An Alexander teacher’s ‘down to earth’ reply to lockdown

By Alan Bignell

When the lockdown arrived, I like all Bloomsbury Centre teachers was faced with no work for the foreseeable future. How would I occupy my time with absolutely no idea of when things might return to an approximation of normal?

The answer was the garden at the rear of our West London terraced house. Some years ago it had been my pride and joy but the arrival of a new neighbour and six months of hell while she extended the back of her house, had taken its toll on my interest and by the beginning of the year the previously manicured lawn was looking decidedly patchy while the surrounding borders could best be described as ‘overgrown’.

The pride and joy of the past

Noting the immediate disappearance of toilet rolls and pasta in the supermarkets, I worried the same fate might await vegetables later in the year. What we needed I told my wife was our own kitchen garden. But where to put my ‘brainwave’? There was absolutely no space at all in the modest sized garden. I decided dramatic action was called for. The grass had to go. 

Out came the garden fork and digging up the previously cherished lawn began. My first idea had been to clear all the grass but on the insistence of my wife a narrow path was left in front of the flower beds on either side of the garden. A further concession was to divide the soil area into three beds, again separated by a narrow grass path. I carried out this remodelling work myself in a little over a week. 

First to be planted were potatoes and onions. Peas swiftly followed squeezed into an empty area in one of the flower beds. Next was looking out packets of old seeds I had used on my allotment. Many turned out to be well past their use by date but all were planted in seed boxes to see what might appear. A long abandoned plastic ‘green house’ was brought back into service to become home to the seed boxes and the wait began for the first sign of green shoots. Meanwhile, thanks to the sunny weather, the first leaves of the potatoes were already pushing up through the soil. 

Fast forward to the present day and the flourishing potatoes and onions have been joined in the beds by lettuces, carrots, parsnips, beetroots, courgettes and cucumbers. Nestling in the flower beds along with the peas are runner beans, while dotted around in various pots are French beans and cherry, piccolo, beefsteak and tiger tomatoes.  

It’ll still be some time before this cornucopia can be harvested but even though it seems unlikely there will be vegetable shortages, the pleasure of popping out the back door to pick fresh, home grown produce will be more than worth the effort.

And where was the Alexander Technique in all this? Well I have been practising the technique for forty years so by now it feels pretty well integrated into my physical activities. So all the digging, planting and weeding has, up to now, been twinge free. Good as talking to the plants might be, I can’t wait to be back in the Centre working with pupils again.

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