A sceptic's take on being human – or should that be virtuous?
We’re soon reaching the first birthday of the day we took on the other half of the allotment. We’d been waiting for it for over a year during which it fell into ever greater disrepair, and broadcasting its weed seeds over the entire area. The previous tenant, although he’d completely lost control of it was strangely unwilling to let it go and so we had a number of ‘Uncle Jim’ moments with him including a couple of larcenous visits before he finally disappeared. That meant we were completely preoccupied with getting the ground cleared, at the expense of planting. Ground was dug and planted up as fast as possible with no time to prepare the soil properly. We just needed to get it covered – which we did before the exceptionally long, cold and wet winter set in.
Grazing, let’s not call it thieving, is a bit of a problem for all of us. There are a couple of well-known grazers on the site and they’ve been known to strip the figs off the adjoining allotment and as for grapes …. no-one is safe from their predations. Luckily we’d picked as many as we could cope with, but it was annoying to see that they’d been on our plot and stripped off the ones that were left, tearing leaves and stalks off in their haste, and leaving them littering the ground.
But there we go, that’s the way it goes and all we can do is discourage them as politely as possible – life’s too short. But this summer we’ve caught up and it was delightful to plant the garlic today having prepared the beds thoroughly. This year we’ve planted three varieties, with a fourth on the way. We hope we can discover what grows best in our soil as well as tastes good. Considering I’d never even tasted garlic until I was 21 and married, it was amusing to be planting three long rows of the plant. It’s a good sign of the changing food culture.
I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun.
When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths.
What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs.
But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more.
Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.
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