Little D stamps his feet and tells us that it is 'dins dins' but it will not be on our plate after dinner, it will not have lashings of custard and crumble. When we moved a few years back from Drovers the rhubarb was quickly planted in the front garden, it was the first thing off the removal van and the first thing in the ground.
Late last autumn I managed to move it and replant it in its final place after clearing the ground of laurels and perennial weeds. It is a rule of thumb with rhubarb never to pull the stalks in the first season and though the crowns are now full and fat they struggled in the late frosts and have only just steamed into life. I lost one, planted too late and with too little to it, it merely rotted away in the cold and the wet May rains. There are five left and these final five we stare at.
We discuss whether we should, whether we could pull a few stalks. My wife says that she will make real custard with real eggs, there will be no birds custard, though I have a fondness for this that stems from my own childhood and the terrace house I grew up in, in a town miles from here, in a place unlike Pig Row, a place of industry, steam and rough men with cracked hands. Even then my playground was the countryside around this town, dodging the bulls, running the sheep and ducking up old roads, long forgotten, weeded over and dark beneath a growing tree canopy.
The rhubarb leaves echo this memory, I could live under them, they have covered the patch, killing off the last perennial weeds. There are a few weeds clinging to the edges and it seems prudent to pull some stalks, cut off the leaves and lay them over the last of the weeds. Later, we tell ourselves that this act of pulling stalks in the first season and laying down the rhubarb leaves will exclude the light, kill off the weeds and then we dig in to rhubarb and custard, and Little D bangs the table announcing 'dins dins'.