When I used to commute through London, I would often see an allotment from the train window. It was quite a modest affair jammed between the track and a row of Victorian terraces pushing from behind.

You can buy a limited edition print of the painting here

I love allotments. They are one of the few places in Britain where you are actively encouraged to be innovative, and individual, everyone has a different shed, and each person has a different way of growing each crop . I would also say they are pretty classless too these days. Yes, The whole of life can be found on an allotment.

An allotment from the train

Most times the train would simply whisk by with the allotment just a blur but, occasionally, we’d be delayed, pausing for a few minutes and treated to a good look from the window.

One afternoon in high summer, I was making my way home on another baking train, passengers packed like salted fish in a tin, feeling pretty miserable. The train began to slow between stops, adding to the woe. Another delay…

By chance the train came to a halt beside the allotment. I cast my eye about to see what was what. About 30 meters away was a couple in their plot. She in a summer dress picking fresh vegetables and Sunflowers, he in a deck chair fast asleep. From my static, roasting prison it looked rather idyllic. Sigh….

a drawing of the women allotment

drawing of man sleeping at an allotment

Glancing sideways at my overflowing carriage, I could see that everyone was looking at the same scene with slack, open mouths, probably all thinking the same thing… ‘ Commuting is a waste of a life’.

drawing of a man in allotment shed

Then something odd happened. He woke up, and the pair of them noticed us lot gawping just metres away. We of course were looking through the gates of heaven, to them however, it must have looked like the beginnings of a Zombie Apocalypse.

They both became awkwardly self conscious, quickly scurrying away until our train got the green signal, and moved off again.

Painting an allotment

Well, I decided to paint the scene as I first saw it along with a silent promise to put an end to my commuting.

Once I had finished, I entered it into The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and my application was successful. At least something good came out of that particular commute.

Ken Howard RA not quite looking at my painting at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Ken Howard RA not quite looking at my painting at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

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