Ah, the power of poetry!
I mean, you'd expect that as my 18-inch Wellington boots sank without warning up to their very brims in the suctional morass of liquid mud at the far end of Jim and Linda's plot, I would have thought of the Titanic. But no. I thought of "Mending Wall," by Robert Frost.
In fact, it wasn't this localized slough of despond (caused by weeks of driving rain) that brought that favorite poem to mind. Or even the suspicion that, since nobody else was around that afternoon, I might remain undiscovered until the next day, to be spotted perhaps by old Alec and his dog, Hey You (that's its name), immersed in black slosh to my chin and faintly intoning "Abide With Me."
Frost sprung to mind because I was only in Jim and Linda's plot because our shared fence - constructed last autumn by Jim out of corrugated-cardboard sheeting obtained "from his work" - had collapsed segmentally in the stormy blast. It was in my attempt to contrive a temporary repair by hammering in a stake or two on their side that I had strayed so alarmingly close to a fateful notoriety. It was unexpected because the plots have, normally speaking, excellent drainage. My own plot, though soggy, was firm.
But I was thinking about fences.
Enclosing most of these 70 plots is an array, a display, a veritable catalog of all the varieties of fencing known to the civilized world. It's a living history of mesh and wire, of timber palisading and sheet-metal barricading, of chain-link and chicken wire and post-and-linteling, of lattice, web, screen, and grid.
These fencings are varyingly effective, but their ad hoc, found-object character looks impermanent. There is not a brick or stone wall anywhere. Nevertheless, so thoroughly fenced-in do these rectangles of horticultural endeavor look that Attila the Hun would go pale and take his hordes elsewhere.
Indeed, the prevalence of barbed wire, arranged by some - Jimmy Hughes, for example - in fanciful and aesthetically pleasing undulations of strict regularity and by others, like Red, stapled up in chaotic meanders of prickly unfriendliness, provoked a friend of mine to compare the plots to a prison camp.
There has been vandalism. And disagreements between plotters. Some plotholders hold privacy dear. But none that I know keeps anything of great value on their plots or in their sheds. And some with the highest fences - up to seven feet - welcome you in for a chat without hesitation. Actually (sorry, Attila), hardly any of the fences would for an instant deter a determined cat burglar with a pogo stick - and most of them could be leapt by a child.
So why on earth, I asked myself in their mud, do the utterly amiable Jim and Linda want a fence between our plots? Isn't it just habit? To re-erect their side of the fence, all I had to do was swing a leg to scale it.
I knew they wouldn't object to my constructive trespass. We're friendly. Just as a plotter called Docherty (we have three of that name) is currently digging, out of pure charity to the incapacitated, two plots other than his own and going into them without respect for fences.
Or to put it another, Frosty way:
There where it is we do not need the wall....
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out....
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down....
About fences, at least, Frost was no stick-in-the-mud. Nor I.
* A weekly series about a municipal garden in Glasgow, Scotland.