Invasion of the body snatchers

Half an hour before the plumber was due to come and mend the boiler, I raced up to the allotment to collect some chard and salad for supper.

The weeks rain and wind had stripped the trees down to their dark bare bones, around the plot’s perimeter their huge whale skeletons were traced against grubby off white clouds that seemed to be resting exhausted on the upper most branches.

The gold leaves on the pavement have turned to brown and black. The ground beneath my feet is sodden and sticky.

I find November a difficult month, there seems little that is optimistic about it. As a photographer, there is a beautiful melancholic light to this month, but there is all so little of it.  There’s a Rod Mckeun song, (beautifully but oddly sung by Frank Sinatra) called ‘Empty is’ , which contains the line ‘long about September when the days go marching in a line toward November”, a line that resonates with me every year, there’s something quite terminal about this month.

Our plot seems to need some love at the moment, encouragement in the face of the grim reaper.

Nothing much is growing, when a leaf is picked it is gone, and isn’t miraculously replaced by another. Mizuna is an exception to this, untroubled by weather, light, slugs or birds it spills the only green signs of life on the plot.

The chicories that I had such high winter hopes for are being enveloped in mould, smothered and eaten away by an invasion of fungal body snatching aliens from a 1950’s scfi film. I cleared some space around them, hoping the movement of air would keep the mould in check. I harvested the worst affected of them, peeling away the slimy outer leaves until I reached a thankfully still firm heart. I will make a salad with them tonight (with hazel nuts, from Jacob Kenedy’s Bocca cook book) and a risotto with the more bitter leaves chicories tomorrow, also from the Bocca cookbook. I spent a few weeks with Jacob in November a couple of years ago on the italian Veneto working on the book, surrounded by endless fields of chicories disappearing into the mist with no hint the fields would ever end. We ate so much chicory. Types I’d never encountered before, in salads, pastas, risottos, stuffed, grilled..we ate a lot of chicory and I learned to love it.

Returned home to meet the plumber..and find my motorbike stolen.


Howard Sooley

One thought on “Invasion of the body snatchers

  1. So glad I finally found your blog again. I always read it on the guardian site but couldn’t find the link for a bit. Always such beautiful images, and interesting text. Reminds me if needed why my own plot is so important in my life. Thanks to you both. And sorry to hear about the motorbike….

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