Friday, 28 November 2008

More arson

More evidence of the sheer imbecility of certain people in Pinehurst. If they'd had any brains at all they would at least have removed the tools before they burnt down these sheds, so that they could sell them at a car boot sale and make more money to spend on booze or drugs. I hadn't been down the allotments for a week because of the weather, and this was what I found when I did.
What annoys me - one of the things that annoy me - is that these sheds usually belong to old men whose greatest pleasure in life is their garden. They haven't enough money to buy a new set of tools, and after this, would they have the heart?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Portrait of Joe

This is my best photo of Joe, my next-door neighbour. I took it in 2007 with my film camera. Joe insisted on paying me for a print, which he sent to his granddaughter in London.

Joe #3, Plot 354

This is the man whom I referred to in my earlier blogs as "the miserable git" because he was always complaining about something or other (e.g. Hazel's partner asking for the gate to be left unlocked). Well, I misjudged him. He seems to be okay. I had a long conversation with him about a fortnight ago about just about everything, though I can't remember what now. His name is Joe (yes, another Joe, the third), and his real name is Giuseppe.

This is a photograph I took of him rotovating his plot in autumn of 2007, before I knew any of the Italians, and just wanted to document their Italianness and their gardening methods (both of which remain important aims for me).

I love the colour of this photo, which is entirely accidental, and results from scanning black and white film with a colour scanner.

Magdalena (?), plots 66 & 67

This is a photo of the lady whose family owns plots 66 and 67. I think her name is Magdalena. I photographed her with black and white film in the summer of 2007. She is married to an English man, whose name escapes me at the moment, but who, last time I asked him, didn't want me to photograph him (he's the bloke who told me I was making it hard for myself trying to dig the whole of the Cat allotment over at first instead of clearing a small part of it).

Magdalena seems very sweet, and is ill at the moment. John tells me that she insisted on getting the allotment in order before going into hospital. She works like a trooper on the allotment, hoeing with the best of them. At the end of this season, the whole family came down one day and cleared almost everything off the two allotments, and then it was down to the English man to dig them over. I can understand his reluctance to be photographed when he was sweating in the sun fit for a heart attack. When he's with them, he speaks English - I wonder if he can speak Italian?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Giovanni planting chicons

This is Italian John (Giovanni), plot 82, planting his chicons. He puts in a lot more than I did, and he doesn't bother to set them upright. Also, he puts them in quite a deep trench (about a foot deep).

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Strawberry plants

John gave me some strawberry plants today. He is digging up part of his patch, because it's getting far too big, so he offered me some plants. I was going to take the ones off the Salvation Army allotment, as they are clearly not appreciated by any of them, but he said, leave them there, and have some of these for the Cat allotment. I was only just thinking as I walked down there today that I ought to get some strawberries established down there as soon as possible, because the sooner I plant them, the sooner I'll have fruit, regardless of how clean the soil is. I can take the weeds out later. And like John said, I like cooking and I particularly like home made strawberry jam!

Now THAT's what you call Catalogna!

This is Vito taking home his Catalogna.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Broad beans

Today I sowed my first seeds on the Cat Allotment. I put in two double rows of broad beans. I had finally got round to cycling to Ron's Stores in Rodbourne, where they sell them loose. I bought a cupful for £2.20, and had so many that even though I put two in every hole, I still had enough for a second row. There's no way I can eat that many beans, but they're good for the garden, so I sowed them anyway. You never know, I might find enough old ladies to give them to by next July.

I had to hoe down a strip of dug soil about a yard wide before I sowed them. The Italian hoe Joe gave me is useless - every time I use it, the head falls off. But if it didn't, it would be a 100% improvement on the titchy hoe I've got now. I simply must get a decent Italian hoe by next Spring!

My Fence

When I went down today, the first thing I noticed was that the Council had already been and mended the gap next to the gate where the vandals had been getting in. I thought it would be too much to hope for them to have done my fence too, but they had. And what a wonderful job they've made of it! I'm absolutely over the moon with it. I can relax now, safe in the knowledge that the Family-from-Hell can no longer just nip over the fence and steal anything burnable. It would take quite a lot for them to get over that fence - it would take an effort, for one thing, and that in itself is enough of a deterrent.

How they got in

The vandals were getting in through a hole they had cut in the fence down the bottom. The Allotment Officer had that mended, but they found another way in. It was so obvious that no-one noticed it. There we were, busily unlocking and locking the gate, when all you had to do was slip through the gap beside it. I did, and if I could, a kid could do so far more easily.

How some people celebrated Bonfire Night this year

The local morons celebrated November 5th this year by coming on to the allotments and vandalising a large number of sheds. They even burned one down. I was there when the guy turned up and saw it. He had already heard that it had been burnt down and took it exceptionally well. He's a really nice old guy - wouldn't hurt a fly. His wife said he'd already taken all his tools home and left the shed unlocked, because it had been broken into before. It's as if they wanted to get to him no matter what - but it wasn't personal: at least half a dozen more sheds had been broken into. And the vandals used no finesse, as you can see from these photographs.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


To top it all, I am now digging a waterlogged allotment. The water is lying just below the surface from about half way down. Doesn't bode well if we have another wet summer.

Close encounters

Two days ago I had my first direct encounter with the Family-from-Hell. Fortunately I was not alone, or it would have been war.

I had met the Allotment Officer as I was going into the allotments. She was going to see Franco (whose surname, I was delighted to discover, is Virgilio), who was complaining about the state of the track and the rubbish he's suddenly discovered he has after the fence-makers moved it all in order to build their fence. Afterwards, she came down to the Cat Allotment in order to have another look at the fence.

We had wandered down towards the fence and had a peep across it into the Family-from-Hell's garden, and I'd pointed out the hearth there, which must be 10 ft across and is surrounded by stones.

We were wandering back up the garden, deep in conversation, when we heard a voice behind us shouting "Oi! What do you think you're looking at?"

We turned around and saw an irate-looking woman of about 27 with horribly dyed hair (bottle blonde with a streak of pure black). She continued to harangue us for a few minutes about looking in her garden. She was evidently very suspicious of us, and probably feeling guilty about having stolen my wood and was trying to cover it up. It was quite frightening for me because I had never spoken to her before or done anything wrong apart from look over the fence, yet she had already decided to victimise me. But I kept quiet and let the Allotment Officer speak.

She was very tactful, and said, "We're not looking in your garden. I'm the Allotment Officer, and I've come to look at this allotment." We turned away from her, and heard her say, to get the last word in, "Well, don't go looking in my garden!"

I was very shaken, and it is frightening to think she might come out again and start haranguing me while I'm there alone, especially now that I seem to be the only person down there most of the time.

Later on, to make matters worse, four children came out of another garden two houses up, and started running up and down the path of Chris's allotment, and yelling at the builders who are building an extension on the other side of the allotments. John had told me about these kids when he was making my compost bin. There isn't even a door, just a gap in the fence. I had pointed out this gap in the fence to the Allotment Officer too, and she said she would eventually try to have it patched up, but it was a question of money and getting the contractors to do it. She has the same difficulty I have with getting the Council to do anything. You just have to keep on at them till you're blue in the face.

All in all, I came away feeling scared and victimised, and it detracts from my pleasure of being there. I dread to think what the Family-from-Hell's reaction will be when the fence eventually does go up - no doubt they'll blame me for that, and will victimise me all the more until I can grow a bramble big enough to shut them out entirely.