One of my clearest and fondest memories from when I was little was visiting my lovely Nana and Grandad. We were lucky enough to see them pretty much every weekend when we were small, and there were lots of things that I loved about spending time with them – even now, thinking of Saturday mornings brings a smile to my face. We’d all pile into the back of my Dad’s van with his tools, perched precariously on a box of spanners and getting an ever numb-er bum, till someone shouted ‘we’re nearly there! we just passed the tall block of flats!’ And sure enough, once we’d seen the tall block of flats, it would be only another five minutes or so before we twisted and turned through the little roads and arrived at 3, Lilac Close, ran through the alley and into the back gate and into the garden, where my grandad would more than likely be getting on with the day’s garden tasks.
I didn’t take much notice of the garden when I was little. I knew that no matter what the time of year and no matter what the weather, there would be something happening; seeds drying in the sun for next year; potatoes to be forked up; raspberries to be picked; daffs to be tied down. And likewise, no matter what the season, most of the food on our plates came from the garden – either freshly picked, or pickled, preserved, or frozen for the winter. But I never really thought about it – it was just the garden.
I wish now that I’d paid a bit more attention! We have this weird raised bed in our tiny front garden, which is certainly ugly, but is also perfect for a vegetable patch. It’s, oh, probably about 5 foot by 8 foot, so not a bad size. Before the kids came along, I grew herbs mostly; but in the last couple of years I have been trying to grow vegetables, in a vain attempt to keep our food bills down. Last year we probably got about 10 useable carrots, three marrows, quite a lot of runner beans and half a parsnip from it – I’m guessing that I could have bought that lot in bloody Harrods and STILL spent less than I spent on seeds to get started! Still, on the plus side we had lots of fun and the kids enjoyed it – and even just getting three or so meals out of it allowed me to feel all smug and good-lifeish.
Undaunted, we have started again this year – remember that hour of sun a couple of weekends ago? Well, we took full advantage and managed to get carrots, parsnips, courgettes, leeks and onions sown into pots, as well as the bed all forked over and ready for
the neighbourhood cats to poo in the seedlings when they are grown. I have been promised some runner bean plants and some tomato plants from someone more green fingered than I, and I have some salad seeds all ready for the windowsill. But you know what I really want? I want my Grandad to be here, giving me directions in his Maesteg accent that he never lost, though he lived all his adult life in Hertfordshire. Telling me all the useful stuff that the books don’t, and sharing all the little secrets he knew. The sad thing is, I know if I had shown the slightest, teeniest interest when I was little, he would have loved to teach me all this. And now I want to know all about it, he is, as he would say, ‘pushing up the daisies’, and has been for many years. Well, Grandad, if you’d just push up a few of our veg too, that’d be just lovely! x