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Spring mornings start with gifts and birds | Allan Jenkins | Life and style

The priory blackbirds are calling, an urgent dawn chorus, no longer one eager male but a full spring choir. Downstairs, seed is stirring, too. Flower and vegetable packets and sacks, speaking to me of urgency. There is a break in the rain, a break in the day (it is still not 6.30am). Memories are moving, warmed by imminent spring. I need to see the allotment. I am going away for a few days for my Danish mother-in-law’s milestone birthday. I need to seek the plot’s permission (odd as this may sound), or at least stop by as if to visit an old friend. I come bearing gifts, companion calendula, in a shade of orange by which all others are judged.

Early spring is bringing longer days, more time for trips before and after work. Today I’ll be back before 8am, armed with warm croissants and crusty bread. Hampstead’s trees are blossoming, crocus and daffodils are out, the site is alive with song. Parakeets screech as they pass overhead, en route from their evening perch at Kew to the heath. The robin joins me on the path.

I’m keen to see the pond. And there, among the marsh marigold, is spawn, the surest sign of spring. Bulbous, otherworldly, intensely alive, enough tadpoles to populate London. Then the unmistakable shape of a huge heron wing, ungainly, prehistoric, the nearest flight to a pterodactyl. It sees me, turns, changes course, will likely return later. It probably hadn’t expected to see anyone else this early.

I sow saved calendula and nasturtium, topped up with new varieties of each. It is still cold at 5C. I won’t stay long, more a chance to pop in and say goodbye. It’s my first early-day visit of the year, in the quiet time around sunrise. I pull a couple of weeds and head to the gate. With luck I’ll be home before my wife wakes.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.39 from guardianbookshop.com

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