Sweet little strawberries growing in another Kentish garden.
Mr. Proddy was special, although only a ploughman he had an aura of “ knowing what’s what”, a phrase that was beloved of my uncle Fred who played the double bass in the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and therefore, per se, knew “what’s what. ‘Mr. P’ as we called him was always very smartly “turned out”, in corduroy trousers and green woollen waistcoat. But Mr.P had a limp, the result of a boyhood accident with a hayrake which exempted him from military service.
However, despite readily accepting Mr. P as part of the local village scene, I was not a little surprised to come home from school one day to find Mr. P sitting in my father’s chair in our kitchen, drinking a cup of tea and preparing to demolish a slice of Mum’s home-made fruit cake.
My mother beckoned me to accompany her into the dining room. “Poor Mr. P has been dismissed by farmer Cowell,” mum told me,” and I am just trying to console him for he is broken hearted, he feels shamed and sees it as a stain on his character; fortunately he can live with his brother”.
After that Mum was making fruit cake several times a week and cooking Mr.P’s bacon joint in her pressure cooker. Then one day Mr.P announced that he was going to do something for Mum, Dad and our family. We wondered what he would come up with since he had nothing. But all was soon revealed when next morning Mr.P arrived with a spade and a fork, both in immaculate condition.
My father was a keen gardener but he found preparing and tending the vegetable garden very hard work because he had a heart problem. Mr. P knew this and so he took on the job saying, “A little help’s worth a lot of pity.” Our vegetable garden soon became the pride of the village because of Mr. P’s skill with a spade and fork and this was a very practical demonstration of what it means to love your neighbour, just as Mum’s fruit cake was.