…this weekend up on the plots.
Saturday strong winds and slashing squalls, some loaded with stinging sleet. But in the background beneath grey sheets of cloud the autumn sown field is tinged with green as a cereal crop emerges.
But the stalwart committee were there, helping allotmenteers fill in forms and explaining rules. This is fee-paying time.
The as-promised bacon sandwiches, with trimmings like “red sauce” and pepper and porridge as an alternative. As a legitimate bribe/incentive to pay.
Get as much of the paperwork done as soon as possible we are offered food and tea/coffee if we pay this first weekend. It works. Most people now have been happily separated from their money; which pays for water usage, NSALG fees, insurances, land rental (the ground is owned by the Parish Council).
In addition the shop is open. While it has been open regularly over the winter this feels like the start of a new season somehow (perhaps that was just me?). People coming to pay their fees are – quite naturally – tempted by the low prices-high quality items. Slug pellets (the wet weather must really suit the slugs and snails), Growmore, secateurs, forks and bags of lime… and a gobsmacking offer on peat compost!
Seeds that have been ordered are being distributed, along with pre-ordered seed potatoes, shallots, onions sets and garlic. Because we order in bulk everyone benefits from enormous discounts and, surely, this is what allotment life should be about.
And, as last year there is a brazier going. The two guys nominally in charge of keeping it stoked –and alight! – have rigged up a wind-shield from a couple of pallets. which get “scrounged” so a plotholder can re-build his “muck heap”. Speaking of which a lady in a 4X4 with a trailer comes on site to deliver eight bags of stable litter. She leaves them at the top because she is “worried about damaging cars parked down the central roadway” – and there are a lot of ‘em! Banter, exchanges of information, word-of mouth conferences about compost (last week’s talk has stirred it up) and how-long-does-it-take parsnip-seeds to germinate (it’s not a joke people, but feel free to add a punch-line).
Sunday: same again, but sunny, bright blue skies and I could feel the land sunning itself. Driving back from the allotment we were followed by what I will describe with recognised political incorrectness as a W.A.G. and daughter in a top-down lilac convertible sports car: orange skin, big eyelashes and T-shirts. Blimey, I thought, it must be summer.
A little further along the main road I am doubly surprised: my first ice-cream van of 2014 touting for business!