My toe hurts, Betty

Life on the allotment. Barry the Woodpigeon calls 'my toe hurts, Betty' again and again and again and again
Life on the allotment. Barry the Woodpigeon calls ‘my toe hurts, Betty’ again and again and again and again

It’s just me, my Spear and Jackson stainless steel fork, a third of an acre of couch grass and creeping buttercup and Barry the woodpigeon. Barry has something to tell me.

I’d been trying to ignore him all day and the previous day and the day before that as I worked my way across what was once an allotment, but had been allowed to return to its natural state of lumpy bumpy tufts of weeds.

Asking myself whether I liked butter had lost its amusement as I held another of the yellow devils between my thumb and forefinger to see if it reflected under my chin, its plump, white roots looking surprised to be torn out of the ground. Yes, it turns out, I do like butter, but you’ve only to look in the well-stocked butter drawer in the fridge to determine that. Moving on.

Barry is insistent, his call repeats and repeats. What’s that. Barry. Your toe hurts? And you think I’m called Betty?

I’m not used to physical work, but this allotment is giving me fine digging muscles in one leg, which means that when I run, it has to be in a large circle. My glutes are also honed from all the bending over and a thick layer of skin has developed on my bum from frequent nettling while using the al fresco toilets. Fortunately there are dock leaves within easy reach.

Barry’s still hooting away. I’m sure he’s saying, ‘my toe hurts, Betty’. You and me both, Barry.

On the plus side, I now consider I’m a world expert on the root systems of both Elymus repens (couch grass) and Ranunculus repens (creeping buttercup) having examined both intensively. It’s massively satisfying to grab one buttercup and see a whole row of them ripped from the soil, or stick the Spear and Jackson in the soil and liberate a knot of rooty rhizomes. The funeral pyre for the gardener’s enemy, as they are known, grows each day. Barry’s not much interested, it’s his toe, you see and Betty’s flown off, fed up of hearing his continuous whining.

We get a lot of pity from the other allotment-holders. They walk past on their way to harvest their bumper crops of things they can eat, while we keep on digging, there’s nothing to eat here, I gave up munching soil when I was a kid. One of our neighbours gave us a few vegetables to grow in the one weed-free patch we possess. Barry liked them, he nibbled all the shoots, I’ll bet his toe wasn’t hurting then, though it would have been more than his toe if I could have gold hold of him.

Still, the end is in sight. I’m ordering the seeds to sow for our bumper crops next year. Noel has ordered manly tools which evidently work without electricity, so he can make raised beds and structures for beans to grow up and twist around.

As for Barry, he’d better get that toe sorted out or Betty will never come back. And who can blame her?

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