Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Walking along the track...

I had spoken to three people before I reached my allotment yesterday.

Angelo stopped while pushing his bike towards his allotment to comment on the fact that it was dry for the first time in weeks. He said a few more days like this would do his tomatoes good. They are hanging on by the skin of their skins - resisting the blight which has finished mine off, and is wreaking havoc amongst everyone else's, including those of the most expert Italian tomato growers on the site - resisting it by dint of three sprayings of "green stuff" brought back from Italy (presumably Bordeaux mixture), and by each individual plant having been wrapped in clear polythene. Still, black patches are appearing...

I stopped to speak to Jack to ask about the rotovator. He said it wasn't his, but Frank's, the old man on the next allotment. I couldn't picture Frank, but I'm sure I know him by sight. Anyway, Big John (as opposed to the other John, who is my neighbour on the Salvation Army allotment) phoned Frank for me on Friday and asked if he would let me use his rotovator to break up my new allotment, the Cat allotment, and as Frank had said yes, I needed to thank Frank. So, thinking that Jack might be Frank, I had to go up to him and broach the subject.

He wasn't Frank, but he stopped digging his potatoes for a few minutes to discuss the subject of rotovating with me. He has a key to Big John's shed, where the rotovator is stored, and he said he would bring it down next time he came, and I could have a go. He would show me how to start it. I don't even know if it's got any petrol in it. Even though he's pretty hefty (he was digging with his shirt off, and I could see he was no weakling), he said whenever he used the rotovator, it ran away with him. It's a knack, apparently. We agreed my plot might be a bit wet after weeks and weeks of rain, but there's only one way to find out.

There seems to be a tacit club using this rotovator, whose existence I hadn't suspected. I know the Italians gang together to share their rotovators, but I had no inkling of an English-owned rotovator in such close proximity to me (Big John's allotment is the other side of other John's, two down from me). Well, you don't want to boast about the fact you've got an expensive piece of machinery in your shed when there have been thefts from the allotments. But to be invited into this club was an honour - it meant that after two seasons on the site, I was becoming accepted.

The third person I spoke to was Franco, who has the plot the other side of mine. He'd told me before the weekend that They (i.e. the Council) were going to bring some gravel down on Monday morning at 9 o' clock to mend the track. I'd said at the time I'd believe it when I saw it, and it hadn't transpired: the track at the bottom of our plots is still riddled with puddles and slimy with mud. He said he would phone them up again, but "you have to phone them between 9 and five past nine in the morning, because that's the only time they're there." Having tried to contact the Allotments Officer many times, I know he's not joking.

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