Yesterday marked a very important day in my life. The day I peeled myself away from the luxuries of my sheltered life, and picked up a spade. There is a bush and a tree directly outside my house; this was no pretty bush and tree, but a hideous prickly thing that was posing a threat to all the little children that were playing around it. It was only a matter of times before fun and games turned into a visit to the hospital because a child had impaled their leg on a branch taller and thicker than I was. So, armed with spades, rakes, trowels and a chainsaw and an entire neighbourhood of willing volunteers, we worked at removing this root thinking nothing much of it. We planned on pulling the root out after about an hour and a half of hard work, and then enjoying the fruits of our labour by drinking tea and eating an assortment of food made by the volunteers. That was not even close to how things turned out.
Firstly, we did not anticipate how deep this root had burrowed, and after digging about three feet of mud, it started to sink in that this was not going to be the lovely walk in the park we thought it was. Instead, we worked for four solid hours, bullying this huge tree root into submission, attacking it with every tool in our arsenal. Volunteers young and old, willing and… unwilling took it in turns to hack away at the stubborn root, we even gave way to a robust 61 year old woman who put us all in our place by putting her farmer skills to the test and hacking at the root with a pick axe that she just so happened to have lying around in her home.
Of course, there were a few distractions along the way, the main one being that I checked my Instagram halfway through working my ass off and found a very unflattering picture posted by a mischievous neighbour whose name I shall not mention, of everyone mid-dig. The second distraction was the football hooligans travelling home after the West Ham match; these ‘gentlemen’ stared at the group of volunteers (mainly ladies) and not one person offered to help, although many paused to snap pictures and flash us a patronising thumbs up.
Before anybody asks, we found no treasure in the traditional sense… only a few pencils, ancient sweet wrappers and something that vaguely resembled a bullet. My back was aching from bending over, my thighs were protesting in pain from spending the better part of an hour copping a squat on the cold concrete, and my nails were stiff and caked in mud. Finally, we struck lucky when tying a sturdy rope around the root and yanking the root right out. There was an almighty cheer of relief and happiness, and everyone broke ranks to feed on all the food that had been brought to the event.
Although, the manual labour did not end there, for the remaining volunteers who had not chickened out remained outside until seven o clock, gardening in the cold darkness through the light of our phone torches. In the newly ploughed mud, we planted tulips, wallflowers, snowdrops and an assortments of other beautiful plants that would grow to be colourful and lovely.
I am writing this post the day after the event of course, and I can barely move. My whole body is as stiff as a ruler, and the slightest move sets off a trigger of pain in my every joint, but whenever I look out of the window at our collective efforts, I cannot help feel a swell of pride. When I eventually give into the circle of life, marry, have kids, etc… I will do the same with them; we will each plant a flower, and this tradition will go down each generation to mark the unity of a community, and the beauty of coming together. I will of course be posting pictures of the first bloom, comment below and let me know of other times a community had come together to do something similar, or if this post inspired you to do the same!