A sceptic's take on being human – or should that be virtuous?
Lost Gardens of Heligan II
So what would the “take home” message from Heligan be. I’m not sure that I care for the impression the expression gives – as if all the love and care and experience we encountered in our five days there could be pre-digested and regurgitated into a sentence like philosophical bird vomit. But we definitely found things we wanted to remember and try for ourselves when we got back to the allotments, and here are some of them:
We must try seaweed mulch on our alliums and asparagus
We must take open pollinated ‘heritage ‘ vegetables more seriously – too many modern F1 hybrids are suited to mechanical harvesting and long food miles rather than flavour
We must learn more about seed saving. The initial success we’ve had with coriander is encouraging
We shouldn’t abandon digging without some trial plots to compare. They double dig one huge plot each year with nothing but long handled Cornish spades, and add nothing but well rotted manure to the trench.
We must stop shoving as many brassicas as possible into a bed because we’re short of space. (note to self!)
We must relate growing, cooking and eating as closely as possible
We must resist the temptation to purism. Just as not everything that’s new is better, neither is anything automatically better because it’s old.
We should be grateful for the fact that we’ve got two people to manage 250 square meters and they’ve only got six to manage ten times as much.
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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