Next to the new vegetable patch is a wide strip of concrete, that must have been laid to create the platform for the garage. So this small branch off the main back yard is a hideaway enclosed on three sides, that you can’t see from the house.
The day that we came to the real estate viewing, after we had looked in every room and opened cupboards and marvelled at the yellow kitchen bench, I wandered around to the back fence and there was Barbara, sitting out our invasion on a little bench in the sun. It was exactly this time of year: cold and dark inside the house, but warm in that spot where the sun hits the garage wall. She had her dog with her and she was smoking a cigarette. Everything in the backyard except for two small stone fruit trees was lawn: smooth and weed free and beautifully managed.
Barbara raised her family in this house, and I think of her whenever we change something.
When the apricot tree finally died, and we had to cut it down, our neighbour over the back fence came and told us that she and her children had watched that tree grow up. Now her children are grown up and her granddaughter stands on tiptoes to chat to me as I pull up weeds.
Barbara would have watched the apricot tree grow too, from her bench. At that time she would have had a clear view of her neighbour’s kitchen, as we did when we moved in. But I planted two lemon myrtles and along with their companion, a curry leaf tree, they’ve grown much higher than I expected, so they’re now an imposing hedge. I think this is probably good for my neighbour as she can watch TV in her kitchen without us watching her too.
At the weekend I went to the junk yard and bought an old white bench, and now I sit there looking at the high line of the lemon myrtles and watching the oxalis force its way back up through the lucerne mulch. Its bulbs sit deep and tight enough in the soil to avoid the trowel, and when you tug on the leaves its soft stalks just break, leaving the core intact to start up again when you step away. But it has a weakness: to be itself, it has to show itself.
So things do even out.