Today’s WordPress prompt got me thinking… The prompts are cryptic, usually one-worders, thus offering infinite possibilities. But: closet?
Well, “closet” acted as a key, opening the door to a fundamental, deeply personal aspect of my gardening. Tools. Gloves. Hat. Netting, string and scissors. Books. A mask.
I’ve stacked them inside a new custom-built storage cupboard in a corner of my kitchen. This replaces a tacky plastic box and any number of smaller containers scattered here and there. Until last month, my gardening equipment was of no fixed abode.
And like all the best closets (cupboards in British English!), there is a skeleton rattling in there, right at the back.
The top section has a few basic gardening books, though not the ones I refer to most often. There’s a plastic box full of bits and pieces (string, wire, netting, seed drill markers etc); a wooden box for new/seldom used tools; secateurs, gloves, boxes and tins of seeds, a small electric hedge trimmer. I also have one face mask from B&Q in London, the last of a pack I bought to offer some protection when doing jobs like hedge trimming. You’d be amazed how laden with dust the hedge becomes in summer: cutting it is a truly awful job.
The lower part of the cupboard accommodates my precious Draper stainless steel spade and fork. Baptised in a garden of heavy clay soil in Britain, transported half way around the world to Egypt, I hide them away whenever the gardeners appear, being ridiculously possessive of my most treasured tools.
The equipment of choice in Egypt since time immemorial (literally – see the tomb paintings of ancient times) is a kind of ax known as a “fass”, usually translated as a “hoe” but unlike any hoe I’ve ever seen. It’s short, stubby, with a blade that is utterly lethal wielded anywhere near roots. But wielded with skill, as it usually is, the “fass” is remarkably versatile for digging, chopping, carrying, banking up soil – etc.
There’s another fork in the closet with its own curious history, much of which is a mystery. Picked up in a garden shop in Doha, Qatar, many years ago, it was already ancient, encrusted: a rarity in a place that dealt only in the shiny veneer of the new. My trusty friend laboured hard over the years and I couldn’t abandon it when we left the country, so it migrated with us, back to Egypt.
And the skeleton in the cupboard? Rattling away in the top section, back of lower shelf, there lurks a monster tin of courgette seeds from Monsanto. The plants are already producing in abundance. I am dismayed: far from being sweet and succulent, the courgettes are tasteless and dreary. In truth, I detect a touch of something bitter about them.