Everyone must start with some degree of enthusiasm. Your name has been on a waiting list for several years. And here you are, with ground and weeds and a spade. Weeds, because no-one ever gets an allotment in good condition. The previous holder will have gotten slowly disillusioned, or bought a boat, or fell in love, and then let things slide. Weeds. Or as in my case, he had been struggling with health, bereavement and old age for some time.
One starts to battle the weeds with fire and fury. Gradually you think it's taking shape, and in that shape you see problems deeper than weeds, like drainage. And the levels of the earth are all wrong. Wrestling in the mud. Eating like a horse, sleeping like a log.
That was the first year. The second was excavations of old walls and stray bricks, the central path under a foot of earth. It's at this point that I didn't give up. Dad will recount numerous instances where he's seen fellas go mad, tearing into it. And then getting sick of it. But I carried on, and formed the insane plan of riddling every inch of earth to get the glass out, and keep the dogs safe. I spent the entire growing season of 2017, and riddled out maybe 5% of the growing area.
2018 was not a good year. I just about kept the weeds in check. The path is choked, though, and will need re-laid to get rid of its patina of grass. Photography had gotten hold of me, the way a boat will, pushing gardening into a corner, not unpleasant, but rather a chore. It was a close thing. I joked about it several times, and thought about it much more: this is getting to be like hard work.
But I've kept at it. And in the last few weeks I've realised I've gotten past the hump, the pain barrier, that point where people are mildly surprised and disappointed to hear one's given it up, but will admit, on second thoughts, yes, his heart wasn't in it any more. Past that this morning, I realised I'm moving slowly through the plot, clearing last year's weeds, slowly reclaiming what I did in in 2015/16.
And the soil, you know, is lovely. Fat worms live there now.