Month three and we've had rain

September 2018

The leaves of brown came tumblin' down, remember
In September in the rain
The sun went out just like a dying ember
That September in the rain

Dinah Washington’s version

 Painting at the allotments

Painting at the allotments

Jays, or is it Magpies, squabble in the tree to my left. It’s Tuesday, 10am, I’ve only spotted one other person, somewhere there’s a creaking shed, and nature is already discarding its leaves.

I’m back on Y1B, capturing the plot on paper, from one day to the next the leaves move, grow, droop, twist, bend and fall. I know I’m sitting in the same place, but I struggle to see what I drew before.

Post rain, 7pm, snails creep around on newly planted crops. I think I’m alone, well, just me and the snails. The light is fading fast this evening, I can hear barking, perhaps foxes. There are always noises here that sound close, today apples are dropping, bouncing on the hard ground. I’m trying to record the dahlias on O6, wandering on their collective noun; a handful? It’s difficult not to have a handful when these flowers explode onto the scene. The light has dropped to the point I can’t see what I’m drawing, time to leave

 Drawing in the fading light

Drawing in the fading light

I’m away for a week housesitting in Cornwall. It rains, a lot, after the summer of dry blue skies. I’m missing the allotments more than I thought I would. I’m not in a city, there’s an expanse of sky over the water, I usually love this vista and never want to leave, but the allotments are calling me back. I feel I’m missing all the growth and change by not being there at least for a week.

I’m in charge of checking some small seedlings while the plot owner is on holiday. I find myself talking to them very quietly, and to the snails that I then whisk away to another life in different part of North London. I know these little creatures have excellent homing instincts but it’s going to take them a while to get back. I carry on my lookout while drawing Swiss Chard.

 Sketching a Swiss Chard leaf

Sketching a Swiss Chard leaf

O6 and I enjoy a flask of tea together, sitting at the table, glorious sunshine, hats on.

We can’t sit still for long though, as the conversation meanders around the plot we’re jumping up to inspect more closely something we’re discussing. Two cucumbers, about two foot in length are cut, tomatoes, chillis, dahlias, aubergines, strawberries, all part of today’s crop. I don’t turn down the generous offer of tomatoes, a few of which don’t last the journey home, they’re so deliciously sweet.

 Colour pencils for a tiny tomato

Colour pencils for a tiny tomato

We’re just about to get going, I have my drawing materials in my hand when the heaven’s open. Quick as a flash everything transfers to the shed’s inner sanctum. This is the first time I’ve had to resort to waiting out a downpour in the shed, I’m ever so grateful that I’ve been lent a key, it’ll no doubt be my saving grace this winter.

It pours, the aroma of wet rain on the plants is all consuming, deep, deep breaths. I could happily wear a perfume called ‘after the rain’. Scents are intensified, the soil reaching up to touch the sense of smell. The joy of rain after heat.

The sky is still black so I don’t venture far as I’m not prepared for wetness today. I sit just outside the shed, hunkered down out of the way, starting to record pears on a tree. Soon, the sun returns and bakes my back again. Flies and insects scuttle and buzz around me. One hungry wasp sits on top of a pear, twisting and turning in a hole, oblivious to me as I lean in to take a good look.

 Drawing pears as they are being eaten

Drawing pears as they are being eaten

When I’m set up, settled, working away, I often fall into a reverie or slightly ‘removed from reality’ state. So focused with what I’m doing I get lost in the world of drawing that I’ve entered, not completely, but easily unaware of things around me other than the subject of my work. In the words of Nina Simone, “and I’m feeling good”…

Autumn has breathed its freshness over the plots today. The sun is behind me, it’s 6pm, I have a cardigan on for one of the first times this summer. A cotton scarf I’m wearing matches some dahlias, exactly, it’s not often shocking pick is a camouflage. 

 Scarf and Dahlia unexpected colour coordination

Scarf and Dahlia unexpected colour coordination

The coolness is refreshing and the unworkable heat of just a couple of weeks ago feels like a fading memory of a summer holiday in a different country.

A robin hops around in the sweetcorn bed to my side. As I work I become aware that I’m feeling cold and my hands are icy, it’s been so long since my body has experienced this that I sit for longer enjoying the feeling.

Laughter trickles across the plots from one to the south of where I’m sitting, joyous laughter.

 Borlotti Beans

Borlotti Beans

Sunday

I arrange to meet E2B at 10am. We time our arrival perfectly and walk through the gates together. We sit and chat and the frustration they arrived with ebbs quietly into the distance as we recount funny stories and end up crying with laughter together. That’s what the allotments do, they heal, they take the experiences from outside and they gently cleanse them away. It’s a joy to sit and talk, it’s easy to talk profoundly in this space, it feels protective. I watch wasps on the ground going mad with joy at fallen fruit, so much to feed on.

E2B has to go and I carry on sitting at the plot, drawing. It’s quiet, having taken a time for people to filter through the gates this morning. A few hours later I go to leave and see an allotmenteer who has been working hard all morning relaxing in a chair, in the sunshine.

 Starting a drawing

Starting a drawing