I’d grown used to seeing him sat there between the shed and the greenhouse always gazing east across Hala beck and east again across the motorway that rumbles endlessly on, and east again across the Quernmore valley and then east again to who knows where? Not that gazing east is compulsory on our allotments, it’s just that if you’re prone to gazing, then that’s the direction to do it in. West would be boring….just a row of houses. North ditto. South…....a hedge. East has interest; a big sky; birds wheeling about above the beck; the felltops of Clougha and out over the Bowland forest to Amsterdam and beyond.
He sat on one of those old school chairs familiar thirty or more years ago; the ones with a tubular metal frame and a bit of moulded and varnished plywood to sit on and another bit to rest your back against. I remember dragging them stacked ten high, (to impress Susan Laker – who I fancied), across the school hall after assemblies or whatever. Remarkably, after all these years, his chair looks in good nick; not too much rust in the metal and the seat worn to a smooth, comfortable looking sheen after years of…....well, sitting.
No one seems to know for how many years he’s been sitting there soaking up the sun and the wind and the rain - though he’d drag the chair into the greenhouse if it came on too strong. Long enough anyway for the allotment to have cloaked itself round his being so he became the very soul of it and now he’s not there the soul seems to have gone out of it and the plot seems to be in mourning and is that possible?
His clothes wore him like the clay does its topsoil and so he blended into the plot and became indistinguishable from it so that some days you wouldn’t even register his presence at all till some small movement or other caught your attention: like scenery so familiar your brain filters the information and puts it into the ‘Take for Granted – Ignore Until Told Otherwise’ compartment of the brain wherever that is. I’m sure She Who Must Be Obeyed thinks I have a big one of those.
Whatever it is then, it must be serious to stop your easterly vigil so I will take it up for you then and wish you well. I hope you don’t miss the plot as much as the plot misses you. How bad can a dressing gown and slippers be? No, OK don't answer that.