Allotted Life.

pots

After a hard day spent digging potatoes and cropping various other fruit and vegetables in my allotment yesterday, I was thinking: how many current so-called quandaries can be answered with the word ‘allotments’? I came up with the following list:

Food prices are set to sore! Allotments.

People don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables! Allotments.

People don’t get enough exercise! Allotments.

People are becoming increasingly disconnected from the food they eat! Allotments.

People don’t take enough time to connect with nature! Allotments.

People don’t get involved in a community! Allotments.

What do we do with all the Brownfield sites? Allotments.

We need more green spaces! Allotments.

We don’t take enough time to quieten our minds and relax! Allotments.

 

It’s quite a good list isn’t it? And I’m sure there are more.

 

Now, I’m not a mad gardener. At least, I’m not a gardener, as such. I’m not even that great at motivating myself to get down to my allotment a lot of the time, as the various letters and phone calls from the allotment squad secretary will attest to. But my partner and I do, when we can, get down there eventually, and despite our patchy knowledge, always seem to do okay.

You can listen to Gardener’s Question Time all you want (if you can survive the stomach twisting tweeness of it all sometimes) – and you can fret about propagation, irrigation, irradiation and genetic modification, but generally, what it comes down to, is putting some seeds in some soil.

It’s quite amazing to see those few little seeds you sowed in pots in spring turn into this in summer (including the spuds above, and this is less than half of what we’ve had so far):

veggie

And actually, for part-time gardeners who don’t really know what we’re doing – this isn’t a bad hoard, and this isn’t our first of the season – we’ve already had a good bounty of rhubarb, onions, garlic and raspberries, and given friends and families bags of spuds, cabbage and the odd cucumber here and there (when I say the odd cucumber, that’s because I found out it was actually a marrow). We’ll have more potatoes than we need for the  rest of the year and beyond, and for a time, a load of lovely fresh fruit and veg.

But there are problems. As far as I can tell there are not enough allotments to go around, and there is a certain expectation of lifestyle attached to the idea of taking one on. And unfortunately some of this can be true, or at least reinforced by certain people who tend to involve themselves in organisational roles. I have, as I mentioned, been bothered a bit by the allotment squad, and in the past I have complained to the council who told me I should be spending 10 ½ hours a week on my plot! This was obviously slug poo. I spent nothing like that on it this year, and as the pictures above show, I still got a healthy return.

Also, I like the fact that members have the options of joining the committee and attending meetings and additional allotment activities (competitions, group days etc…), but I don’t want to feel inclined to do so myself. For me the ‘community’ bit is more that every once in a while, while you are tending your plot, someone may come over and ask you if you want a spare cabbage or something, and then, after pleasantries, go away again. But that’s just me. My plot doesn’t have a fence around it, none of them do in my allotment. I really want a fence. But that’s just me – I’m an optional socialite – I like the choice of solitude if that’s how I’m feeling.

The point is that allotments have become a bit of a hobby often seen as a retirement pastime and not part of our everyday lives. I guess that the scale of growing needed to actually sustain us all and replace intense farming may be unachievable in the current world set-up, but wouldn’t it be good to at least remind the commercial powers-that-be that we are still capable as a species of feeding ourselves every once in a while? Maybe make some demands on quality and price by generating our own competition? And as I demonstrated with the above list, be more healthy, more involved, more connected and more grounded as a result? I must add that I am not all of these things, but I am a little closer to each as a result of having an allotment.

It kind of makes you wonder why that’s not the case and why our government isn’t clambering over itself to encourage and increase this massively beneficial activity. Why we apparently prefer to stare at great big areas of unused dust and rubble behind barbed wire fences because some developer has bought the land and is keeping it fallow on the off chance they could become even more rich one day by selling it on to another developer with exactly the same idea.

You don’t need me to tell you that commercial interests are given more priority by governments than our individual health and wellbeing, but I just did anyway. You may disagree, but if you do, I would ask you to go and visit your local Tesco’s in the nearest out-of-town grey miserable retail park, and look at the clamour of grey miserable people hauling themselves over grey miserable concrete to go and buy processed yellow food, and tell me, honestly, could we not be doing a little better for ourselves?

And anyway, if you grow your own you get to say things like ‘look at the size of my cucumber!’ every once in a while, which makes it all worthwhile.

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A Guest Blog by Tipsy McElroy.

This week, as I am rather busy, I have decided to allow a guest blogger a spot on my blog. May I introduce to you, Tipsy McElroy, the home help guru.

Home tips, by Tipsy McElroy.

Image

We live such hectic lives now, don’t we? I know I do, and technology, far from being the shiny robot help that was promised to us in the 1950s, has turned out to be even more of a distraction. It’s hard to get anything done for the barrage of tweet’s and facebook’s, ever demanding of your precious time and energy. It’s a wonder any housework gets done at all, but don’t fear! Tipsy is here to show you a few tips that can help elevate your day by blasting through those tiresome chores in super-quick, fibre-optic speed! And, for all you planet-lovers out there, it’s organic!

Tip #1. How to clean an oven in super-quick time, with a potato.

Tired of spending hours scrubbing away at the greasy blackened carbon coating of an over-used and under loved oven? I know I was, until one day, I accidentally forgot to put the oven on when making a baked potato family (for those who don’t know, a baked potato family is when you pick two or more potatoes of increasing smaller sizes and bake them all together – it’s a great way to get kids eating healthy potatoes! Who wants to eat mummy-potato? Me! Me!) Anyway, when I returned to my oven, two hours later, guess what? It was as clean as the day I bought it from the police auction.

So get your spuds out, pop them in, and wait for the magic to happen!

Tip #2. Blocked drains? How to get that waste moving again, with a potato.

We’ve all been there. Covering up the smell of our blocked drains when entertaining guests by constantly having to pretend you’ve broken wind. It’s no wonder nowadays, with all the saturated fat in our poisonous food, dripping down the plug hole when we wash up, oozing out of our pores and into the bath tub.

I used to wait hours for commercially available bleach to do its work, literally just watching it slowly erode the fatty deposits though a series of small camera’s installed in the plumbing (a great buy by the way – ‘STV’ (sewage TV) – available for as little as £1000 from most Russian embassies). But not anymore! Imagine my surprise when after having my usual ‘mash and a shower’ session (one of my guilty pleasures), I accidentally slipped and dropped my bowl of mashed potatoes down the sink-hole. Oh dear, I thought, best get the plunger and go fire up the control room to track its movements. But when I switched on the monitors, what did I see? The most gleaming, capacious network of pipes and u-bends since they day they were first installed by that lovely man we found by the pub bins that fateful evening in ‘84.

So, if like me, you enjoy taking a little shower and eating mash potato at the same time, why not try dropping a little down that blocked drain, and you’ll smell the difference!

Tip #3. Cats at the furniture again? Mucky dog paws on the recliner? Rat hair? Try a potato.

There’s a reason the phrase ‘couch-potato’ exists, and I can tell you, it’s not what you think! I have three cats, half a dog and a number or rodents. As much as I love them, they do make a mess of my three piece! (we’ve all been there). Once upon a time, much of my day was spent sponging and rolling the furniture for cat/dog/rat hair and muddy footprints, only for it to all happen again when the automatic timed locks in the laboratory would open up for exercise hour.

So it was that one day, after an unusually large shipment of potatoes from the Korean ambassador (his little way of a thank-you, bless), that 7pm came along with the familiar hiss of the airlock and the scampering footsteps of my genetically modified brood as usual, but then, something wonderful happened. Instead of the normal scratching at the windows and trying to eat the sofa (and each other), they all curled up together for an adorable little sleep on the spud sacks. And so it has been ever since.

So, simply leave a few sacks of plutonium grade spuds lying around your living room and watch the little darlings relax – leaving you free to get on with contesting that niggling court order you’ve been meaning to get around to!

Tip #4 – Money problems? Try a potato.

My last tip for today is one that not only will save you time, it will save you money, so two big ticks for this big tip!

I discovered this tip one day at Hyde park, awaiting my weekly transaction with Red Eagle (not his real name of course! That would be telling!). As I sat with my briefcase ready on my lap, my GPS sensor chip burning away under the thin layer of skin behind my right ear, I reached into my pocket for a small snack, and what did I find? A wad of unmarked, used £50 notes! Well, I soon realised that it was meant to be in the case with the rest of that month’s bribe, but before I put it back, I reached into my other pocket, and pulled out the snack as originally intended: A glorious raw, average sized potato.

As I sat there, £5000 in one hand, an average potato in the other, I found something quite startling. They weighed almost exactly the same! Don’t worry if you’re not very good at guessing weights, take my word for it, my cybernetic implant takes all the hassle out of that sort of thing. Anyway, this happy accident made me realise that for anonymous money drops, you know, the one-off extortionists who rarely look inside the package and are probably too weak to follow up on the threats, the simple use of an average sized potato for every £5000 of notes in a briefcase is just the right weight to fool them long enough for hubby to get in a good shot as they walk away.

So next time you’re being bribed by some jumped up whistle-blower or Cyborg hunter, don’t waste good cash on the possibility that the set-up might go wrong – trick them with a potato! Remember, one average sized potato is £5000 in used £50 notes. For new season crops, adjust to one large for £2000 in £20’s. Do not use chips.

So that’s it for now folks! I hope you’ve found this helpful, and thanks to Garry for allowing me to use his blog. I’ve never met him, nor am I likely to. We don’t mix in the same circles, and I’m usually very heavily armed, and from the look of his blog, he’s a bit of a hippy pacifist. Peace not war and all that ideological anarchy. Bless. And don’t forget, the dead will rise! Be prepared!

Tipsy.

About the Author

Tipsy McElroy is the author of “1001 Ways to Hell” and “Good Housekeeping for the Digital Age”. She is a regular guest on ITV’s loose women, where she uses her skills as  a character actor to portray most of the audience. To contact Tipsy, please leave a comment, or if you’d prefer, £50,000 in used £50 notes in an unlocked briefcase by the Churchill memorial bench in Hyde Park (or approx ten average winter potatoes / 25 large new season).