After an absence, it’s good to see dawn break on the allotment

Returning to the plot after a two-week isolation, it’s hard to tell who has missed who the most

Late harvest: ‘strings of beans will be a good supper.’
Late harvest: ‘strings of beans will be a good supper.’ Photograph: Allan Jenkins
Late harvest: ‘strings of beans will be a good supper.’ Photograph: Allan Jenkins
Allan Jenkins
Sun 8 Nov 2020 01.15 EST

My first morning out of quarantine. The end of 2020’s second long absence from the plot. But this time it is deep autumn. I am at the allotment gate at 6.30am. The mornings were lighter when I was last here. It is still dark, mid-October before the clocks fall back. But I cannot wait any longer. I have been like a dog at the door, desperate for release.

There is an occasional pre-dawn chorus. The ground is wet and slippery. I use the torch from my phone. A first, I think. Raggedy cardoons leer at me on the path. I spot a cat’s eyes. It all feels a little unfamiliar. Until I turn the corner and catch the plot’s harlequin sunflower skeletons in the beam. Home.

The light picks up amaranth, falling bean structures, a plot run wild, a few feral flowers. Spidery morning glory now 2m tall wraps the old pea sticks like a cobweb. I sit and wait for the light to lift, the plot to take shape. I am not here to do work as such. I am simply here to say hello. And to say sorry for my absence. The cat walks close, looks at me, now unconcerned.

It is late in the growing year. There has been a lot of rain. Plot 29 is looking forlorn, perhaps lonely. I take in its matted appearance. It has seen better days. But the chicories are colouring up. The red shiso has a metallic tint and is about to bloom. There are strings of late beans that will be good for dinner another day. The yellow tagetes flowers blink in the gloom. Nasturtiums are widespread. There are mustards and mizuna. Snails have ravaged the kales. Pigeons have stripped the chard.

There is work to do, love to give, spiky leaves and climbing beans to take home. But that’s for another visit another day. Another time with gardening tools.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

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