On Bank Holiday weekend Dad and I had made arrangements to spend a few hours tidying up the allotment; Dad as the Director of Operations and me as the general labourer. Now some of you may already know that my Dad’s allotment shed is the luxury hotel version and it has always been a bone of contention with us, that my Dad insists on leaving the shed key under one of the plant pots. Over the past few years a “gentleman of the road” and his Lurcher has had the odd overnight stay there during some of our harsh winters. Many years ago he was one of the migrant seasonal workers that helped out as a farm hand but still continues to roam the county eking out a living doing odd jobs for a meal or a few pounds. Both he and my Dad were born in an age when a handshake was as good as a signed contract and whilst I don’t think they’ve exchanged more than the odd word, they acknowledge each other with a nod of the head which is enough for the old fella. His guest is always long gone before any of the other gardeners arrive and everything is left as tidy as he found it. To be fair Dad has enjoyed playing host ensuring there’s plenty of gas for the stove, batteries in the radio and my mum had grudgingly allowed him to launder a couple of old blankets in her precious new washing machine. He’s left the odd flask of tea and packed lunch there and I also suspect his part-time tenant is one of the few that truly appreciate his homemade wine.
As we pitched up for a spot of weeding, it was apparent that someone was still in residence and my father fearing the worst asked me whether I’d brought my mobile phone with me but we needn’t have worried as it was a different guest altogether. My eccentric uncle Bill, or Jingle Bells as my nieces had called him when they were very young, was holding his own pyjama party. Apparently my long-suffering aunt had had enough and thrown him out. He’d clearly spent a few nights sleeping rough in the shed and as his biting sarcasm rubbed others the wrong way it was unlikely that many would be laying out the welcome mat for him, my mother included.
As is the Dyson way, tea was brewed before a conversation started in earnest and as my Dad poured it out into three mugs my uncle proudly revealed that he had sold his estate car without consultation and invested their savings in a beast of a motorbike which had left my aunt less than impressed. To be fair his children had long ago grown up and moved away so a family size car was no longer an essential but not to include his wife in the decision-making process was a big mistake and one that he was currently paying for.
I couldn’t help but notice as my vest-attired Uncle finished his shave in an old hand-mirror that he appeared to sporting a new and very sore looking tattoo proclaiming “King of the Rode”. When I pointed out the misspelling, my uncle, always quick to save a few quid, explained that he’d had it done cheap by a Romanian tattooist; clearly a wise move! He quickly remarked that he was going to have it amended to say rodeo at which point I enquired whether he would be trading in the motorbike for a mustang. I was also pretty sure that whilst this wasn’t my uncle’s first rodeo I suspected it would be his first and last tattoo.
“Well, she’s got another thing coming if she thinks I’ll go crawling back and now that I‘ll be able to entertain the honeys in my new love shack…”. As we surveyed the “love shack” which currently included a make shift wardrobe and a small television with set-top aerial hooked up to an old car battery, I pondered whether insanity was hereditary. In view of the fact that he had also been married for the past thirty years one wondered if there were many women out there who were equally as mad as a box of frogs and would be happy to be romanced a la allotment style.
“In fact, as I am so contented here” he said surveying his surroundings “that when I go don’t bother burying me, just nail up the door and torch it” as that had been my Dad’s backup plan, I knew that this situation would now be resolved with lightning speed. Before the sun had settled over the yard-arm that day, my Dad acting as a go-between had negotiated a temporary stay of execution and my uncle resumed residence at the family home.
I have since been reliably informed that a compromise has been reached and a customised camper van named Priscilla, has been purchased for a round Europe road trip a deux.
The open road is the school of doubt in which man learns faith in man