The Gardener (Up to the compost heap in the snow.)

« What a drag it is getting old. »

The opening line of the Rolling Stones song; “Mother’s Little Helper”.

The words take on their full and terrible significance, as I watch my gaunt, octogenarian neighbour, Maurice, pottering around in his garden. It is that moment on a winter’s afternoon, when the light begins to ebb slowly into darkness. All the world is a dirty shade of grey. There is a light snow shower, flakes flurry around Maurice as he leans on his spade staring absent-minded at his frozen patch of God’s earth. He’s here, but he’s elsewhere. Mumbling to himself under his breath, scratching his head and trying to remember why he came out here in the first place.

I’m out feeding the recycling bin it’s daily diet of milk cartons and plastic mineral water bottles. I wander over to the garden fence for a quick exchange of neighbourly banter.

“There can’t be much to do in the garden at this time of year,” I venture.

Maurice looks at me then looks through me. There is a seemingly endless silence.

“Bits and pieces” he muses eventually. “There’s always bits and pieces.”

“So, what are you doing?” I ask, “It’s freezing out here.”

Another long and lazy silence, more redolent of sweet summer lethargy than the biting January cold.

“Don’t know,” yawns Maurice, “There’s always bits and pieces need doing though.”

With that, Maurice carefully props his spade up against the wall of the shed, and drifts up the garden, through the swirling snow, towards the compost heap, fading like a gaunt ghost in the encroaching twilight.