His garden was slightly uneven, slightly tiered,
From early February’s putting on of scattered beauty –
Snowdrops, daffs and crocuses –
A cascade of shade and colour.
His garden bloomed throughout the growing year.
Wild primrose and aubrietia
Then larkspur, delphinium and the beautiful bluebells
Carnations, cornflower and iris
Tier after tier cultivated by a hidden gardener.
Until one early summer morning, early,
I saw Alf padding about.
He was doing little but looking, dressed in carpet slippers
He had the high colouring of a boozer
I muttered a quick 'Hello’ and walked on.
Over our many, but too few by far, early morning chats after that
I discovered Alf – the more than occasional gardener –
Knew that the word ‘bungalow’ came from the Hindi
And that the word baṅglā meant ‘belonging to Bengal’
He’d been in India during the long withdrawing roar
Of empire. All he’d wanted was to get back home after
Four years fighting the Japanese in Burma:
‘Why’d we bother?’ he’d said, ‘All those young lads, dead.”
“Aye, well must get on.” That was the last thing he’d said to me.
Looking at me as if he couldn’t believe the man he’d been…
Alf died last year and, as he’d foretold, all his spring bulbs
Were buried beneath a thick wad of concrete.
“For parking” his grandson curtly replied, when asked..