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Summer Days At The Allotments

by Maureen Foster

The days were longer, the skies were bluer, and the sun was sunnier in the days of my childhood. Jeannie would say to me "let's go up to the allotments." So we would go round to call for the Webbons and the Deeleys, and off we would go, no boys allowed. Jeanie and I in little green check dresses, both with our hair in plaits. Mum would tell us all "posh" little girls had their hair in plaits, but that didn't worry us, we would pull them out as soon as we got up the road. Off we would go, up Hollingdean Road, past the workman's cafe on the corner owned by a lady called Mrs.Wickham; past Pannet's yard to the railway bridge; under the bridge (look in the big round mirror to see if anything was coming): the wonderland of the allotments was nearly in sight. But first you had to pass the Monumental Masons, with all the wondrous stones being carved. `I'll have that one' `no, you have that one'. By that time we had all picked out our headstones never really understanding that they were for people that had already died. We were much too young, and much too alive.

From the bottom of the hill, the path began, all higgledy-piggledy to the garden plots, tended so lovingly by the elderly men who hadn't had to go to war. There were all manner of things growing. I remember the celery with all the soot around it, thinking I could never eat that, it was too dirty. The apple trees, which we had been known to scrump in the autumn. The sheds, the cold frames, and the little heaps that made the bonfires that all gardeners had in the evening, which gave you the lovely scent on a warm summer's night, everything lovingly familiar. The path was made from cinders and bits of glass with little banks by the side of it. Most of the glass was green and I used to ask my mum if I soaked them in water in a jamjar would they turn into diamonds?

"Yes" she would say, "but you'll have to keep shaking them." I wonder when they dig their gardens in Hollingdean Road, do they wonder where all the bits of green glass come from?

But let us wander up the path, "Don't you kids touch anything you see growing", says the elderly man pushing his bike down the hill, "No we won't". We really felt quite important, because Maureen Deeley's dad had an allotment over there, where in the summer, all manner of marvellous things grew. Potatoes, swedes, carrots, parsnips, blackberries and most of all tomatoes. Beautiful red sweet tomatoes, he used to bring them down from the allotments and weigh them on scales, and sell them to the people in Hollingdean Road. The joy and taste as you bit into the fleshy red fruit. And now comes the joy of the most wondrous animals in the world "THE PIGS" they were in a sty, I think made of breeze blocks, lovely big pink, squealing, dirty pigs, with little piggy eyes, the longest of eyelashes, and big pink dirty snouts, little curly tails that waggled when they moved. We had walked

   

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