This morning I went to my allotment. For the first time.
Well. The first proper time. The first time I’ve done anything other than survey my land. Or show it off to anyone who displays the slightest bit of enthusiasm. Some people have seen it twice. In the same day. Sorry Mum.
It’s possible that I was a little over-excited. At the prospect of this brand new, weed-riddled start. So excited, in fact, that Wes took a picture before I left. Sort of like a grown-up first day of school. With dirty jeans and a trowel.
Yes, that’s a tonne bag over my shoulder. Yes, it was empty. Yes, it’s now full of weeds. And exactly where I put it, in the middle of my plot, because it’s way too heavy to even think about lifting. Details, details.
I still have a lot to learn.
I spent three hours there this morning. Battling dandelions and bindweed and tall spiky purple things that I wouldn’t even like to guess at the name of.
I found slugs. Loads of them. Huge great slimy things. Ladybirds. Beetles. A frog. Just one. Brown and speckledy. Which sat right in front of me for a good long while before thinking better of it and heading for the nettles.
Oh, are there ever nettles. I’m certainly not going to run out of them.
I met a woman who complimented me on not rotavating my plot, because it would only have spread the bindweed. Which was totally my plan. Of course.
I met a man who knew instantly that it was my first day, and told me to take it easy. Little and often he said. And then he left. Roughly four minutes after arriving. Without doing anything. You have to admire someone who takes his own advice so seriously.
I met a lovely old Irish man. Who told me all about the previous owner of my plot, and the stroke she had suffered. Before confiding in me that his own wife won’t eat anything he grows, living instead by the mantra “there are no slugs in Morrisons.”
He also told me to help myself to his runner beans whenever I wanted. I’m 98% sure it wasn’t a euphemism.
Three hours, I spent there. Maybe three and a half. Until I got hungry. And my back hurt. And I came home.
Honestly, I haven’t cleared much ground. There are a lot of weeds in the tonne bag, don’t get me wrong. But there’s not a lot of bare soil to show for it.
It’ll be backbreaking work just to get it ready for planting. But I’m determined. Because for me, this feels like more than an allotment. It feels like a change of pace. A critical part of my slowing down. My being gentle. Accepting my place in the world.
Allotments are about seasons. Times when the ground seems barren. Times when the trees are overflowing. Times when you put hours and weeks and months of brutal hard work in, and you have nothing to show for it. Times when the weather foils all your best-laid plans. And times when you get an unexpected surprise.
Like the mint I found this morning, thriving in amongst the weeds. I totally have a crop already. Check. Me. Out.
These are the rules of nature. Life is the same. At least it should be. I think. But it doesn’t feel that way.
It feels like achievements and targets and pressures. A world of instant gratification. Where everything is only ever a click away. Where it only matters if someone else can see that you’ve done it.
In this world, there are no seasons. You can have peaches in January if you look hard enough. The Christmas chocolates are out in shops already. Even the weather isn’t left in peace – tabloids threatening total white-outs or raging storms. As though an-appropriate-amount-of-snow-falling-at-the-coldest-time-of-the-year is no longer good enough.
Everything comes with drama. With deadlines. With the feeling that you should have completed it, instagrammed it and moved on to the next thing already. Preferably yesterday. There is no waiting. None.
It’s making me tired. So, so tired.
The pressure is unsustainable. Something has to give. For the last few years, that something has been my sanity. Literally.
Not any more.
I’m going slowly.
As the sweet lady pointed out, I’m not rotavating my plot. Not because of the risk of spreading bindweed. I’m pretty sure it can do that without my help. But because I want to dig it. All of it. Slowly.
I want to know what it’s like. To feel the soil. To dig. And sit. And think. And, for a few snatched hours, not do anything else. I want to have a place that is mine. That is peaceful. That exists purely to make my soul happy.
It may sound foolish. Or wasteful. Or a poor use of my time. I could have spent three hours sewing name labels into Elvie’s uniform. Cleaning the bathroom. Filing.
But I didn’t. I needed the calm, the air, the mud. I needed my little patch of earth. My promises of slowness, of self-compassion, of seasonal living. Made tangible. Before my very eyes.
It may sound like a poor use of my time. If you ask me, nothing could be more essential.
Maybe one day I’ll win allotment prizes. Maybe I won’t. Perhaps it will yield huge crops. Perhaps it won’t.
None of that really matters.
There’s no rush. No pressure. No targets.