Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The history of the Cat allotment

As soon as I got to my allotment today, Franco grilled me about my discussion with the Allotment Officer yesterday. I wasn't able to tell him much - when I tried to remember what she'd said about the track (Franco's particular concern), I could only tell him that she intended to get it done, but that she wanted to put down recycled road grit or something or other, not normal gravel, and was having problems getting the contractors to get a move on. He said philosophically, "Ah well, we see!"

After digging a parsnip to go with my roast chicken tonight, and picking the few remaining runner beans, I went to do some digging on the Cat allotment. While I was there, a man with white hair came past. He and his family had been clearing their allotments, which are between Nobby's and Simon's. I think he might be the owner of the rotovator, but I'm not sure. He was English, but his family seem to be Italian. Either that or I'm mixing up the two allotments.

He saw me digging and said he usually hoes it right down first. I thought about this, and said I'd already scythed it and didn't have a suitable hoe - you would need an Italian hoe for that (which I found out last year is called a zappa). When he had gone, I thought about it further and thought, what's the point of wasting all that energy hoeing the whole allotment, when you're going to bury the turf anyway, so that the worms will take care of it? And it will give them something to eat?

The old couple passed by as I was digging too. She first, limping. She said in broken English that an Italian had had the allotment before me, but he had been paralysed and was confined to a chair and had had to go back to live in Italy. An English man had had it after him, but he didn't do very much, then he gave up.

A few minutes later, the man came past, laboriously pushing his red rotovator, which he had just used to turn over the soil where his ill-fated tomatoes had been. He was stopping every fifteen paces to rest, and I felt like giving him a hand, but I thought better of it. He stopped and stared for awhile, considering. "Ver' heavy," he said, then after another longish pause, said the English man who had had it before me didn't dig it deep enough - less than 6 inches deep, I gathered from his gestures. "No good, no deep enough". I said something about the clay I was finding less than 6 inches beneath the surface, and after another considered silence, he said, "Ah well, don't knock yourself out," and went on his way.

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