Growing Into A Dad
Guest post by Paul Dickson
“Is this a weed?”
“Is this a weed?”
“is this a weed?’
“No, thats a worm!”
Even though my grandparents lived in a council flat on the sixth floor of a twelve storey block, my grandad had an allotment just down the street. For those that don’t know, an allotment is a British thing and is an area of land divided up into sections, which people pay an annual fee to grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers. Pretty much the way community gardens tend to work here in New Zealand.
When I was younger, maybe four or five, the above questioning was the was extent of my gardening. It is a regret I have to this day, that I didn’t have the chance to spend more time with George (we were never allowed to call him grandad) on his allotment. I would only ever really see the fruits of his labour, when he would visit my sister, brother and I on a Sunday morning, bringing along whatever he had pulled out of the ground that morning. I always thought it was so cool that he had grown the vegetables and that everything was still covered in dirt when we took the vegetables out of the bag.
George worked until he was in his mid-seventies, working at the same factory for decades. It was around the same time that he retired that he also stopped working on his allotment. There is no doubt in my mind, that if he had kept on turning over that soil, he would have lived a lot longer, as he would have had something to occupy his time and keep him fit. George passed away at the age of eighty-one in 2003. I’d like to say that this was when I picked up the garden fork and in memory of this man I started gardening. Alas, it would be another decade until I found my green fingers.
With the passing of my grandparents (my nan passed away a year after George, who says you can’t die of a broken heart), I travelled more and lost myself in a career as a project manager. I grew apart from family, relationships came and went, before I knew what had happened, I’d moved to New Zealand. The big move from the UK had meant to be a fresh start, instead it was just a different office on the other side of the world, away from everything I loved. I’d started to make plans to move back to Blighty, when I met this Kiwi chick. I’d had many talks over a pint with George about relationships and he would always tell me “when you know, you know”. Three months after meeting Anj I moved in with her and eighteen months later we were married.
Not longer after Anj and I met, my career in New Zealand took off, I’d landed a $100k job, working on some of New Zealands largest projects. Boom, it finally happened, I had it all. Except, the career which I thought was so important to me, no longer did it for me. In fact, the career was starting to get me down and was sending me to a dark place. One weekend, Anj and I was talking about my family and we started talking about George and his allotment. We then went on to chat about how cool it would be to grow our own food. The next weekend, we picked up some timber and we built a ten metre long raised bed alongside our driveway. It felt so rewarding, building something with my own hands and having a strip of dirt to grow stuff in. For the first time in a long time, my mind seemed clear and focused. Some months later, whilst planting some seedlings and working in our little garden, I decided to call it a day on my career.
Somehow, the gardening bug had followed me on my journey and was just waiting for the right time to infect me. Now I know first hand, the positive affect that gardening can have on the body and soul. The following months and years from walking out of the office that last time, I’ve gone on to not only grow my own garden, but launch a charity which builds gardens in Primary schools right here in New Zealand. No doubt George wouldn’t be too happy about me living so far away from my family, but he would be pretty proud of how I’m now getting my hands dirty and following in his muddy footprints.
About the author
Paul Dickson 'The Dad'
As well as launching a kids charity and becoming a husband, I’ve also become a dad since moving to NZ. We’re growing our own little kiwi who loves spending time in the great outdoors, which is an essential part of life in this part of the world. To capture the fun, trials and learnings of being a dad, I started the Dad’s Patch blog.
- Sarah Cooper