Yesterday was an excellent day for getting down and dirty on the allotment, and that's just what I did. I weeded an entire bed, then part of another, and planted squash, purple-podded beans, and some courgettes that the packet promises will emerge in 3 colours, though I'll believe that when I see it. I could feel the subterranean slugs thrumming with excitement through the soil as I worked on their next garden party fare.
And I didn't wear gardening gloves. This was partly because the motley assortment of gloves in the shed tends toward the ancient, unmatched, too large, and, if the waterproof ones, a bit smelly on the inside, and partly because I didn't notice till it was too late and I actually had earth on my hands. So I carried on, feeling like a real gardener - look at me, no gloves!.... la la la....touching a slug won't kill me....la la....how fully in touch with Mother Earth am I!....la la la....can always use that nice gardener's soap and nailbrush later...la la la....
After what seemed like hours of digging and planting and watering, with a short break to poke the pond with a stick - yes, a little flurry of activity under the blanket weed, hopefully tadpoles - and a chat with Eddie the Poisoner who has just come out of hospital, unfairly stricken with pancreatitis again, despite having renounced beer and cigarettes for 22 months, and who grudgingly commented that I had made some headway today, I became aware that I should have made more effort to find my water bottle before I came out. If I didn't go home right now to drink copious amounts of water, I could collapse and become a dried and shrivelled husk, to disappear forever amongst the giant nettles and be colonised by all those little bugs and beetles I am constantly fishing out of the water butts.
So the dog and I, tongues hanging out most extravagantly, plodded uphill to home, my arms and nose tanning beautifully, my pasty legs and feet hidden from view in gardening clothes and the vilest old trainers you could imagine.
Once restored to myself with generous amounts of tea, I contemplated my wrecked hands. Now I'm not vain about my hands, with their stubby nails and papery skin, but these were just disgraceful, and what's more, attached to arms whose tan (yes, I know; almost criminal to have a tan these days) stopped abruptly at t-shirt sleeve level. Not a chic look. The gardener's soap and nice natural bristle nailbrush were duly wielded, and some effort applied. Spadeloads of soil were removed. And did it make much difference? Not a jot. Ingrained dirt and brown fingernails are testament to the folly of getting too close to Mother Earth without stout protective gauntlets; Mother Earth is just a bit too mucky for me.