Blimey, the last post I put here was about our last holiday and I’ve got less than two weeks to got till the next one. We taking three of the grandchildren to Zakynthos soon. We looking forward to sunshine, Mythos and all the other stuff. Oh yes.

In keeping with my personal mission to keep the skin acclimatised to the ultraviolet, and also because it keeps my gut within manageable proportions vis-a-vis my waistbands various, and it is true, because I enjoy it, I took my familiar route on the bike ride the other evening. I try to achieve a thousand miles per annum, last year made it to 1003.6, and I’m up to 530 already here in the second week of July, so all is well. Half way along the lovely rural path leading through the estuarial water meadows and rabbit grounds, I saw a familiar figure walking towards me. It was Jane, with whom I shared a mutual fondness in our school years and for a while afterwards.

We weren’t exactly a couple, but she used to enjoy sitting and grinding on my lap out on the field at the back of secondary school, and when I first left home for the staff accommodation bedsit, she used to come up to my room after working her Saturday job at Woolies and we used to share Ski pineapple yogurts and have a giggle and stuff. Happy days. Sticky, too.

I stopped on the bike. She stopped walking and struggled to turn off the ipod and tear the ‘phones out of her ears. The years melted away as we stood and chatted. People walked past and she kept glancing a glance at the secluded footpath which leads off to the bushy walk. I felt a bit of a spasm of longing in the trouser area after a while and told her I’d better be on my way before we went up the path and did something that I’d later possibly regret. She hugged me and we parted, spoke words of lost longing and fondness and twice I looked over my shoulder and she was still looking my way and waving. I nearly knocked over a little old lady walking an aged, slightly infirm bulldog along the path. Thought I’d better cycle hard for a few more miles, burn off a few hormones and all that. And look where I was going.

Next day, after work, I was in the hardware place getting some guttering and fixings to make a drainage system for shed no.3 which I’ve just built on the bottom patio. Yeah, baby, I got two patios and three sheds. We had the house valued last month with a view to going somewhere a bit smaller. The estate agent was well impressed with my garden arrangements. Top patio for all day sun, with potted herbs and mediterranean shrubs and flowers, close to the gardening shed, down the lawn to the little outdoor gym in the middle shed, and then further down the lawn alongside the semi-submerged outhouse, a short secluded flight of steps to the bottom patio for morning sunshine and cool afternoons if the summer sun is too hot. Not much of a problem this year. But tucked in the corner at the opposite end to the outhouse is my new little shed for barbecues and equipment, fold-up chairs and a little chest of drawers for stuff I don’t know what else to do with.

So Jenny the aged hippy who lives along the road was there at the checkouts. She asked me if I wanted a lift home. She drives an old green Volvo estate. I asked her if that meant she wanted a hand with the brace of large bags of potting compost which were sitting like little slipped-disc timebombs on her trolley. She smiled and said yes so I said ok Jenny, dear aged widowed hippy lady. I loaded her two 50 litre bags of loam-rich compost into the boot, we manhandled the six foot lengths of guttering into the car and she drove back up our way.

We sat outside her house chatting a while then I said I’d better get her compost into her garden, and she asked me if I could take it to her conservatory.

“You’ve never been in my back garden, have you Graham?” she asked.

Gulp. “Er no, nor your front, Jenny,” I said. “Lead the way, dear lady.” I’m always open to new experiences.

“Do you want the guided tour?” asked she. In for a bag of compost, in for a guided tour of a widowed aged hippy lady’s back garden, thought I.

So I emptied the bags of compost into the huge bin at the side of her conservatory and embarked upon the adventure. She lives on the opposite side of the road to me, so whereas my garden sweeps uphill to the NorthEast, facing the afternoon and evening sun, hers leads downhill away from the rear of her house open all day to sunlight. It’s a similar size to mine but with only a small central lawn surrounded on two and a bit sides by a Gaudi-esque cement wall encrusted with broken tiles, crockery, ceramics and glass, the rest is broken up into five or six discrete and different areas. And it feels huge. Ooh, it gave me ideas of stuff to do with mine. There’s a veg patch, a little shrubbery, a green area, a seat hidden in a little shaded cove of green. Narrow brick paths everywhere, it seems. She’s got a little hermit’s cell at the very bottom of the garden, secluded by a cherry tree and small shrubs. Next to it, in a fair sized enclosure, live Clara, Susie and Belle, a handsome trio of brown laying hens. Jenny has chickens, and I never knew. Dear reader of mine, we live, we hump bags of potting compost into the gardens of neighbours who for twenty years we have briefly and rather disinterestedly passed a little time and the odd occasional politeness, and we then learn so much.

Chickens. I’ve got Herring Gulls, tits, finches and slow-worms. And a small tree called Olive.

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