a work in progress, 2020 onwards

photos taken in the ‘Bato Kunku’ poly tunnel at Osprey Community Allotment, Summer 2021

of Cracking Leaves......

When walking the streets, any road, any street in any town, any city, any village, I have an instinctive impulse that has been with me as long as I cannot remember it not ever being.  Intuitive now, like a tic, unaware I am always on the lookout for the perfect leaf. Not just any leaf, it has to be just the right kind, just the right one.  These leaves, my coveted leaves are found in the privet hedges that line the front gardens of most streets, there to create privacy for lives I'm not privy to.  You will have passed these leaves, these hedges without knowing or noticing so insignificant they are.  Setting my sights on a hedge, and then a single leaf and picking one out only slowing down my pace ever so slightly, to reach out and pluck one is such a secret delight. Sometimes I pluck several in one swoop like drive-by leaf theft. I am only really interested in these leaves in the context of walking the streets, not in the woods or in forests. At just the right level of maturity dark green ones are best. The satisfaction of harvesting the perfect leaf, of testing it, folding it, bending it between my fingers. The crack of it’s spine that I feel as much as hear, its sound pulsing through me so subtle and slight is intoxicating.  One crack follows another as I move the leaf through my fingers and crack it’s midrib over and over until it is all broken, collapsed, the life fully split out of it. If it is an exceptional leaf, I move it around between my fingers and thumb and snap the leaf blade on its axis to draw the most out of this single leaf before discarding it onto the pavement and seeking my next hit. The disappointment of a soft leaf, immature not quite ready for the hit of the crack I am after. The missed opportunities, the quick grabs through walking too swiftly or noticing just that bit too late.

It was only quite recently that my sister and I discovered our mutual affection for  leaf cracking and were thrilled to discover that we share this though neither can recall it as a shared childhood experience. Whilst walking with a companion he noticed this action, this habit of mine as I tugged these small leaves away from their stems as we strolled. Upon musing upon my green fingered habit, I realise that I have a predisposition of coveting other people's front gardens, often picking overhanging flowers to take home and put in a vase which somehow I don't see as stealing yet know that really it is. As a teenager walking home after illicit nights out drinking and smoking in the park whilst pretending to be at a friends house, I would stop and pluck the petals from the roses lining the walls of front gardens down the road from our house and pop them into my mouth. The sweet floral scent disguising the smell of booze and betrayal in my mind. Leaning against the doorframe of the living room to stabilise myself I would recount my fictional evening and feign tiredness to disguise my drunken wobbles and make my excuses to head up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire with the rose petals as my trusted alibi. Now that I think about it, perhaps this happened just once but in my memory it remains as a thing that I did.

I recall these acts and these memories by writing with a green pen in a green notepad while I sat on a thick green lawn, and a thicket of words like all the leaves I have ever cracked tumbled out covering the page like ivy.

film clip by Kashka Francis, 2019


of Popping Peas…..

I take two bowls from the kitchen and place them on the table to begin a ritual. A slow meditation with a delicious ending…. or a murderous attack. I take the plastic bag and tip the finger-like green legume vessels into one bowl leaving the other empty beside it. I select the first capsule containing the golden green prize wins. With my thumb and forefinger, I gently squeeze together the pregnant, bulging pod, sliding my thumbnail along its seam to split it open. The carpel walls that hold the enclosure together split open lengthways to reveal a row of five small virgin-green quintuplets lining the skin walls of the pod, all fresh, unsullied and new. I prize apart the seam with both thumbs and tease each orb from its funiculus tearing them from the fragile umbilical cords that have kept them alive and nurtured their growth.  I am a pea midwife birthing these full-term green embryo’s into existence. With a satisfying ‘pop’ and a minuscule gasp I can’t quite hear, they enter into the world and tumble into the empty bowl. They are mine now, all mine. No longer belonging to nature, no longer tucked up in bed with their siblings in the safety of their close knit homes. The popping of one pod spurs on the next and as I steadily repeat the process my fingers quicken.  The green treasure balls, the perfect spheres, soon fill up the bowl which becomes as crowded as a battery farm. Their discarded husks, their empty homes piling up on the table. Every so often a solitary pea pops up into the air, lands on the table and rolls like a marble across the floor as if trying to escape. I bend down, pick it up and pop it into my mouth.  These tasty little pre-cooked morsels are firm to the bite, and the ultimate in freshness, like the smell of just cut grass in taste form. When I have shelled every last one, the bowl overflows with radiant green goodness. I lift the bowl and tip them into a beautiful pea green pan of salted water for the penultimate leg of their roll towards death; water torture. I bring them to boiling point, then simmer not for too long and finally douse them in ice cold water so they retain their glorious crunch. I then combine them with mint and feta, drowning them in lemon and oil mixed into a delicious salad which I'm ready and raring to consume.  And so they now make their way into an entirely new vessel, their short lives of suffering ending deep in the pit of my stomach. Oh poor little peas I am sorry, please forgive me.


of Bearing Leaves.....

I am the bearer of the leaf. You are the leaf. The leaf that shows me places, tells me things that are and were, that reveals to me on my travels, on your travels, on ours, of a life well lived in green. A green that leads through the silt, the dust, the dirt, the smudge, the edges, the outside, the insides to find something that is already there. A green that moves through the unknowing sprawling metropolis, out to the edgelands and far beyond into the vast terra firma burrows to seek a new eigth heaven in its veins. 

Oh take me to your bevelled trunk, your blooming branch, your thirsty roots laid deep in the meadow.  Let us get giddy from the fermented fruits that have fallen from expectant boughs. From there, let us fall down on our knees into the gutter of the forest, and walk light its inner boundaries, far away into the twinkling emerald of the cosmos.