Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Green-eyed Plot Monster

I didn't really feel like doing a "May at the Allotment" post this month. It had been so wet and dreary, plus I was beset by a feeling, which was quite annoying. 

Honestly, I don't spend much time on social media, so I've never had fear of missing out (FOMO for any readers under 30), or comparison envy. I don't post selfies because I don't need validation of how I look from strangers, and I certainly don't need criticism from the same either. 


Twitter is where I post work stuff, Instagram gets random pictures of bugs, pebbles and trees, Facebook is where I get updates from the allotment group about any spare plants or pallets going free. Mostly I try not to let the endless noise get to me. 

Nevertheless this feeling persisted. 

It took me some time to work out what was triggering it. 


And when it did, I was annoyed with myself. I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book. I WAS comparing myself.

Not to ridiculous eye brows, body shapes that will never be mine, or fancy-schmancy goods that I would simply break or lose or give away. Oh no, I was comparing my allotment, finding it wanting and then stomping around in a black mood when I reached my own plot and it didn't match what was coming through the screen. Plot holder envy had taken hold of me.

I was following people who had been plotting for a lot longer, or who had more spare time than I had, or who had decided to make a career out of their allotmenting escapades, chasing compost (peat-free) sponsorship deals and adding the hashtag #blessed to their posts. 

 Seriously, no # makes me want to boke quite as much as #blessed. 

That aside, good for them. More power to their green fingers, their greenhouses and their green Hunter wellies. I sincerely wish them well but I'm not following them any more. 

My plot, as much as it is my happy place, is my hobby. Being there should be an exercise in pleasure and enjoyment, not dissatisfaction and malaise. There is no point comparing it with others because I don't have the time, resources or skills that they do. Everyone works to their own abilities, paces and times.


It is still, despite progress this year, half covered in scrubby grass, with a tangled mess of fallen elder and knotweed the council are steadfastedly trying to pretend doesn't exist at the end of it. I am still learning, learning all the time, making my own slow progress without greenhouse or polytunnel. 

And things, other than grass, grow. Tomatoes, Japanese wineberries, courgettes, spinach, beans, peas, pumpkin, potatoes, beetroot, raspberries. At home we have sweetcorn, strawberries and runner beans. Waiting patiently for me to build the brassica cage are purple sprouting broccoli, sprouts, kale. 

Today I brought home with me a tiny first bouquet of sweet peas, nigella, cosmos, lavender and daisies. The smell is amazing. While I was up there, I paused in the act of strimming and watched the bees in the wild oregeno, the crickets bounce away from me. 

It's still good here. 

Begone feeling. I'm not giving you brain space any more.

Monday, June 14, 2021

I Do Like Green Spam

I refuse to apologise for a second post basically spamming you all with images of beautiful places, green and growing things. It's that time of year. Come back to me in winter if bleak and grey views are more your thing. 

There is merit in both, of course. 

But June birthdays basically insist on lush greeness and sunshine. We'll just have to cope with it.


Yes, I did say birthday. It was N's last Tuesday (it was also the Kid's but he is hundreds of miles away in Sunderland so had to make do with a northern beach and 24 hours access to my credit card for his birthday. There was a spend limit, don't worry - I'm not going to be presented with a bill for thousands). 

Anyway, back to the green spam. It being N's birthday, I took him to one of my favourite places, obviously. In my defense, when asked what he'd like to do on his birthday, he seemed astonished that there was another option other than "working" and then shrugged. So. 

Behold! Hidcote Manor Gardens...


 Green everywhere! Wisteria on entry! Of course I brought a guidebook. I would have done on my first visit, years and another lifetime ago. Back when I was married and the Kid was small. Really another lifetime. 

Anyway, the original guidebook has long been lost in a house move or during one of my ruthless clear outs.


If you've never been, and know nothing of Hidcote, it's a garden set in rolling Cotswold hills (are there any other sort? I mean, come on Cotswolds, enough with the rolling). Owned back in the distant mists of the early 20th Century, by one Lawrence Johnston and his formidable mother, Gertrude Winthrop - frankly, a name that instantly makes you think of back boards, no children at the table and a disdain for untidy emotions. 

It's held up as an example of an Arts and Crafts garden. I'm not really sure what that means outside of Art and Architecture, beyond knowing that William Morris was your main man for that sort of thing (he's also one of my heroes) but I'm hoping things like that will become clear when I start my horticultural training later this year.



Whatever it might mean to gardens, what it really means to the visitor, is a garden that is so beautiful, your eyes ache with looking, your neck from the constant turning and your legs from adopting what I call the Heritage Walk. 

If you've ever been in a museum, you know exactly what that is. That specific sloooww way of walking and bending and looking that we all adopt when we're on National Trust territory. It's tough on the old muscles. Culture is the hard core workout no one ever talks about.



N had never been to Hidcote before, so this was a treat for both of us. As I reminded him on several occasions.

There were newts and potting sheds and meandering paths that sometimes echoed the stream but mostly didn't. The sun was glorious, shining down on our rapidly burning shoulders all day. The queue for the socially distanced cafe was long and the woman your standard NT level passive-aggressive.

We both got serious succulent envy, decided we need more orange flowers in our life and wondered how the neighbours would react to bare breasted statuary suddenly turning up in our garden. Possibly a little too well, so it won't. 

Besides, I can still remember similar such things that took pride of place in my grandparent's garden, along with a (un)helathy collection of gnomes, concrete animals, mottos and the occasional plastic bird. When they moved, I was suddenly presented with a great number of them. It took 2 house moves to finally "lose" the last and I'm not introducing more.

 As I type this, I'm looking down over our own, small, garden. Very much not Arts and Crafts but the honeysuckle is trailing over the makeshift arch, the wisteria is about to burst forth and the whisper of the sweetcorn leaves in their pots is very satisfying. Mabel is lying in the centre of the handkerchief-sized lawn, waving at flies with her eyes half closed. 

There are no cats at Hidcote. They really are missing a trick.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

In which there was walking

So. Much. Green. 

A couple of friends and I went for a long brunch and a decent meander across Bringsty common on the very last day of May. 

There was a feeling, at least with me, that we were chasing away the sogginess of the past few weeks. Beating the rain back. 

Buttercups and bluebells and cow parsley and red clover and all sorts behaved themselves, put on their best clothes and danced genteelly in the sunshine. Rather like the participants of an Austen ball. 

Somewhere, in the rolling woods and grasslands, a peacock’s eerie cries were rather startling. 

At the very top of the common, distant hills, usually dark and full of boding up close, became blue and vague around the edges, like your granny trying to recollect where she left her wool. 

There were little dells, streams, an oddly placed Methodist chapel. 

There were conversations that meandered on behind me as I focused on moving forward. The urge to move is quite strong at the moment. 

And then there were pauses as views insisted on being regarded with due reverence. I sat on the grass to better appreciate them and quite wanted to take my boots off and plant my feet in the ground. 

I didn’t though. Company. There are limits to what you should subject your friends to. 

Of the Before and the After

The Potting Shed by Lore Pemberton.  On my Christmas  wish list, Click on the image to get to her website. I had planned to pop on here and ...