So we were meant to have the fabulous A.L. Lester pop in to start things off, but I absolutely failed at scheduling posts (I didn’t even get my own up!) while I was away for a conference (they were lurking in drafts, but didn’t get posted!), so…we’ll keep the fun going!
Today we’ve got A.L. Lester, who has been splendid at keeping us all motivated and organized and generally wrangled, throughout this whole World Naked Gardening Day celebration! Ally deserves all the love and appreciation and long vacations someplace relaxing and beautiful, and today is here to talk to us about gardening memories, inspirations, water tanks (with glorious sensory detail – I never knew I could feel moss and water and cool greenness so vividly, evoked here in Ally’s words), and allegory…
Hello everyone! Thank you so much to Kristin for letting me pop in today to tell you a bit more about my part of our collaborative World Naked Gardening Day project. Kristin, Holly Day, Nell Iris, Amy Spector and I have all written gay romance novellas based around World Naked Gardening Day, which happens on the first Saturday in May. This year it’s the 7th, which is when our stories happen to be released! You can read about all of them here.
Warning! Deep Water is a 16,300 gay romance set in the UK 1947, just after the worst winter in living memory and eighteen months after the end of the second world war. Let me tell you a bit about how I chose my title!
When we were kicking round the idea for the collaboration, we decided that all five of the stories should include someone being naked in a garden, somewhere, at some point. That was it, that was the theme! The way we’ve all approached it so differently is fantastic. I’ve loved writing my story and I’ve loved being involved in the different stages of everyone else’s as well.
My own story is heavily based on my childhood. I grew up on a horticultural nursery very similar to George’s and a lot of my formative experiences are based on that. When people talk about gardening, I don’t think about rose-beds and pots of bedding plants. I think about pick-your-own raspberries and a hundred and twenty feet long greenhouses in interlinked spans a hundred feet wide and tractors pulling trailer-loads of well rotted horse manure from the local stables and dumping it in a big heap next to the bonfire-patch that’s ten feet across.
My gardening memories are not of tiny, polite watering cans and gro-bags. They are of one and a half inch hosepipes and ten foot long steel irrigation pipes and turning on the big pump to fill the tank up and watching the cool, clear water flood in to the storage tank and then the little pump to actually pump the water out to the acreage.
Which is what brings us to the name of my story.
George and Peter meet when George finds Peter having a wash in his water storage tank. Peter is really lucky because later in the year George would have filled it with liquid tomato feed and it would have been a bit unpleasant to swim in. In the early spring though, the water is as clear and fresh as it is when it floods in via the Big Pump from the bore hole.
This is entirely lifted from the water tank on my Mama and Papa’s place. It takes about 10,000 gallons and when it’s empty and you stand on the bottom, you can’t see over the sides. If an adult stands in the middle and stretches their arms out, they would just about manage to touch each edge, if they were reasonably tall. A child can’t.
The walls up to the usual water-line are covered in moss. Not slimy stuff, but proper, soft, bright-green fairy-moss. When it’s full, you can lean on the side and trail your fingers in the water and it’s cool, so cool, against the heat of the greenhouse.
As children we were banned from going in that part of the greenhouse by ourselves—there are lots of risks to children growing up on agricultural properties and drowning is one of them. I think that added to the sense of mystery. The green, dark depths and the forbidden nature of it.
So when I came to write about being naked in a garden…well. The tank of water sprang immediately to mind. And of course it’s an allegory as well—George and Peter are on the verge of something deep emotionally.
Without further ado, here’s some more about Warning! Deep Water. I hope you have as much fun reading it as we all have writing our stories.
Warning! Deep Water
It’s 1947. George is going through the motions, sowing seeds and tending plants and harvesting crops. The nursery went on without him perfectly well during the war and he spends a lot of time during the working day hiding from people and working on his own. In the evening he prowls round the place looking for odd jobs to do.
It’s been a long, cold winter and Peter doesn’t think he’ll ever get properly warm or clean again. Finding a place with heated greenhouses and plenty of nooks and crannies to kip in while he’s recovering from nasty flu was an enormous stroke of luck. He’s been here a few days now. The weather is beginning to warm up and he’s just realised there’s a huge reservoir of water in one of the greenhouses they use to water the plants. He’s become obsessed with getting in and having an all-over wash.
What will George do when he finds a scraggy ex-soldier bathing in his reservoir? What will Peter do? Is it time for them to both stop running from the past and settle down?
A Naked Gardening Day short story of 16,300 words.
“You didn’t say you liked music,” Peter said, as they were sitting across the table from each other over a cup of tea, once he’d finally pulled himself away from the instrument and reverentially closed the keyboard.
“Well,” said Peter. “It didn’t come up, did it?” He paused. “Mother used to play a bit,” he said, eventually. “Not like that, though. Hymns, mostly. She was big on chapel.”
There was clearly a story there.
“It’s nice to hear it played,” George went on. “Instruments should be used, not just sat there as part of the furniture. And…,” he paused again and blushed, “And you play very well.”
“Well,” said Peter shuffling with embarrassment. “I learned as a nipper and just carried on with it. Dad wanted me to go and study somewhere, but I wanted to get out and earn. It would have taken the joy out of it if I’d had to pass exams and such.”
George nodded. “I can see that. And you’re good with your hands.” He blushed again and became very absorbed with mashing the tiny amount of butter left from the ration into his baked potato.
Peter coughed. “Well yes,” he said. He couldn’t help smiling a little at George, although he didn’t let him see. He forged on. He really didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. “I think mathematics and music sort of go together, you know? And I was always good with numbers as well…it’s a good trait in a joiner.”
George nodded, clearly feeling they were on less dangerous territory. “Yes,” he said. “There’s all sorts of things you can use maths for; but music is pretty rarefied, isn’t it?”
Peter nodded. “This way I get to keep the music and earn a living. There’s always work for a carpenter, like you said the other day.”
He gradually became less self-conscious about playing when George and Mrs Leland were in the house over the next few weeks. It made him feel like another piece of what made him a person was coming back to life.
What it didn’t do was make him any less confused about what was happening between him and George. Half the time he thought George was completely uninterested. But then something would happen that would make him reconsider. The comment about being good with his hands was a case in point. It was a perfectly commonplace thing to say and George shouldn’t have been embarrassed. But he had been. Which meant he’d thought of it in a context that might cause embarrassment.
Peter spent several very enjoyable hours spread over several evenings working through different variations of what the other man might have been thinking.
George was nobody’s Bogart. But he was decent-looking. Nice face, especially when he smiled. A bit soft round the middle, but otherwise hard muscled from the physical work he did day in, day out. Clever…did his own accounts. Liked music. Made Peter laugh with his dry commentary on things in the paper or local gossip and the social pickles the girls reported on in the break room.
Peter liked him a lot. And fancied him. After the third night of considering at length how he could demonstrate how good with his hands he actually was, he gave up pretending. He fancied George a lot.
About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.