The Brockley Peach Murderer

He is brazen.

Last summer the squirrel from next door stole the only peach from the fledgling peach tree in my back garden.

He didn’t even eat it – he just tore the almost-ripe flesh off the stone and left the fruit’s remains scattered around the paving stones.

This week he dug a hole, through the centre of my newly sprouted salad leaves. I caught him digging  compost out the pots and onto the floor, along with spinach-that-could-have-been.

Inside the kitchen, I banged on the glass and shouted: “Get out! Go on! I’m going to put you in a curry.”

He simply hopped next door where, I am pretty certain, they are feeding him nuts.

The comedy and tragedy of gardening has been an entirely new delight to me. Up until now, I’d much rather have had my head in a book or staring at a painting palette. Maybe my vitamin D deficiency finally got the better of me because this spring I bought a gardening fork, and took on the task of sorting out the huge sodden bags of rubbish, and the hip-high weeds.

Here is what I found amid the dandelions and the thistles: that a garden is a beautiful microcosm. It’s a little universe.

There is everything really – a whole checklist for life. There’s creepying evil, which must be kept back. Not even the Nunhead Gardener’s finest weed killer will keep it at bay forever. There must always be this honourable battle to stop the bad from strangling the fragile good.

There is the need for faith – pots of mud that look as if they hold nothing at all, nurtured in the kitchen until finally, little seedlings appear out of the cold brown, like strange clean, colourful miracles.


Flowers from my back yard


There are beautiful moments, where things start to bloom, even without you fully understanding why, or how, or even quite what these things are. Did we plant carnations? What’s the big purple one that looks like a daisy but better?

There is my favourite truth of the garden: that one huge effort reaps little reward. Instead, it is the quiet daily routine of love, the habit of tending to it in five minute weedings, waterings, and tomato feeds, that slowly, with no real physical force, turns a scrappy unknown patch of mud in Brockley into a little flowering oasis.

Then it becomes the type of love you can sit in at the end of a long day. One from which you carry your first hand-grown handful of misty green sugar snap peas.

Took me by surprise. And I love it. Even if I know that, right now that squirrel is sat on the fence, casting bits of monkey nut shell debris onto the garden paving, and he’s doing it on purpose.


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