A year ago now, as 2020 was arriving, Sarah and I had spent most of our Christmas working on her allotment. Digging out, restructuring and getting her plot of Liverpool land ready for a productive year. Taking advantage of the short amount of time when hardly anything is growing to get various pieces of work done that we’d long talked about.
And that’s as much ‘Gardener’s World’ type talk as I’m intending to do. Sarah might, or might very well not, come on here and talk through the plantings and horticultural Latins of the year just ending, but all that’s beyond me. So, despite the fact that I’ve spent more time on the allotment during 2020 than I’ve ever imagined I’d even want to, I’m going to show you photographs and talk about time and the seasons.
Late December 2019 feels like a time before so much. Though we knew there was a virus in the news, the extent of it and it’s accompanying principal words ‘pandemic’ and ‘lockdown’ were not dominating our imaginations while we set the allotment up for the coming spring.
In spring the first lockdown arrived. Not for the first few photographs above, but once the magnolia tree has flowered then everything that follows is from what later became known as ‘the first lockdown.’ And as you can tell from the photographs of the allotment table, I’d now begun doing my university work here. Walking here as ‘permitted exercise,’ safely ‘distanced’ and on my own mostly, while Sarah’s funeral celebrant work got busier than ever before.
As the glorious and quiet spring became a more glorious than usual summer, the first lockdown became ‘easing’ and ‘eat out to help out,’ though Sarah and I mostly stayed where we were. Apart from a couple of Garden Centre trips out to Port Sunlight, resulting in the purple, golden and deep red photographs here. As well as us starting to call the place ‘The Sunlight Garden.’
Abi arrived too when the word ‘bubble’ was added to the lockdown lexicon. And for the rest of the year me and my PhD friend have been constant companions at the allotment, with our ‘talking’ days and ‘writing’ days. And I don’t know what either of us would have done without it.
Over the summer and into the autumn time the allotment entered my work. So that along with caring for the garden as a rhythmic part of all my days there, I began using metaphors about ‘transplanting ideas,’ ‘compost’ and ‘bouncing back’ to change and experiment with my thinking. Long days of reading and conversation had made a university out of the garden. As the year itself began its dying back and Sarah and I gathered bulbs for next spring, while ‘second lockdown’ turned into ‘tier three.’
As well as our own work, Abi and I are now making podcasts on the allotment. Interviewing other PhD people about ‘Building back better,’ another pandemic phrase, and how they’re getting on. The polytunnel as a recording studio being one of a good many occurrences Sarah and I could never have imagined a year ago. Meanwhile, through ‘mass testing’ and whatever’s next the last of the bulbs, a random selection of foundlings, are cosy in the ground before the hard winter comes. Ice on Christmas day when I visited being the beginning of what will happen before spring arrives.
Before spring arrives.