Sunday, 4 January 2015

Beetroot

I was born in Blackpool, the youngest by nearly seven years, into a household of three adults and three siblings.  My maternal Grandmother Phyllis, by then in her seventies, was a stabilising influence at home when both my parents worked long, anti-social hours.
By the time I was four they had taken on a large pub in St Helen’s, a heaven-sent move for us children with space for all of us to grow and play, but a massive millstone for my mother, her health failing rapidly after the move. So we relocated again, this time to a newly built pub in Maghull, near the Aintree Racecourse.
My father missed having a garden, making the most of a greenhouse on the flat roof at the back, a few pots and hanging baskets.  I always knew that he wouldn’t settle.  His green fingers craved the earth.  We put down no roots and in 1969 we headed back towards Blackpool, to The Eagle and Child at Weeton: my First Encounter of the Countryside Kind. 

My youngest brother resisted.  He hated being in a village. “Wait until you see the place,” he protested, “blink and you’ll miss it!” I was in heaven. Acres of wild, unkempt gardens, massive trees and a gaggle of geese, nesting among nettles three feet high.  For an imaginative girl, it was Paradise Found with seven weeks of school holidays stretching ahead. 

That summer my father taught me about growing, shaping and loving the land.  He dug me in and grew my roots.  The early unsettled start filled me with wander-lust and I love change and travel, but when I need to be here, in one place, it is the ground that holds me steady.  I love growing things and am blessed with a large garden.  Soon after I moved in, I met a neighbour who helped to fill the void left after Dad died. 

Ian gives me gardening tips. I buy seed that he grows to small plants in his greenhouse and we share them.  “He know his onions”, as they say and over the years I have challenged him with new legumes, butternut squash, pak choi, yellow courgettes.  We have shared successes and failures.  Recently he was very ill and confided that our interest in growing stuff has kept him going. He has helped me stay rooted, even though there have been many times that I wanted to pack up and run away.

 
 

Beetroot
They make pink-speckled, healthy cake
Grated in, replacing refined sugar.
Potent anti-oxidants, eliminate free radicals.
I like them roasted, paired with squash,
Comfort as the days grow shorter.
I haven’t grown them in my own beds,
Ian brings them from his plot.
Digs into frost hardened sod
With his solitary arm,
Spade shaft against his shoulder.
Mulches in the cow muck pellets
And covers over seed. 

Every harvest he appears at my front door,
Face and hands scrubbed pink,
New shirt, hair brushed in place.
He smiles, “’ere y’ar lass”, holding out a plastic bag
Full of dark red, woody, fragrant orbs,
Freshly lifted from the swollen ground.
I take him round my garden,
Show my progress, share tea and chat,
Then I watch him hobble home,
Resigned to disappointment,
To await another harvest
And a consolation slice of beetroot cake. 

Thanks for reading. Adele V Robinson
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