If Jessie had the green thumb in our family, Lew had patience, a little skill, and great earth. Dagenham dirt was brown-black and rich in nutrients, either reclaimed marshland or ploughed-over farmland. Despite the sameness and dullness of the housing estate, all terraced houses had a plot of garden front and back. And this is where individuality flourished and occasionally bloomed.
The first part of the garden consisted of a small lawn, with beds of plants, mostly hydrangeas and roses. This was Jessie’s domain. Beyond the trellis and the spreading apple tree, the land belonged to Lew. Apart from the usual root veggies, Lew occasionally went in for more exotic edibles. One year, he decided to grow cauliflower, and he grew it from seed. After what seemed to be an eternity, tiny bits of green fluff began to appear. Then, before we knew it, small, white, carnation-like plants sprang up with thick gnarly green stalks. Within weeks the florets began to grow, yellowy at first, turning firm and white and knobby like a scoutmaster’s knees.