‘In a clearing beyond the castle the twelve months sit about a fire, warming their feet, exchanging tales.’
Instructions Poem // Neil Gaimon
As December plays its lengthy shadows across the ground, allotmenteers around the site are putting their crops and beds to sleep. There’s a coolness that comes from the light rather than temperature. It’s no longer a vigorous growing light, but a tempered, restrained, slow and gentle light, that encourages rather than demands action.
Beds are covered with a variety of fabrics and so beautifully held in place by carefully thought bricks they wouldn’t go amiss in an art gallery.
The natural world isn’t the only present in plant form. In an area of the path near the gate feathers are strewn over the ground, I’m guessing that from the number of them it was the end of flight for one.
Without the summer growth of tall beans and artichokes the allotments are a skeleton. I can see the sheds around the plots easily, so many different shapes and forms. My project for January is to record these in all their glory, some are brand new, some are failing rapidly and many are a personal signature of the allotmenteers.
A visit on the shortest day of the year; 21st December. I don’t expect to see anyone but am pleasantly surprised to spot a few people checking their plots, building sheds and weeding. I meet someone I introduce myself to, only to find that I met them not long ago at the AGM, but today we are both wearing wooly hats, thick coats, scarves and gloves, we are both totally unrecognisable. There is no fashion parade to be had here, however, many of us appear to be wearing bright red, a glorious splash of colour amongst the brown of the season.
R3A is digging his plot, there’s not much light today, even when the sun is at its highest, but he is still managing to unearth the tangled roots of previous crops which are being discarded.
On the Friday before Christmas many folk have left the city, the low drone of traffic is muted today. No building work is going on so the music of the allotments is made by cds hanging from bamboo stakes playing their own tunes. ‘Together as One’ has been relegated to a bird scarer.
I remain though, in the city, at the allotments. I do not need to have a concentrated effort to get anywhere, I am just happy sitting here listening to the breeze, planning next year’s crops, crops of drawings in my case.
Gulls attempt to fly against the wind, their flights make invisible angry patterns in the sky. Two crows whirl and tumble. Hidden in the doorway of a shed it feels calm but slightly above me the wind is playing havoc.
A magpie in its glorious (albeit wicked) monochrome rests on a post before joining it’s mate upon a shed roof, two for joy.
Against a back drop of scurrying clouds across a blue sky, bamboos calligraphically scribe their winter message.
Chairs that once rested aching backs and bodies are now themselves resting for a while, backs propped up against tables. Amongst the strawberry leaves turning to a golden yellow and red some new crops are beginning to show in the winter darkness. Garlic and shallots are reaching up.
Back in the studio I am planning out a couple of lino prints and deciding on how to draw the forlorn dried seed heads, flowers and leaves I have collected from the paths.
I feel as though I am too laying dormant, waiting for the sun and heat to warm the ground.