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Aly

If you read garden literature you have read about dilatory gardeners, no-show gardeners and gardeners with black thumbs. Unlike these poor examples of a gardeners, a remarkable man came to the garden yesterday. He knew reams about the lore of field and stream; what the foxes were doing; how a masse of eels had died of disease and sunk to the bottom of the Sargasso Sea, leaving hungry otters around Shawford; how to cure the roses of black spot; how and when to pickle walnuts after piercing the soft shell with a needle; and why the courgettes wouldn't bear - only male flowers had appeared. Further he could and did dig, through six inches of topsoil down through hard, flinty soil, and he easily transplanted nine large plants, while sustained by three cups of hot, strong, sweet tea. 'No need for lunch. I've eaten a good breakfast,' he said. His name is Aly. Where he lives is a mystery, but somewhere outdoors. He has no phone - arrangements for Friday's session where made on a river bank, where we had met him watching the water and drinking a beer. Landless (it's presumed), he owns the county if knowledge is wealth, for he knows many people here, the land they own and how they acquired it and what happened to that land in the last century and a thousand years ago.

He seemed to me a countrymen in the ancient and glorious British tradition of countrymen.

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