Overtaking a hazard-lights flashing car we’re in a traffic jam. Ten minutes to get to the Springvale Social Club. A little late we try to find a place on the already packed car park and join the throngs inside the hall. Four members of the committee – arriving in good time; it’s clearly a popular event.
“Brilliant, good that you’re here!” says Louise as we enter the brightly lit room. The hosts, Mid-Counties Co-op are genuinely welcoming and helpful.
We are here to receive a cheque for eighteen hundred pounds. Determined to try and get external funding for on-site toilets (plotholder’s annual fees are taken up by other overheads) we had applied for this two years ago. It wasn’t successful then, but earlier this year, to our pleasant surprise, the Co-op contacted us. We re-submitted and we were successful in this round.
There’s an inspiring presentation at the opening about the values of the Co-op; about how they use the profits in three ways: to re-invest in the business, secondly to pay the members a share of the profits (so, well worth joining then to get the real dividend on what you spend) and finally to build the community. In a very real way it makes so much sense: it’s about looking after the environment, it’s about supporting the local – and being supported by it. (It all makes so much sense and, I’m thinking is so closely allied to what we are in the processes of the allotment philosophy.)
The crux of what twenty first century “green credential” politicians and eco-warriors are trying to sell us. Something that our predecessors – in Cheslyn Hay for sure, but most certainly on the allotments would recognise and, indeed, things that were part of everyday life rather than a “choice” to be made. (I am reminded, briefly but strongly of my own grandfather “tinkering” a saucepan when it sprang a leak and the pot that was always on the range with waste food boiling “for the hens”.
Group cheques are presented, along with a plaque to go with, in our case, the completed loo . There is a brave routine from the cheerleaders which deservedly gets a warm round of applause.
There is a really positive buzz about the evening. The people we meet are genuinely interested in what we – and other groups there – are about. There is a real sense of cooperation, inclusion, commitment and community. While tucking in to the free samples and refreshments (fresh fruit, flapjacks, pork pies, first mince pies of the year and tea or coffee) we are approached by so many people; we are not the only allotment holders here. The president of the society has an allotment in Oxford, one of the scout leaders has one in Fordhouses … we do our best to respond in kind because there is a genuine sense of partnership here and it’s catching.
We are offered the opportunity to have volunteers come and help with the project. An offer we will consider but certainly one too good to refuse.
When we leave the traffic jams gone. Clear road home and talking about the next steps.
But to have the funding toilets for the allotment site? A really positive step forward.
To think it all started with a chance suggestion from a plotholder, somebody listening and thinking
“Hey! We might make that work!”
You just never know where these things will end up do you?
Thanks to the Mid-Counties Co-op for their generosity; and the other groups for their interest.
We wish them all well.