Thursday, July 12, 2007


The elderly gent who lived next door died a couple of weeks ago. He'd lived here for decades, and his back garden was used for the purpose the council intended, to provide a large vegetable plot. A market gardener all his life, Joe set it out with military precision. Raspberries at the back, potatoes following, onions, garlic, carrots and finally, pea nets marking the edge of the border.
His wife, Winnie, has not been home since his funeral, and daily I gaze out of Elle's bedroom like the pregnant mother in Rapunzel, craning her neck to see the vegetables from her window, at the chickweed and rough grass that is steadily encroaching. The onion leaves are mustard yellow and wilting. Rain rotted perhaps, or just desperate to be dug up. The last time I spoke with Joe just a few weeks ago, he'd placed a tupperware bowl full of raspberries for my children on the hedge which joins our properties, and told me, matter of factly that he had lung cancer. "Ah well, I've had a good innings" he said. "We'll just see how long they can stave it off, nowt else to do lass". Winnie smiled by his side.
There's a special kind of stoic about old English people. They accept things, and do the best they can with what they have. Old people in general maybe.

The rain has half destroyed the crop of potatoes in the field behind our gardens too. Every day, the farmer comes with his tractor and his mate and they rattle back and forwards, desperately digging them all mechanically, and then a big motorised escalator style thing raises them up and riddles out the earth before depositing them into a lorry that trundles alongside. When I was 16, I worked in a potato field, much like this one (could've been this one) and a lone tractor dug while teams of us ran from one side of the field to another, filling supermarket type baskets then dropping them and running to the other side, where we'd start again as the tractor came back. Another person tipped the potatoes into a huge trailer. Times change. We'll have a huge glut of potatoes, cheap as (chips?) anything, and then there'll be a dearth, and they'll be outrageously expensive.

The rain is relentless. It reminds me of when we were in Prague, in 2002 for a few months. At night it tipped down, ferociously, and we sat in bars, steaming ourselves dry as we drank vodka and joked about the 500 year flood. It wasn't a joke, it happened shortly after, and it all but destroyed many villages, towns and cities. Germany had some of it too, and responded with typical German vigour, closing down the borders with the Czech Republic. As though by nipping off the tide of Czech refugees, they could stem the flow of flood water. Communism doesn't exist there any more, but it felt like it for a few weeks.

People get on with it though don't they? I'll ask Winnie when she gets back, if anything can be saved, or if we've lost the plot entirely.

I must get on with going to work.


Marmite Breath said...

My grandad said pretty much the same thing when they told him he had a brain tumour. He died two years ago today. Old English men are something else, aren't they?

Pesk said...

They are, aren't they? My grandad was also the same. Perhaps it's a sign of other times, a country way. Everything is born, and everything will die.
Cheery souls aren't we...