Well, we don’t do all that running around buying presents and sending cards version of Christmas here, but we’re as up for a celebratory meal as anyone ‘at this special time’. In our case it will be down at Sarah’s allotment.
Some preparations being made at home.
After the previous day’s splendid quality at The Pen Factory everyone is anxious that standards are kept up.
Then it’s down to the Allotment, where Sarah has decorated her shed door.
She begins building the fire for the cooking.
While I set up the all-important festive sounds.
I find Althea & Donna and Dave & Ansel Collins absolutely essential for a proper celebration, don’t you?
Let’s have a quick look around, now the reggae’s on.
This is plot 44 Greenbank Lane Allotments.
Where Sarah has been gardening since 2001.
Here is her Wollemi Pine.
And her very own Monkey Puzzle Tree.
‘L66’ over on her Monkey Map website.
The red winter Dogwood.
Over the years Sarah has had help here. Some from me, much from our friend Gemma. And this past year has seen the return of a long time friend and helper.
Bren, who has returned reincarnated as a master chef.
The fire is built.
And the fire is lit.
With good dry wood ready to keep it going.
Let’s have another look round.
The garden looking dramatic.
Under a changing sky.
Full of squalls of rain and hail.
A sleeping winter garden?
Not quite. The magnolia buds are quiet but here.
A rose in winter.
Yellow mahonia for any not yet sleeping bees.
Mosaic bike wheels as paving stones.
The dead hedge full of autumn die back.
And look. In between the showers and for the briefest of seconds.
A rainbow over Plot 44.
Appearing from Brendan’s outstretched arm.
And over while we are still looking.
The rain returns and we huddle inside the polytunnel with our tea.
Until the sun returns.
The fire is doing well now.
Under its impromptu shelter of the removed polytunnel door.
As the clouds scud over the dogwood and the tower block.
The kettles are on, washing dishes as we go as lunch approaches.
Fire wood is chopped.
And what’s this?
Yes, eat your hearts out Lunya and Salt House Tapas!
It’s Plot 44’s very own Serrano Ham.
Specially imported? Well, yes, sort of. They went halves on it from Aldi. Including its own stand, carving knife and sharpener!
Bren sets to work.
It’s a delicate business.
But expertly done.
And soon the starter is ready.
No ham for vegetarian me. Instead I have a slice of Bren’s elegant Aubergine and Peppers Pie.
All watched over by the Spirits of the Allotment.
Interrupted by occasional storms.
And bathed in the sacred sounds of the Staple Singers on Stax.
The Cypriot potatoes we bought in Lodge Lane are now baking in the embers.
While Sarah decorates her Monkey.
This will all look a bit more festive as it gets darker.
‘One World, like it or not, One World, believe it or not, One World’
Watched over as we talk quietly together.
In the background of the Angel’s Fishing Rod seeds, waiting for springtime.
As the darkness gathers.
The Monkey shines.
The doorway sparkles.
In between the hailstones.
Dinner is served.
Baked Cypriot potatoes with butter and Feta. and Bren’s Festive Salad of Peppers and Romaine Cabbage – From Louise’s allotment next door.
Christmas dinner on Plot 44, 2014.
In warmth and light.
In love and friendship.
Telling stories round the fire.
With the Chocolate Mousse for afters they made back at the house earlier.
The day twinkles into darkness.
And will never be forgotten.
Thank you Sarah, and thank you Bren. That was lovely.
And those festive albums that soundtracked our menu?
‘Roots Reggae’ – a 60s to 80s compilation for starters
‘Be what you are’ – early 70s Staple Singers on Stax
‘The take off and landing of everything’ – Elbow
‘One World’ – John Martyn
‘Uncloudy Day’ – gospel from the late 50s Staple Singers to finish.