“Don’t Look at Me, I’m a Monster!”

Whether you’re gardening or digging deep up on the plot, horticulture is thought of as a healthy activity. After all, not only are you exercising and breathing in Mother Nature’s finest O2, but you’re growing healthy foods to eat and enjoy. It’s perfect! What could ruin this ideal relationship? Well my friends gather close, as I tell a dark tale that will shatter your dreams and leave you in a restless slumber. This is a saga of late that I wouldn’t wish upon any of you fine allotmenteers. It’s a story of heartbreak, tragedy… and a whole lot of itching. Lego

A few weeks ago, after a vigorous digging session on the plot, I returned home nursing a sore shoulder. To my annoyance, it would seem I tore the muscle. But after some much-needed rest and bedside attention from my loving wife, who I’ve now named Nurse Betty, I was soon back in action.. or so I thought.

Two nights ago, I managed to get home from work a little early and saw it as a prime opportunity to spend some quality time in the garden; those cucumbers won’t water themselves you know! With plants watered, cucumbers and lettuce harvested, I ventured inside to show my organic trophies to Nurse Betty. Nevertheless, within ten minutes my arms, legs, back and head were inflamed in a stinging rash. Turns out there was a posse of midges lurking in the lavender waiting for me. I never saw them coming, they were swift, professional and merciless. Thankfully they left me my wallet, but they also left me in a lot of pain. 2 Collage

At work the next day, I quickly realised my fingers had taken on a new form, they were now resembling large sausages. And to accompany them was a set of swollen knuckles and puffy wrists. To complete my new look, I soon became aware that my lips, tongue and ears were taking on new exaggerated dimensions. No longer was I of the chiselled jaw, strong nose and a cheeky glint in the eye (I should stop reading Mills & Boon), but I had adopted the look of something form a Star Wars set. And it wasn’t the dashing Harrison Ford (damn that Mills & Boon!)

I made a quick call to Nurse Betty who urged me to come home. I immediately left my colleagues dazed and confused as I ran from the building hunched and yelling ‘Don’t look at me, I’m a monster!’. Getting through rush-hour London is never easy, but trying to do so with your facial features dragging along the floor is a whole new challenge. Once home, Nurse Betty speedily drove me to the hospital. 1 Collage

On arrival I was clearly a source of amusement, as the nurses and staff looked on at the whimpering monster, throwing peanuts and encouraging me to ‘dance monkey boy, dance!’ Would this be how I’d end my days? Roaming the abandoned allotments of Hertfordshire in search of peace and a quiet place to grow potatoes?

Of course I’m making light of the situation. Truth is, the staff were brilliant and soon got me back to my normal self, although the ego was slightly dented.

So although the shoulder is once again hurting as I type, the face tender and I’ve just discovered several large insect bites where the sun doesn’t sun, the allotment is bursting with produce, as you can see, so I must be doing something right.

Love your garden, love your allotment but most of all love yourself. Take care on those muddy beds out there, don’t overdo it. Wear sunscreen and make sure you always carry a large axe for any insect posse looking for an easy target. Otherwise, you could end up looking like me. jarjarbinksAdeSignature

The Art of Gardening

Week in, week out, I apply my brain, searching in the deepest corner of the grey matter to compose allotment tales in hope you will enjoy them and want to eagerly come back again, to know more of our adventures in our own corner of God’s green earth.

Then earlier this week, someone turned to me and said ‘Gardening, it’s not very creative is it?’ At once I hit a response crossroads, 1) ‘You’ve clearly never put your hand in the brown gold and nurtured a seed only to feed from it months later, or 2) ‘You can have my response to your question in two words which start and end in f’. 1

Truth is, he’s a friend, and like most men in that bonding moment, we tend to feel more comfortable offering discouragement rather than encouragement, something us primitive males have been doing since the dawn of time. Don’t get me wrong, most days we’re putting the world to rights discussing the most complex of human issues: the new Star Wars trailer featuring Han Solo, who would win in a fight between Dangermouse and Inspector Gadget, ‘if you say the word lemon over and over again it no longer sounds like lemon’. And, of course, gardening.

In the short time I’ve applied myself to this green world, my creativity has evolved twelvefold. I catch myself looking at the beauty in the simplest of things and how to show it in the best possible way. Fret not, I’m not going to start pulling out the yoga mat and chant until sunset, but there is a growing appreciation inside of me for life and its moments that wasn’t there five years ago. 2

From trailing clematis to creating garden arches to bringing colour to the most weather-beaten corner of the allotment, I think it’s fair to say us gardeners encase ourselves in a world of creativity: art, cookery, design, drawings, colour, tastes and smell. We often treat the allotment as an art exhibition as we leisurely stroll from one plot to another assessing, embracing its colourful palette and then reaching our own opinions on the person’s cultivated piece. We read about gardening, write about it and form opinions and tastes. And although we may not be aware of the merry dance we make as we dabble from one source to another, these tapestries all come under the one banner: gardening. 4

So the next time you’re out in the pouring rain with trowel in hand, remember, you are the Mozart to your orchestra, create big and create loud. In the meantime I’ve included a few photos from the plot of some of our latest works: ‘The Emerging Spud’, ‘The Caged Brassicas’ and of course, our masterpiece, ‘The Living Polytunnel’. AdeSignature