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Six Square Metres

July 2013

  • Margaret Simons

I have a weird extended family, a cherished side effect of a life that has not gone to plan. I have four adult stepchildren, two teenage children of my own, two ex-partners and two step grandchildren. Then there is the ex girlfriend of one of my ex-stepsons. She, too, is family.

 It is not so much a family tree as a family shrubbery.

For people in their 20s and early 30s, settling down is a sometime thing. So it is that quite often some subset of the shrubbery will be moving furniture from one home to another. Tables, chairs, fridges, washing machines and baby clothes circulate between us, travelling around the suburbs as need requires.

In this constant movement my house and garden is a fixed point – a place where items are stored or dropped. It helps that I have a loft.

Yesterday I was standing with stepson number two in the no-man’s land of the back lane that divides my backyard from the McDonald’s restaurant. We were, once again, loading stuff on a rented ute.
here was a pause while we waited for myex partner to arrive and help. Standing in the weak winter sunshine, among the fallen leaves and discarded hamburger wrappings, I found myself pointing out the plants I have squeezed into a little box of dirt against the McDonald’s fence. I had narrowly avoided destroying them as we clumsily backed the ute.

I showed him the miraculous happy wanderer, the subject of a previous column in this series. Then I pointed out its companions. “That is parsley, and that is coriander, and that is a passionfruit vine,” I said.

He did a double-take.

“Passionfruit grows on a VINE?” he said.
“Well, it flowers, and then it sets fruit.”
“But isn’t it too heavy? How does it stay up?” He was truly astonished.
“Just like a cucumber of any other vine.”
Another double-take.
“Cucumbers grow on a VINE?”

So I showed him the wiry tendrils the passionfruit vine throws around the trellis. It has grown astonishingly well – more than a metre over winter. Soon it will help screen the view of the McDonald’s drive through and the illuminated menu.

Its tendrils are like green springs, winding multiple times in perfect coils to lock the plant tight against its support.

My stepson brushed his finger against the tendrils. “How does it know where to put them?” he said quietly. He is a vehement atheist, so I did not attempt an answer. Not that I had one. There were some tendrils, a lighter green than those locked around the trellis, that were reaching out in to the lane. “They don’t all know where to go,” I said, pulling out the spiral of an unanchored example, and letting it snap back on itself.

He found a tendril that was less than completely regular in its spiral grip on the trellis. “Well,” he said, in tones of satisfaction. “It stuffed that one up.”

We had a little longer to wait, and he took a look at my compost bin. The worms had climbed through a layer of dead leaves to feed on the latest bin of kitchen waste. There was a cluster of them nestled in an eggshell, feeding on the remains of the white. We contemplated them quietly, our heads bowed together. Then my ex arrived, and we packed up the back of the ute and drove out of the lane and around the suburb, delivering stuff to its latest home.





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