We met Len and Alison on our first allotment visit. They were a friendly couple, who could chatter for hours. Almost daily we'd pass them on the street, ferrying seedlings or tools to their plot. In those early weeks they were a fixture at the allotment.
Then, they were gone: we never saw them again. Months have passed since our last cheerful exchange. Our plot is tamed and reborn; theirs wastes away. Grass gnaws at the edges of the beds. Weeds infiltrate their crops.
I guess we’re surrounded by bit-part players like Len and Alison. Day in, day out, we share a platform, a bus ride, or a queue. We know little about these intimate strangers, but their presence reassures us that all is well; life is proceeding as normal.
Then, after months or years of underrated service, they exit our lives. Have they changed routine? Have they moved away, or fallen ill? The questions remain unanswered. We soon forget about them, and another extra fills the gap.
At the allotment the strangers are more substantial, and their absence more evident. The encroaching weeds leave a lingering scar, an empty hole.