COOK – INN
Musselburgh operating in Edinburgh & East Lothian
31st March 2019
The ‘Cook-Inn’ volunteers at number nine were perplexed. They lived in a stair with several different families occupying the other flats; none of them had ever shown any interest in the state of the back green. Nevertheless, little ‘digging’ noises could often be heard, coming from the garden, late at night. It always happened on cloudy or moonless nights, so that anyone looking out of their window would see nothing going on in the darkness. Doubtless people assumed it was a cat, burying it business where no-one would see. Or perhaps a fox, digging itself a new hole to live in. So how did all those square areas of land get cordoned off by little, knotted lengths of string? And those neat little rows of ridged earth. They looked like nothing so much as…planted seeds!
“Well, whoever it is”, opined Fred the intrepid volunteer, “I’m a fan. The garden needed a clear-up”.
Linda thought about it some more. “It’s a bit of a risk, living near a school. The local kids might wreck it”. She recalled the damage an invading football had once done to a line of four tattie-pots on the low wall at the side of the building. Fortunately, they had been plastic tubs – and had bounced, rather than broken.
Fred shrugged. “Maybe it’s the fairies”.
Barney, hearing this last remark, felt a garbled memory spring to life in his head. He ran to ask the cats what they thought of this new, earthy situation. Misty and Marley, sunning themselves on the inside of a window, chuckled to each other; but wouldn’t explain to him what was going on. Barney tried explaining it to Archie, but Archie was enthralled in his new job as a doorstop helping people enter with lots of shopping. He paid the big dog no attention. Morris was missing outside somewhere, and Daisy only shushed him, entreating him not to say a word about it to the humans. “But”, thought Barney, “what about”? Desperate now to have things explained to him, he phoned the number previously used to contact the late Sherlock Romes. He was delighted when Reiver answered.
“What do you want”? Said the black & white cat, sounding like he had a mouthful of food – which he probably did.
Barney asked Reiver about the garden, and why it made him think he should know what was happening. Reive shrugged, but of course on the other end of the phone, Barney couldn’t see. “I dunno,” said the bemused cat. “Perhaps it has something to do with that big, red book Romes had me help smuggle out to you a few weeks ago”.
Too late, Barney remembered two things; one, Reiver was only Sherlock’s adopted brother. He possessed no ‘family genius’ to impart to the situation. Two, his one-time head injury and his lackadaisical manner did not bode well for abstract cogitation. In fact, because Barney had been thinking aloud, Reiver said, “anthrax meditation? What’s that”?
Marley, taking pity on Barney’s big doggy eyes, came up and whispered to him that he should follow her out that evening and she would show him what was happening.
That night, having howled until Fred opened the door and fell asleep waiting for him to come back in, Barney did his best to tiptoe to the end of the back garden. There he found a tiny pair of raggedy jeans, bent over a small hole in the soil. The owner of the jeans was chucking up more earth with a tiny spade. Finally he stood up, shook soil off his hands and placed a broccoli seedling in the hole he’d just dug. “Hello,” he said to the huge shadow standing in front of him.
Barney barked in enthusiasm as he recognised his old friend, Eugene the pixie. Eugene, bowled backwards into the hole by the wind of the dog’s breath – and also perhaps the volume – climbed out again covered in wet earth and shook himself, reciprocally covering the dog. “It was you”! Barney barked, causing a neighbour to throw a shoe at him. It missed, but the puddle it landed in coated Barney with yet more mud
“Yes, it is I.” The pixie agreed. “Lidl was doing broccoli and cabbage seedlings in a special offer. I sneaked in and wrote them onto Linda’s shopping list. When they grow, I’ll have lots of green veg to eat this winter”! He beamed at the two animals which, considering he had no teeth anymore, looked a little strange. Marley smiled. Could you do with any more space to grow”?
Eugene nodded. “Then come with me” she said enigmatically. Finishing kicking earth into the hole and firming up the seedling, Eugene crept after the animals. Round to the shops they went, behind the local library. There Eugene saw a huge space, and it was full of dug earth! His eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. “Whoa” He enthused.
Marley grinned happily. “This is the local community allotment. Everyone helps here, plants here, and harvests what they need.I don’t see why you can’t do the same.”
Eugene grinned delightedly as he considered how to fill the space available. “Courgettes, tomatoes – I could even grow tatties”! A second view of Eugene’s gums led Marley to wonder if she could arrange an appointment for him at the local dentist. For once, Barney was on the ball.
“Their instruments are far too big” he said, reading her mind. “But the toy store might have doll-size versions.”
Marley wondered how the late, great Sherlock Romes would have solved this puzzle. “That, my dear Barney” she sighed, “is a problem for another night.”
…Ten minutes later, the sound of a shrill scream echoed throughout Granton. Not a siren from a police car or an ambulance, this; it occurred when Barney came home and lay down on Fred and Linda’s bed, suddenly covering them both in layers of cold, wet earth.
Well, folks, 30 families were fed today. The loud-but-lovely Duncan (along with myself and the team) have been on a labour of love, as we have every Sunday for the last eighteen months! Technically, today is our year-and-a-half anniversary, Duncan reminds me.
We would also like to say a sad farewell to one of our older recipients; the charming Walter. Walter lived in Musselburgh for many years, and always had a cheery smile and a kind word to say to our delivery volunteers. He will be missed by the ‘Cook-Inn’ team, and by his fond neighbours.