The hole truth

Jim and fiona have separated. Well, they haven't really. But Fiona decided she'd like a plot of her own, and now they look over an intervening fence at each other's horticultural exploits instead of tripping over each other's feet in what is now all Jim's.

As it turns out, naturally, Jim is often in Fiona's plot. And Alec and Molly, Fiona's mum and dad (their plot is some distance away, in the exact center of the allotments), also appear in Fiona's plot to help her rescue it from the call of the wild.

Which means that I get to chat with Molly and Alec occasionally. Which means Alec found an opportunity to make a remark about something in the exact center of my patch.

"Of course not everyone," he observed, "has a bomb crater in the middle of their plot."

The man is right. But neither, factually, do I. What I have (and it's all, as Shakespeare put it, mine own) is a big round empty hole just where my diagonal paths cross, or would if there wasn't a big round empty hole there. It was not constructed by airstrike, however, but by old-fashioned spade power.

I suspect that Alec's comment has more to do with "Why?" than "How?" though. Indeed, what I am usually asked is: "Is it going to be a pond?" Or "For goldfish?"

"No," I reply. "It'll just be water. For watering my plants."

Big Ted, ex-seaman, was unimpressed. "It warn't 'old much warterr, thart," he opined in his best West Country voice. After a life at sea, one gathers, he knows his water.

But at least all my water will be in one place. At the moment, I have miscellaneous and inadequate water containers: one large plastic barrel, two galvanized dustbins (genteel British for "garbage cans"), and a giant bucket.

If we have, say, four days of dry weather (which admittedly is an unusual event in the west of Scotland and would probably be termed "a drought"), I use up the supply and have to refill them.

This elaborately involves unwinding my hose, the far end of which lies waiting in the rhubarb-and-nettle corner of Fiona's new plot like a snake using itself for knotting-practice. Then I must stretch it out to reach one of the remotely sited taps on the plots. This process is long-winded.

But once my Big Hole is finished and waterproofed with a plastic liner, and filled to the brim, I am convinced (whatever Ted says) it will give me plenty to dip my watering can into over long periods.

MEANWHILE, I take care not to let too many visitors fall into it. The topsoil is light and crumbly. It can give way suddenly. So I am reinforcing my private reservoir's walls with sandbags.

Since I add a sandbag once every week or so, this is taking an unconscionable time. But then you can't do everything in a rush.

I have propped two charitable planks in it for the toads. (One morning I found three toads in the hole.) Now they can escape - if they can walk the plank.

I really must get it finished soon, I suppose. Once it's sandbagged, I'll dig deeper into the clay. That should take no more than another half year.

And eventually, regardless of scoffers, I plan a royal opening with Molly and Alec as the Queen and Duke. And I, of course, will deliver an oration invoking the words of the ancient satirist Juvenal, who once wrote: "And there will you have a little garden and a well which will be so easy to get at that you can water your seedlings without having to use bucket or rope."

Actually, I just might install a bucket and rope. And why not? Am I not lord of all I survey?

*A weekly series about a municipal garden in Glasgow, Scotland.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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