National Allotment Week may well be drawing to a close and whilst I could use this post to extol the benefits and virtues of growing your own fruit and vegetables (they’re local, they’re fresh, they taste lovely), I thought it would be more beneficial to regale a conversation I had last week. To give you more of an insight of what it really is like to be immersed within an allotment community. Because personally, it is the interaction and conversations that I have with some of the older members of Norfolk Road allotments that makes all the effort worthwhile and just that extra bit special.
Under a baking hot sun, I was going about the business of watering everything, which given that it was around midday, was a totally impractical thing to do. Thirsty plants are far happier to receive a drink first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. But nevertheless, there I was running back and forth to the water tank with my son’s t-shirt on my bald head, protecting it from the harsh UV rays because I forgot my hat.
Ray, a grey, moustachioed, lanky sort of chap who owns a plot at the other end, appeared out of nowhere and gave me a bit of a fright. Still, I acknowledged his presence with a wink and he tipped his hat my direction and surveyed all my produce with a keen eye. By all accounts, my tomatoes needed a thorough pinching out, my onions weren’t planted deep enough and the gauge on the chicken wire that I had bought to protect my brassicas was far too wide. White cabbage butterflies could easily fly in and lay eggs, apparently.
I have become used to these pearls of wisdom and always graciously accept them through gritted teeth. Ray, quite sombrely, then went on to tell me a story.
“Did you hear about the row the other day Dan?”
“No, what row?”
“Bill accused Dave of pinching his strawberries and they tried to have a fight.”
“They tried to have a fight?”
“Yeah, well Bill went to kick Dave, missed and fell over and twisted his ankle. Then, whilst Bill was on the floor, Dave tried to punch Bill on the nose and he missed and fell and cracked his head open.”
“What happened then?”
“They got carted off together in an ambulance, screaming and shouting at each other.”
And with that, Ray burst out laughing and then so did I.
I don’t actually know how old Bill and Dave are but they have got to be in their 70’s at least and if anything exemplifies the passions that allotments can arouse, then that little tale has to be it. One day I should write a book about life and the characters on Norfolk Road. Or a screenplay even. In the meantime, I shall keep on tending away and observing for material. Although, perhaps I need to keep a closer eye on what I am actually growing because as Ray sternly pointed out just before he walked back, I keep letting my courgettes grow too big. So big, that they practically become marrows.
Perhaps I’ll give one or two to Bill and Dave when they’ve fully recuperated. But then again, maybe not, as these beauties could become a nasty weapon in the wrong hands.