Dear diary...There was a time when me, my partner and my son rented a two up two down terraced house, before finally affording our next town house that actually had a garden. Although there was an upstairs bathroom in our rented accommodation, it was only small. The back yard was a postage stamp too with nothing growing apart from a few pots with weeds in that often drooped as if they'd seen better days and appeared to me to say: “for goodness sake, why don't you do something with us.” I was so busy working all hours when we moved in that I would avoid looking at the pots when hanging out washing and look the other way...well they weren't mine after all, just some items left behind by the previous owners.
Sometime after moving in, I remember longing for some space to dig and grow flowers and vegetables, but sadly it wasn't to be...that was until I found an allotment about a forty five minute walk from where we lived. It was off the main road and down a side street which led on to a lane at the back of some houses. It was quite by accident that I discovered this place when I took a short cut walking to our local Sainsbury's.
Not having a car meant we did most of our shopping just down the road in town, living there did have its perks, but also could be a problem with drunks hanging around the back lanes and we were only five doors down from the local pub.
As I said, living in town could be handy especially when New Years Eve came, because our favourite pub was only a fifteen minute walk. We also had some great nights going to see bands on a Saturday night and would go in the local chippy on the way home which was a five minute walk from our house and run by a great Chinese guy called Sammy, who would produce the best fish and chips anywhere, and always with a smile.
Sadly though I had a lot of washing stolen off my line due to the back lane, also we would have trouble parking which was how I lost my car. It got turned over one Saturday night when parked on a bridge at the end of our road, the only available place to park that night and left me devastated. Having to rely on taxis because my place of work was hard to get to and I worked nights, it cost me a fortune, but sometimes I managed to get a lift home from my boss, thankfully.
Anyway back to the allotment. After making a few phone calls and paying visits to the council, we finally got a letter saying we'd been offered an area of ground. There were three plots and we could pick the one we wanted. Two areas had grass almost coming up to our waist, so we decided on the middle that only came up to our knees. Most of the other plots seemed well established, some people had plastic tunnels, all we finally managed to get was a tiny shed, some spades and forks and an old scythe my dad gave me for cutting down the grass, it was extremely handy but took about a week before we could see earth.
The concept of digging never fazed me for one moment, I was so much fitter back then. But the thought of having to get rid of the long grass was upsetting and quite an ordeal.
I wouldn't have called the land neglected as it probably housed a lot of insects and left me perturbed at having to disturb nature, but the need to grow some vegetables and flowers was so strong, that with a faint heart we got stuck in, even though there were only three of us at home at the time.
My dad had grown veggies in his garden and had taught me a lot about what grows well with what. I learned that borage flowers attract bees to pollinate and are easy to grow from seed. Also about growing onions between rows of carrots to deter greenfly.
After drawing out a plan, I decided on small square blocks rather than digging up the whole plot, It not only meant I had paths to walk around, but we were able to grow in small quantities too. My partner described them as looking like graves and we had a right laugh about it.
That first year we had great success with tomatoes, runner beans, carrots, lettuce, also cauliflower and cabbage. Although the earth was reasonably hard to begin with, it wasn't as bad once we got stuck in and began digging over, I was quite surprised how much of a pleasure this allotment business could be and thought of how proud my granddad would be if he could see me now.
The drawback was that at the end of a working day out in the hot sun, it wasn't very nice having to walk home in the blazing heat, even if it was only a forty five minute walk, which felt more like a mile, how I used to wish I still had my car, I would curse the idiots who turned it over and smashed up the engine.
I remember once getting caught out in a storm with no coat or umbrella and having to shelter in our teeny weeny shed, which felt like a postage stamp compared to all the other sheds. This particular day It was so bad with wind and rain lashing down, giving me thoughts of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, imagining the shed taking off and whisking me away flying through the sky with just a wooden floor below. The shed did rock slightly in the wind it was so strong. Another thought crossed my mind, that of being at sea with waves lashing...how strange my imagination was at that time standing in the shed.
There was a sudden urge to pee and in the end it got so bad, I decided that on such a day as this surely nobody could possibly be mad enough to stick around apart from idiots like me. But the other problem was that I was in full view of all those houses, it would be like trying to wee on stage with an audience if they should be looking out their windows. Thankfully I had a carrier bag with me, so decided to pee into that and release the evidence into the ground when the rain stopped lashing it down. I was stuck in that shed for over an hour or more, it was cramped but at least I'd managed to stay dry. After that carry on we always kept a bucket in the shed.
Sadly after two years we had to give up the allotment as the up keep was becoming too much to handle. Sadly that year my mum passed away too which left me broken for quite a long time.
But I did managed to learn a lot from my mistakes and also got information from a dear old guy by the name of Charlie who gave me instructions on the way of achieving the best crops, I always remember him for the pipe that would sit in the corner of his mouth even when digging...wonder what happened to him! Precious times like these will stay with me forever.
Photo is my own.