SOME LIAR once told me Ants is a-political, but let me tell you they go in deep for that us-against-them we’ve-had-enough-of-experts shtick. Whether they know they are politicised remains to be seen. You just can’t have it out with them, mouth to ear, though actions speak loudly enough.
It was Jean de Florette up there, grass and nameless blue flowers grown Heart of Darkness in the interim. I’d waited 5+ years for an allotment, had never considered myself settled enough to put my name down. Until now. “Okay fine.” It can be a mantra, like a philosophical acceptance of a greater narrative arc. Or like a passive-aggressive martyrdom. I didn’t know which it was for me, but Albion’s unseen bindweed had pinned me in. And so, if one cannot be free, one must have an allotment. A moveable freedom. Insert mantra here.
Whilst I was locked down the adjacent street, seething at the timing, the scrubby patch had burst from the ground and into nettled bloom with alacrity. Two moons sans rain was no impediment, and my venture revealed a knotted jungle, writ small.
To wield a spade is to mutter great prayers of hope; to commit to working both with and against nature, without contradiction. But to chop into the earth feels a violation, myriad lifeforms fleeing and scuttling with abandon, vampyres blinking in the sudden dawn, and green leaves, who are the real Buddhas of the Soil, being tossed aside by a fool. Having nurtured bright seedlings in readiness, I now struck the earth with sacred spade, and held communion with my fathers, farmers all.
Red ants spilled out of the earth, invertebrate fire-jam forced from a bitten doughnut. In a nod to synaesthesia, I felt them swarm like tickling burning hordes on neck and appendages, purely upon their sight. I lobbed an unlabelled brassica into the Lilliputian volcano and slapped its sides with the flat of the spade, feeling that I had 9-11ed these poor, rageful people, for reasons that I could not begin to explain to them in any earthly language, and should now expect vengeful justice. They generally have no truck with the civilizing nature of horticulture, (even less so its regal foot servant, the spade,) but were now moved to voice their opinion. I met with some of their reps, and the Union position was pretty clear.
Carpet is often used to suppress weeds on an allotment, but its ability to perform in this respect is tempered by time, that old healer. Certainly by the time I arrived on the scene, the strips of carpet acted more like a base layer for random weed-turf, and rerolling it reminded me of putting the bog paper back on the roll after my son had kicked it round the bathroom; much easier to place than replace.
I leaned awkwardly, avoiding shattered nests and moving my feet regularly like a stolen vehicle, as I yanked the matted rugs of plastic sheeting and carpet that some earlier fool had laid, and repeating weeds and said plastic came up in a pleasing strip, waxed off, flat smooth mud revealed like new skin under a plaster. More ants. Jean told me I’d need dynamite.