It has been an insanely busy week! On top of the usual examining mountain that one must climb at this time of year, there has also been a whole lot of administrative gubbins that I’ve had to sort out quicksmart, as for the next couple of weeks my time is going to be taken up with. . . jury service. Amidst all of this, I have managed to spend a few precious and very excited hours here: yes, it is indeed the allotment. Honestly, I am completely blown away by it — I feel as if someone has given us an amazing gift of entirely unwarranted proportions. Actually, there’s no as if about it: someone has, and that someone is Billy, the bloke who tended it before us. . . (oh, and not forgetting the redoubtable Mr W of Edinburgh allotment services, who finally came through for us). Billy’s allotment is not just a piece of ground — it has an entire infrastructure. The sheds (note plural) come well-equipped with furniture, some tools (in reasonable nick), a stove and (joy!) a working chimney. There is also a greenhouse, a pond, well-built benches, fencing, and several bird boxes. The whole place is, of course hideously overgrown and in need of some repair — Billy can’t have done much here for the past season or two — but beneath the weeds we are beginning to uncover the shape of a thoughtfully laid out landscape. We are tackling the ground, and in a couple of small beds will be sowing what salad leaves and legumes we can — thanks to seeds from my dad (and some of you!) and a generous colleague who has donated squashes, tomatoes, and cucumbers.


Hacking my way through the undergrowth this week I have found many surprises, including an entire bed of strawberries battling stoically against the mare’s tail. Best of all, though, and in some wonderment, I discovered that the nettles of gigantic and primeval growth in the greenhouse disguised a thriving grape vine. I confess I was foolish enough to think of the eighteenth-century American women whose letters and diaries I read, many of whom were keen gardeners. These women’s politics – whether revolutionary or loyalist – often found articulation through the language of gardening, and they were fond of quoting that verse from the 4th chapter of Micah about sitting under one’s vine undisturbed. Whoa there! I’m getting historically carried away! Better get off down the allotment. . . .