coming year” etc. The joy on my Mum’s face as she set to (at the age of 73ish) on a quarter plot covered with thick weeds was wonderful and made me quite emotional. She is visibly excited about it, not bad for a self-proclaimed pessimist. She has planned what she will be growing. Added to this she picked her first sprouts from the old corner bit which she will be giving up and we had to admire them.
So if anyone ever disputes that gardening is good for you I would tell them they are talking complete tosh. Gardening is not only physically good for you but, and more importantly, it is mentally good for you and has helped my parents, particularly my Mum, move a little forward in coping with their grief. As Mum says she has a purpose when she gets up now and something to distract her.
This was not the post I meant to write when I started typing I was going to tell you about my leeks appearing to have recovered from leek moth, my nice raised bed and my tiny cauliflower. But this is the post I have found myself writing and it is good for me to remind myself how important this is to my parents and how when they are pestering me with questions about watering, weeding etc that I should try to be patient and thank whoever for giving them, and me, this helping hand forward.