Winter is coming, even now as I dig a fresh bed, rake back the dead grass and the first fallen leaves, I can feel it snapping at my heels. There is often a feeling of everything being behind you at this time of year. The pumpkins I planted way back in June much have sensed that their best was behind them. Though they received a muck filled hole to call their own, they skipped the summer and went straight to winter. They have all died, yellowed, stunted and rotted in the ground. Little D stands beside me frantically chewing on raspberry fruit leather, his jumper a mosaic of red juice, spit and milk; my wife and I have given up trying to change his clothes. We have come to the conclusion that even if Little D was in a self contained plastic white room with no doors, windows, fridges or larders he would still end up smeared in food and mud. Sometimes with toddlers it is best to give into the mess and hope you can get them into bed clean at the end of the day, even if they wake up eating a chunk of mud and strawberries.
The weather has been friend to some plants this year but my dahlias have put on little growth whereas my runner beans have gone mad. I won't tell you about my courgettes, suffice to say that I have twenty on the plants outside waiting to come in doors. My wife is rolling out a picallili factory line which starts in a pan and ends up with Little D eating it. At least he is getting his five a day. This has never been a problem with Little D, he loves vegetables and most of what I grow ends up in his tummy and when it comes to fruit from the garden, my wife and I are lucky if we get any of it as one whiff of strawberries will see Little D run a marathon just to get his teeth in to one. Our house on those days echo to plodding toddler feet, the tumbling of toys and the turning over of furniture as he goes into stampede as I enter the kitchen with a punnet of strawberries. He'd beat me senseless to get a grape before me.
This didn't make it easy when we were away at Southport Flower Show, we stopped off at Church View Farm Shop. We only did this because Little D was asleep in the back of the car, in these rare moments there is an unspoken rule between my wife and I, she will go into the shop we're interested in first, and I will watch over Little D, she will return and I will go into the shop. No words are spoken, no whispers, no chance of waking Little D up. After I return we will quickly talk about what we should buy but we will never mention the S word (strawberries), the B word (bananas) or the P word (pears), we will talk in code. There have been occasions where passing strangers have seen my wife and I conversing in car parks, gesticulating in total silence, in something that must look like a cross between give us a clue, blankety blank and a fit. It was during this mad car park dance at Church View Farm Shop that a duck wandered up to Little D as he slept, poked his head through the open car door and quacked loudly waking him up. Little D didn't just wake up, he exploded, he bounded in his seat as he caught sight of ducks, geese and row after row of local fruit and veg. In the ten minutes he was in the shop, he fondled all their potatoes, sat on their counter, molested their Greengages and became smitten with the girl behind the counter as she was stocking one the shelves with the P word. He cried when we left.
I cried when we left because every town, every village and every city should have a Church View Farm Shop. Basket after basket of local fruit and vegetables all waiting to be bought or molested by an excited toddler.