At the moment, we are standing at a crossroad of indecision. Actually, make that a fork in the road. We are wearing cheap, inefficient cagoules, holding a sodden map, the wind is howling, kicking the leaves up into our faces and we are standing at a fork of indecision. Down one path lies a route of hardship and toil, of time consuming effort when time is in short supply; a trail of blisters and soreness and a continuing battle against weeds. Down the other road, life looks to be more simpler and relaxing. However, it will be a journey of convenience and plastic bags and kowtowing to the supermarket, a journey that one suspects will not be so fulfilling or satisfying. It's October, the rents are due at the allotment, a whole £26.00 and this year we have found ourselves asking the question, can we carry on with this?
This season has been a strange one and a pretty crap one actually. Yields are down and the quality of our veg has suffered, largely due to the weather and largely due to our own management. The potatoes came under attack from blight, the corn was under-developed and the gooseberries were overrun by proliferation of knotweed which strangled the life out of the bushes. Elsewhere, a lot of the crops simply bolted and ran because we weren't keeping up with picking the produce. When a plant goes to seed, it's coming to the end of it's cycle and opportunities for harvesting disappear. And that's the kicker, because you spend all this time growing and nuturing seedlings (well my Dad does) and you spend all this time digging over and preparing the ground (that's my job) and for what? Fruit and veg that you grow is supposed to be eaten, not grown for ornamental purposes. So this year, we really do feel like we've missed a trick because time is the factor when running a plot; if you don't have the time to invest, then what's the point?
However, we have decided to give the plot one more crack at the whip and to pay up for another season. Given our collective sense of belligerence, which is largely down to the fact that we've transformed the plot from overgrown jungle into a state of fairly ordered semblance, we'd feel damned to give it up just yet. And now that the twins are in school (HOORAY!) we are hoping that we should be able to devote more of that magical thing called 'time' to the pleasurable pastime of growing vegetables.
Because it is fun, believe it or not, especially when you have pedantic, geriatric, allotment committee members to deal with. I popped down the there the other day to pull up some red cabbages that had heartened up into absolute beauties, they were one of the few successes we've had in fact; and one grey haired, moustachoied chap popped over and presented this line of questioning:
"Hello there, I don't suppose you've seen a brown car come in this morning have you?"
"No, I haven't seen anyone else this morning."
"Oh, well, it's just that some fool has turned the padlock inwards on the front gate and locked it in such a way that makes it very hard for some people to unlock. I've just spent 15 minutes trying to get in and there's a chap who drives a brown car who I know does it all the time, the damned idiot."
"Well I haven't seen a brown car, or like I said, anyone else for that matter. So it was probably me, sorry."
Grey Haired Moustachoied Chap looks up and down the allotment and then replies:
"Oh no, I am sure it wasn't you, you don't look that stupid."
And off he went, leaving yours truly feeling properly berated, albeit in a very passive, aggressive manner.
I simply turned and giggled and dug up the rest of the cabbages, vowing to make next year a better one. And to maybe conceal a rake or fork in the undergrowth of someone's plot in the hope that someone trips and breaks their neck.