The woman in the photo

(or A small story of good things growing)

The woman caught on camera in the photo above is our friend Lucia, who is also from Brazil, but she’s been living for years in the same block of flats as us, in South London.  I wanted to put a photo of where we live on the blog header, because I didn’t want to give the sense that ‘the good stuff’ only happens in other places.  Our block of flats is probably the primary place where we’re trying to live out a good story.   I stumbled across this photo on my search, which was taken the day of our block BBQ last summer.  Lucia was in her usual place, out on the balcony, watering the plants.

Since we moved in, Lucia has, almost single-handedly, been responsible for the beautiful jungle of plants all along our balcony.  She never asks if you want flowers outside your flat; they just appear and are nurtured by her daily. (It’s fair to say not everyone loved that).

We spent our first married Christmas with Lucia, and a few other friends.  She came over at lunchtime and in no time at all had demolished our entire collection of biscuits.  She soon launched into Andy’s maltesers, and was too full for Christmas dinner.  But she happily stayed on and watched the rest of us tuck in.

Early this year,  Lucia left our neighbourhood and went into full-time care, because her Alzheimers was getting worse and she couldn’t look after herself anymore.  She’s now down on the south coast near her son.

A lot of the plants died or were cleared away when she left.  But over the spring and summer, something has happened in our block which makes me feel like Lucia has left something of herself behind.  Some of our neighbours have started growing vegetables for the first time (including us, and another couple who had never taken kindly to Lucia’s aggressive horticulture) – quite a feat when all we have is the communal balcony  in the photo.  About four or five new families have moved in and started planting things.  It’s not quite like it was, but it’s getting there.  And people are sharing plants, and tips, and stories of dying herbs (actually it’s mainly just my herbs that are dying – any life left is due only to my next door neighbour Frank who waters them far more regularly than me).

Which is just a small thing, but one that is growing in the right direction.


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