I crouch over the raised bed, hurriedly stuffing compost into a pot. The familiar clank of the allotment gate makes me look up. It's Yvonne. Has she noticed me, knelt in my neighbour's plot?
I straighten up, and walk over to meet her. We exchange pleasantries. If she senses something is awry, she's giving nothing away. She wanders over to tend her courgettes. Meanwhile, my eyes quickly sweep the crime scene. A quick glance to check she's occupied, and I hastily retrieve a stray trowel.
As August draws to a close, we've been thinking about strawberries. One of our beds is looking habitable and summer's the time to plant. We've heard they're resilient, so we're keen to test their mettle on our plot.
At this time of year strawberries send out runners: long tentacles, bent on multiplication. These tendrils flower, put out roots, and hey-presto a new plant is born. It's surprisingly efficient and, more importantly, cost effective.
The neglected plot next door has several beds of Fragarias (see how I slipped some Latin in). Several months ago the fruit ripened – tender, juicy, and miraculously unscathed by the birds. We watched aghast as it rotted before our eyes, unharvested by the neighbour we'd never seen.
This time we were determined not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Satisfied the neighbouring plot had been abandoned, we made our move. We located five pots in their finest bed, and trained a runner into each. In a few weeks the flowers will have put down enough roots to survive. Then we can cut the umbilical cords and take our new arrivals to their new home: three feet away.
We get free plants, and the strawberries survive, transplanted from their weed-infested habitat. It should be win-win, so why do I feel like I've broken a taboo?
I'm counting the days until I can go straight.