The year of the Pumpkin
Well that went fast and slow. I was just getting used to writing 2023 on stuff and now we’re going into 24 and I can't tell you where the time went.
What I can tell you is, that 2023 has been the year of the pumpkin.
It all started innocently enough. I knew I was going traveling this year, so in Spring I planted stuff that was sturdy, and would stand up to being almost completely ignored by Mark when I was gone.
Pumpkins are a given, as they’re generally quite happy to get on with stuff on their own. So, I planted a few giant pumpkin seeds thinking maybe I’d get one or two plants. Wrong. They all grew. The backyard was littered with pumpkins. And those guys weren’t lying when they printed the word ‘giant’ on the seed packets.
The smallest weighed in at around 30 lbs. The largest 86 lbs.
I’ve cooked them, roasted them, pureed them, made pies. Not one single person has crossed my doorstep without having to sample my ‘interesting’ pumpkin curry. But it was never enough. I’d get through one pumpkin only for another one of the fuckers to suddenly appear behind a bush or at the back of a tree.
Chickens are supposed to love pumpkin. My chickens don’t. They hate it, or at least do their very best to ignore it. Arthur really enjoys pumpkin, but he’s only a 14lb dog. there’s a limit to what he can do.
And it's that bloody time of year when you want to clear the slate for the supposed ‘new beginnings’
I have to admit I do find this time of year a bit tricky. Crossing into a new year is like crossing the road. You look both ways. But instead of left and right, it's past and future. And that never bodes well.
In the narrative work I do, the truth only exists in the present. In the past lies melancholy or regret, and in the future is all about hope or fear. All of which are completely colored by perspective.
But at this time of year, my perspective is all askew. I’m all over the place with looking both ways into a buffet of melancholy, regret, and fear, and hope. On no other part of the year do I find myself so drawn to look at my life choices. I make a million decisions throughout the year. Good and bad things happen at any time.
The only really actual truth you have is where your arse sits right now - which always means something positive. Because if you’re still breathing, that means you’ve survived everything up until now. The truth is that no matter what you face, you have a 100% success ratio - which is pretty good betting odds.
So, in an effort to clear my mind, I looked at the present. And the truth was I had a bloody plethora of giant pumpkins.
Through a friend who was trying to make me take her spare toaster (don't ask), I found a brilliant social media site called Buy Nothing where you can give away stuff to people in your area. I was thrilled.
So, yesterday, a very nice lady came and took away the 86lb one. She has proper chickens who find pumpkin delicious. She also happened to mention that she has a giant tortoise who was quite a personality and would be over the moon with her haul. (It is for this and many other reasons that Mark and I refer to Van Nuys as the Florida of Los Angeles. If there’s something weird going to be happening - it happens in Van Nuys).
This morning a woman messaged on the site and when I’d sent her my address, she’d replied. “Oh, you’re those people on the corner with the chickens”
“Yes,” I replied - a little sheepishly - realizing that in some other people’s eyes, we might be part of the reason Van Nuys could be called the Florida of Los Angeles.
She asked me to leave the pumpkin on the front step and she’d pick it up. I advised her to bring a car, even though it's only round the corner - explaining that even though it’s a smaller pumpkin, it’s not actually that small. I told her if she needed help to lift it, to knock on the door.
I was sitting in the living room when I saw her car draw up. Seeing her eye the pumpkin for the first time, I knew she was glad she’d brought her car. It reminded me of that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr Darcy emerges wet from the pool. This baby was almost too much to handle. I knocked on the window, smiling and signaling ‘Did she need help?’ She shook her head. She did not. I admired her determination and retreated back to the couch to watch her a little less blatantly.
She was diminutive but pretty impressive. I guessed that the pumpkin could be around a quarter of her body weight. Nevertheless, she strode towards it and with great effort she picked it up like a miniature weightlifter, steadied herself, and then staggered down the front path towards her car.
Mark having just arrived back to the house, offered her some help. She politely refused - as politely as is possible through gritted teeth when trying to hold up a giant vegetable.
“I see you got rid of another pumpkin,” Mark said, coming into the living room.
“Yup,” I said, still watching the woman.
“It’s sort of like witnessing an Olympic event,” Mark said as he joined me on the couch.
I nodded. “She's kind of amazing.”
We both watched. Having tried and failed to balance the pumpkin on one arm while she opened the trunk with the other, she finally relented, put the pumpkin down on the street, and flipped the trunk open.
Breathless, she took a moment to gather herself.
Mark and I both sat silently. Both of us willing her to succeed.
Then with great will and determination, she picked up the pumpkin and put it in the trunk. There was one nail-biting moment when it looked like the trunk may not actually close… But then when it did, she smiled the great warm smile of victory. And seated on the couch, we cheered.
“People are awesome,” Mark said.
“Totally.” I agreed. “She made up her mind and that pumpkin surrendered.”
As she drove off, Mark asked, “So are we pumpkin free?”
I nodded towards the backyard where the little pile of outliers still waited for new homes.
Mark shrugged. “Still, we’re on the right track.”
I nodded. “We are.”
“I have an idea,” he said, “Maybe we could make 2024 the year of the grape.”
“That sounds perfect.” I replied.
Happy New Year!
The Audiobook version is available now on Apple Books and Audible.
Well hello there my wee NFTV kitchen pals,
It is true, that this time of the year I get very out of whack. I find myself much more Scottishy for a start. ( If that's even possible! )