Of course the poem that follows is based on fact! My mother fell in love with an allotment in South London over 15 years or so ago and it became the highlight of her retirement. I worked on a freelance basis but later in many ways I also became her carer, which involved a whole range of tasks, including following her instructions and helping her sort out what to grow and where to grow it, on her newly acquired allotment near Shirley Oaks in South London.
Miss Lottie’s Last Chance.
She sets the brim of her straw hat
at what she hopes is a rakish angle
brushes bits of twig from her brown
cotton skirt, pulls the arms of her holey
cardie closer like a hopeful hug.
She climbs on a stool and places
bits of stray string into a rusty tin,
wipes secateurs with an oily rag,
seals half-opened seed packets, placing
them into an obliging array of jars.
She takes a swig of a brandy from a bottle
marked for emergencies, while a grumpy owl
painted on a shopping bag glares.
She makes short shrift of him shaking the bag
upside down to dislodge lurking spiders.
From the corner of her eye she catches
sight of her old black wellies, blushes
at the memory of sitting, only yesterday
on her bench, near to tears, her limbs
too soggy with fatigue to pull them off.
How lucky that an old gent on his bike
was passing and joined in the tussle.
Today she slips out of her old gardening shoes,
watches a flock of rogue cockatiels
spreading their wings and taking flight.
I wrote the poem a two or three years ago several years after her death!
This week I decided to give up my own plot on the Weald in Hove after seven years! I live near Rottingdean and was on the waiting list for three years and eventually I was offered one half way up a steep hill near the Mill.
However an injury I call unsurprisingly puppeteer’s back that came from operating heavy marionettes for much of my life, meant I had to have several discs fused together and even now hills are not my favourite things.
The Weald has been wonderful and fellow allotment holders very special people, but now it’s time to plant even more veg in between the flowers in the garden!
Poems about, nature, art, eccentrics etc. in ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’