Are you waiting for an allotment too?

Hen’s teeth, allotments are. But worth the wait. Mine took four years. The Roehampton Garden Society runs it, powerful ladies with time on their hands. Frighteningly organised. When the Good News comes, you are invited to a pre-fab on Site 2 where you part with all of £94 plus £5 for one year’s worth of water, sign up to the rules and purchase some compost. There’s a spiffingly pre-war feel to it.

carrots in the pan

Better results this season – Happy allotment day!

I was warned they were ‘a bit Nazi’, by a lady who had been turfed off her plot. Obviously the Committee had deemed she was not giving it enough welly. Fair enough, given there’s 200 on the waiting list. It’s pure Were Rabbit, charming in its Quintessential Englishness, where not just the blackberries are prickly.

‘Do you do inductions?’  asked the plot virgin. Matron chuckled, ‘No there’s a monthly email’. I took one look at my plot and thought ‘I can do Nazi’. The first job was rolling up strips of compacted carpet that the foul-mouthed old codger before me had used on the walkways, generations of it, earth-caked, worm-riddled, heavy as concrete. The car groaned under the detritus, broken tools, rotting wood, degraded pots and a riotous bramble. It takes a lot for my husband to be persuaded to stir abroad, but the prospect of annihilating a plant, however thorny and invasive, fills him with silent fervour. Interesting what the plot brings out in people.

The first season, I planted what I wanted, too densely, without working the soil nearly enough, and predictably my harvest was a bit of a damp squib. I think the beetroots obliged. Every year you get allotment wiser, you learn sprouts are a waste of space, courgettes roar away, broccoli flowers in February and peas can’t bloody stand up on their own. Each year my allotment brings surprises: the bumper crop of guerilla tomatoes, a 1/50 seed-to-carrot fiasco.

At the beginning my children also came along. My son bought special tilling equipment from Germany to help reduce the potter’s clay to something more like a crumble mix. My daughter and her chums planted strawbs in the hope of having strawberry parties.  My immediate neighbour is a Gem. J and I went halves on the hose and have regular cuppas al plotsco where we swap my home-baked scones for South African delicacies. My elderly neighbour A buys me a heap of excellent seeds for Christmas including parsnips which I am now proud to say grace our Christmas Dinner table the following year, and to which said neighbour is always invited!

Christmas Dinner 2022

During lockdown the loos were shut. One of the rules mentions ‘no nudity’, so peeing on the compost heap was not an option. In desperation I brought an old chamber pot and a stool for it to sit on in the shed, lined it with a solid plastic bag and hey presto, one privy.  I do wonder what occasioned that clause to be added. The rules also warn you there will be quarterly inspections to make sure all members are planting, harvesting, weeding, maintaining paths, with 10% max flowers, 20% max uncultivated area etc…

Most important of all, I can go all stressed and sweary, depressed and weary;  it changes my focus. I tune into the peacefulness, smell the soil, notice the birdlife, scream at the frog when it jumps me for the umpteenth time. One day I looked up from working the tilth on my hunkers and saw a fox sitting staring at me. I stood up and whooshed my arms at him but he looked placidly back ‘I’m sorry I don’t recognise the hand signals’.

spring flower

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