Managing an allotment presents an inescapable analogy for other areas of my life.
Like my children and pets, the plot takes up vast amounts of time and effort and does not respond well to being left alone for long.
Like work, it sometimes feels relentless and unrewarding and often lingers in the back of my mind whilst I try to do other things.
And yet, just like those other things, without the allotment I would feel bereft. There is dualism to responsibility. Having to do something adds to one’s mental pressure, no doubt. But being unable to do that same thing? Surely, that would be worse.
Take the bedtime routine. It comes around every day as anyone with children will know. It involves cajoling small, unwilling people to get clean, into pyjamas, teeth brushed, ready for a story, into bed, stop reading, turn out the lights, stop coming downstairs, stop singing, stop calling out, go to sleep!
Despite the tedium and occasional frustration of losing much of your evening to a battle of wills, the absence of that would, now, be impossible to fathom.
Within it are the real gems of the day and, in turn, highlights of life. Jokes, laughter, energy, comfort.
The feeling of a small head on your shoulder, hand on yours, as you re-enter the wizarding world for a few pages.
Glancing into your sleeping child’s bedroom and knowing that their space, their state of mind, their life, is bound up immeasurably in your own. The bedtime routine creates a bond.
It’s the same with work. Sometimes I wake up on a Monday morning and deeply wish it was Saturday again, especially after “one of those Sundays” that involves sand, hills, forests, food and wine.
The idea of work, even though I love my job, seems hard. But imagine if there was no work? Nothing to get up for? Immeasurably worse.
And so it is on the plot. Challenges persist. One situation recently involved the cherry and plum trees. A few of their branches had grown to extend over the communal pathway.
I saw one woman walking down the path acting as if they were a whomping willow about to attack her.
A notice was swiftly put on the main allotment gate by “the committee” warning people of the relevant allotment regulations and the requirement to keep pathways clear! Soon fixed, as you can see in the picture. And satisfying to do so, with the help of my Dad and some giant string.
The weeds remain relentless, especially during this warm and wet June. I have come to think of weeding in the same way as household dusting, or vacuuming. It’s never going to be “done”, you just keep doing it. I try to find satisfaction in the routine.
But, happily, this is also a time of rapid growth for things you do want there. The courgettes finally feel like they are over the worst.
Strawberries are multiplying, green and sometimes even red on the plant. Soon we shall enjoy the fruits of our labour. Green shoots of hope and optimism are all around – broad beans are a few short weeks away. Carrots, beetroot, celery and salads are emerging.
If we can, we should surely strive to recognise what we have and focus on the opportunities more than the challenges. It can be hard. When the cherry tree’s leaves curl and it looks to be dying; when the latest sowing of brassica is demolished by slugs; when the carefully laid irrigation pipes in the greenhouse do the opposite of what I intended and drown the tomato plants; when all these things happen I find myself holding onto one thought: but what if this was not my problem?
So it is that, when we see only the negative, we must always try to look on the other side of the coin and remember, it is always better to have the coin.