I wake up and have to decide which of my resolutions to attempt today: gym or allotment. Doing both, while tempting, is, frankly, beyond my energy levels and spare time allowances at the moment.
It’s an unseasonably warm day (temperature in double figures and it is January), I think, it’s likely to be raining tomorrow, so … let’s do the allotment, the gym can wait. Both resolutions are designed to keep me (?) hale and hearty. And to get me off a potentially lazy backside. Unless that’s just a different way of saying the same thing.
Then I have to wait. so I can boil a kettle and make a flask of tea. My wife is in the shower and, as things go around here, turning on a tap sharply increases the water temperature of the shower. While I’m waiting I get stuff together.the bucket of tools, the combi-drill, the kitchen waste, working boots.
Half an hour later I’m on site; the only one there. A quiet day; on such a day I tell myself, time can be taken. There’s nothing to prove and – er – nobody to prove it to. Gulls wheel about in the fresh pale blue skies and I begin to set to work. There’s a lot to be done. The shed, now clad in scrounged galvanised corrugated metal (which, I hope, will make the wooden shed I got when my sister moved house twenty-plus years ago – that was only going to last a maximum of six years! – go on for another six), needs tidying out inside. I moved everything around to get the cladding on and have not -yet – got around to putting it back!
Crammed and rammed inside the six foot by eight foot shed are the pieces of fibre board I rescued from the family bonfire (and intend to clad the inside of the shed with), guttering and downpipes that harvested rainfall pre-cladding and need putting back. Not least because the committee decided to – for once – become pro-active and support a “green revolution” by making it an expectation that sheds collect rainwater. Putting up the guttering it is then; a place to start: a small bit bit of tidying up and a bit of restoration. Double whammy!
And of course a chance to play with my new-ish toy: bring out the combi-drill! I reckon to use two of the bits during the work, a metal drill bit and a screwdriver bit, switching between them and the requisite power settings reasonably smoothly. There’s no faffing about with a chuck key and – although one or the other of the bits rolls out of sight – just to frustrate me – I’m not rising to the bait. A dab of adhesive to add some bite and, slowly but surely the clips get fastened in. It needs some adjustment to the roofing felt,but I take that in my stride too.
There is a marvellous almost-therapy to being out in the air, under no pressure but with something to achieve. and,as I’m working I am adding jobs-to-do to along list: hoe out the perennial weeds, dig over the plot, add lime but not home made compost, burn some scrap timber and dried weeds on Friday, empty the middle compost bin.
In fact, after a cup of tea, I actually manage to do a bit of digging. The ground is too wet, some of the “old boys” here tell me. I listen of course, I have learned a lot by listening to people who know more than I do. But, on this one, I’m not sure. wet ground makes for heavy digging, that’s for sure. My back will remind me of this fact later. But if I don’t turn the ground over now, when will I get it done? During the madcap season where I’m chasing my tail trying to find spaces and places to plant out seedlings germinated in the home greenhouse?
And the exercise surely will do me good won’t it? And, standing back and leaning on my spade I note how tidy the new-dug ground looks. It’s higgledy-piggledy, full of clods and lumpy but winter’s remaining weathers will break it up. And there’s a clear, not necessarily straight – you can’t have everything – between the pathways and the beds.
I begin to put the tools away: those that “live” in the shed, those that are going home. I’ve done enough and am ready for a tasty banana sandwich. But, like some kind of addict, I stay a little longer. I can’t help it: just adding a few battens inside the shed, catching the bare ends of screws that pin the cladding to the timber shell.
I’m on my way back along the path to the car when I am aware of two things. The first is that someone is watching me. The second, only important because of the first, is that I may have been talking out loud to myself. I was certainly having a conversation, but – until that point – had believed it was going on – only – inside my head.
But, er … what if ..?
And he’s obviously watching me, because he waves. I wave back, not easy when you’re wheeling a poorly packed barrow full of bits and pieces. But I manage, at the same time thinking to myself (certain, now, that this is non-verbal communication with myself):
“He must think you’re a nutter. wandering along the path, chuntering to yourself. about balancing the barrow, about what you’ll do next time you’re up here, about the state of so-and-so’s plot, about nipping home before going out to buy bird food …”
How embarrassing. But, clearly, he’s not put off. He meets me close to the car.
“Somebody’s been busy,” he says. Is he being patronising? I glance – shiftily, I presume – at his face. Doesn’t seem like it.
I decide to make light of it.
“Sorry,” I begin, “in a bit of a world of my own there (a massive under-statement!). Was I talking to myself? My nan always said talking to yourself was the first sign of madness.”
“If you were,” he replies, “I didn’t hear you.”
I like him immediately.