Scroll to the bottom for a brief bio of Ira Aldridge, black Shakespearean actor in the first half of the 19th Century.
One night a couple of weeks ago it seemed briefly possible that I might get almost enough sleep. By ten-thirty I was upstairs, preparing for bed. Then, toothbrush in hand (in mouth, actually) I wandered over to my two potted tomato plants by the upstairs south window, and the jig was up.
It seems sometimes that plants exert a gravitational force entirely out of proportion to their mass, and my winter tomatoes are the worst. If I get within range, I can orbit for an hour, peering at the undersides of leaves, squashing the occasional aphid, gnat or white fly; snipping off ragged leaves; checking for new growth; flicking blossoms to ensure that they pollinate despite the windless indoor conditions; deciding which suckers to pinch, which to welcome, and where to allow just the first leaf to grow, a policy that helps (I hope) to combat the attrition that gradually claims the older leaves.