At lunchtime this day of Our Lord 9/9/99 did I return from the plot in distinctly nautical frame of mind. Phrases drifted back from the sea stories of my boyhood - like "pull hearty lads" and "splice the main brace!" and "yare" and "put 'im in the scuppers" and "pack up and go for'ard" and "hove to" and such like and so forth.
It's funny how words barely remembered (and never actually understood) leap to mind in evocative circumstances. Another phrase, which perfectly suited this bright and gusty morning, was "the wind was freshening rapidly."
As I let myself in at the main gate, Red disappeared into his shed.
Indeterminate sounds followed - clunk, bang, thump. Then he emerged carrying three bricks.
"Good morning, young man," I said.
Our chat moved from bricks to manure to sand to carrots as only conversations between plotters can. Logical to us, without rhyme or reason to others. Then from the state of his carrots we moved on to "trying things out," and from there to "learning from experience."
"One thing I've learned this year," I said, gesturing over the intervening fences toward my patch, "is that bamboo canes are not really tall enough for climbing beans." I looked across at my bean row as I spoke.
It was not there. A 10-foot long and nine-foot high screen of stems and leaves and beans two days ago - now thin air.
So it was with a certain curiosity that I pushed my way into my plot. It transpired that I had not, in fact, been raided by bean burglars. Three-quarters of my bean vines, once vertically oriented, were now horizontally declined, a green eiderdown blanketing rows of cabbages, shallots, beets, carrots, and onions. A contentious sou'wester, it seemed, had mistaken my bean row for the sail of a clipper ship, bellowed unstintingly into it, and, at breaking point, capsized it utterly.