• Ian

The Circle of Life

As age catches up with you, it is natural to become more aware of where you are in the circle of life. For me, personal events like going to college, marriage, job changes, watching our children grow into adults are some of the stepping stones across the pond. The wrinkles, grey hairs, and aches and pains all serve as regular reminders too that I am well into the second week of a two week holiday.

That and the fact we have, like my parents and grandparents before me, now acquired a greenhouse.

We got it from our neighbours - literally lifted it over the fence. We did ask permission. (I had a pun in there around lecturing about the immorality of just taking it and then sitting in my glasshouse and throwing stones but it only worked in my brain, not on the page. Not that that has stopped me writing puns before).

We will be cultivating seeds to transfer to a freshly dug vegetable patch, part of our drive to become more self-sufficient. It’s the 'Good Life' without being allowed to pop round next door to see Margo and Jerry for a gin and tonic.

When we moved in over 20 years ago, there was a vegetable patch in the exact same place with a beech hedge round it. Our kids were 1 and 5 at the time, part of our own contribution to the circle of life. What a great asset to have for young minds. As they grew, they could nurture nature, watch the magic of new life develop in front of their eyes. Hours and hours of awe and wonderment, of independence, a golden opportunity to appreciate the life cycle in our very own back garden. So, with sustainability to the fore (admittedly, of their parents energy levels rather than of the environment) we ripped out the vegetables, put down matting and bark chips and installed something that would keep the little horrors occupied for ages without involving too much effort from us:

a swing.

The hedge, we kept, not to perpetuate the life cycle of bees, insects and other wildlife, but because it was a perfect barrier to stop reckless feet running in front of equally reckless (swinging) feet.

But the wheel turned (do let me know if I start overdoing the circle of life theme) and, the kids outgrew the swing. But we did our bit for the environment – this time by driving the hedge, bees, insects and other wildlife over to the Colchester Waste Recycling Centre and then putting down a lawn where the hedge and swing used to be. Being newly recruited eco-warriors, we did not waste the bark chip. Oh no. Like seeds, they were dispersed to different corners of the garden. And the life lessons didn’t end there. We wanted the kids to appreciate that their journey through the round plane of existence would be full of ups and downs. So we bought them a trampoline.

On reflection, dispersing the bark chips may have been a hasty decision, being the softer – and dare I say, more de rigour – option for heads to come into contact with should children fall off. De rigour because designers of outdoor play equipment in my day thought the best way to prevent broken bones and cracked heads was to lay concrete under play equipment. (Presumably, these were the same people who thought we didn’t need a belt to stop us hurtling through windscreens at 70 mph and the same ones who, having realised that belts were a good idea after all, thought that people in the back were exempt, not only from the laws that applied to those in the front, but also from the laws of physics).

The lack of super-soft ground kept me fit, dashing from one end of the trampoline to the other as young kids threatened to bounce enthusiastically, and with no trace of irony, towards the very same pieces of bark I had dispersed around the garden.

Our kids survived the bouncy years unscathed, thankfully, and, as they moved into their teens, the trampoline became redundant. As did the need for a playmate dad whose newly-found free time was spent trying to dismantle the trampoline and find novel ways of cramming large parts of it into small black bags. With no heavy metal legs and continual shade above it, a beautiful thing happened to the spot where the trampoline used to sit. Just like on the Serengeti after the rains, new life emerged from the ground. What used to be a large patch of mud was now several smaller patches with bits of moss in between.

And so that corner of the garden remained like that for many years. The young journeyed on and around the circumference of life (circumference - or is it radius? Diameter? Pi?)... the children journeyed on and around the pie of life and us parents retreated back into the safety of our nest, and promptly back out again to something we used early on in our life cycle called pubs. It had seemed only moments since Simba had been held aloft on Pride Rock and the animals had gathered to sing (too much?). Now the children were ready to leave home.

Abandoned and bereft, we wondered why these words did not apply to us as we sat in a nice restaurant, one day, using some of our newly acquired disposable income to help us debate which exotic resort for couples only we wanted to go to on holiday. But there was something missing; although the disc of Earth’s essence rotated on* inexorably for us, we wanted to give something back. It was time to start growing our own vegetables. Hence the greenhouse and the digging (the start, anyway) of a vegetable patch in exactly the same spot as the old one.

From vegetable plot, to swings, to trampoline to unused lawn back to vegetable patch, the circle of life in synchronicity with our own.

And I don’t even need to think of a way to finish the blog. That’s the handy thing when writing about the circle of life – just go back to the beginning and start again.

*It’s time I credited Roget and his thesaurus for his assistance / help / aid / succour in writing this blog.

PS In a nice twist - the swing went over the same fence as the greenhouse but in the other direction years ago. Their kids are younger. I expect they’ll want the greenhouse back at some point...

PPS In another twist, our son is back home, isolating with us. He hasn’t yet finished digging the vegetable patch he started.

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