They were wary of her at first. An outsider, invading their, quite literally, hallowed turf. A woman! And not just a woman. A young woman. A young SOUTHERN woman. In the history of the Allotment, this was up there in the scandal stakes with the great onion sabotage of 1973.
She'd never keep up to it they said, never make her plot as successful as theirs, never give it the time and love it needed.
But she did. Day in, day out she would be there. Usually before them, digging, hoeing, weeding, feeding. Her dedication was staggering.
That is how Julie won them over. Worked her way into their cloth capped hearts.
And this is why, on a crisp March morning, she found herself sharing a flask of over milky tea with old Bert.
He wasn't the worst of them. Sure he smelt a bit fishy due to the feed he used, and his holey clothes had seen better days, but he always had time to chat. Share tips. Tell her his life story for the thousandth time.
She smiled a supportive smile. He was regaling her of how he and his dearly departed Ethel used to tend his plot together. Before she became ill. Forgot who he was. Before the home took her in. let her fall. How they would share their tea in his shed.
She would have been more sympathetic, but this was the third time this week. And he had been talking for 2 hours now. Despite the mug of tea, her hands were getting cold.
'Come on Bert' she said 'I want your opinion on the seedlings I'm forcing up in my potting shed. Its a bit warmer.....And there's cake'
Berts face lifted. Nothing pulled him out of one of his monologues like a good piece of cake.
'Oh well if you're sure its not too much trouble love'
'No trouble at all Bert' she smiled 'And you can help me with some fertilizer'
While it wasn't the biggest shed on the allotment, it was the best placed. Sunny yet sheltered from the almost permanent Yorkshire winds, its no wonder it was so warm inside. That and the heater. She was still a southerner after all.
'Just look at them Bert, I'm a bit worried, the first batch were fine but this lot seem to be struggling and I'm not sure why'
She leaned over for emphasis, he followed her lead.
'I'm not too sure love, they don't look too bad. Are they getting enough light?'
His question was met with a shovel round the back of his head.
'Oh Bert, you really are going to help me with the fertilizer'
With that she went to dig a nice big hole where this years crop was to be planted. For her special fertilizer. And Bert, Bert could go annoy his Ethel.