How much beauty is required to launch one ship?

The answer, of course is one millihelen, that’s to say one thousand times less beautiful than Helen of Troy. If we’re going to consider a scale, the ugliest child I ever saw was in Kingswood, on the eastern edge of Bristol. I was in a thoughtful mood that day because someone had made me his executor and next of kin without asking me (or telling me) and I was walking up Two Mile Hill to see a dodgy solicitor. My dark mood was deepened by spotting this child bearing down on me in his pushchair, being pushed by his obviously doting mother.  He was squat and almost bald with a thick neck and such a malevolent expression he could have curdled milk at 200 yards.  I often think of him now, aged maybe sixteen, and I wonder if his doting parents still show photos of him to all their friends.

You see, I write this blog and I post all these photos of the alllotment as it develops but frankly, other peoples’ children, holiday snaps and graduation photos rarely convey the emotional freight that the owners project on to them. Even more so, I imagine, with photos of other peoples’ allotments. If I switch off my pride for a moment, most of them – especially the ones taken in the winter – are a bit of a specialist interest.   Those recyled boards on the new hotbed spent last year on the edge of the strawberry bed – oh for goodness sake! is this supposed to be interesting? Well it is to me, but I’m an allotmenteer.  The plot is seen with the eyes of love, endlessly productive and immaculate.

Did you ever see W D Griffiths brilliant documentary film “Nanook”? There’s a scene where it becomes the childrens’ responsibility to warm father’s boots ready for him to venture out into the frozen wastes and catch fish.  On a bad day they (the boots not the children) might be so frozen that they needed to be chewed – yes you read me right – they needed to be chewed in order to make them soft enough to get them on. My children are not interested particularly in gardening and Madame has better things to do and so there was no-one available on the allotment this morning to chew my gloves which had been put away wet and therefore were frozen solid this morning when I tried to put them on. Temperatures had dropped to -3C overnight.  Worse still, I couldn’t make a flask of tea because the floor of the Potwell Inn kitchen had been mopped and I had been forbidden.  This is the real allotment experience that you never read about in those hideously expensive coffee table books. But the hotbed is complete and ready to receive its load of precious manure tomorrow.  I had to buy a big polythene sheet this morning to line the back of the car.  It’s not the first exceptionally smelly load we’ve carried – I ‘ll never forget the rotting seaweed – and it certainly won’t be the last, but actually soaking the seats with poo will probably provoke Madame.

I was so pleased with finishing the hotbed that I carried on and finished the long-planned border to the east edge of the plot, so I can level the path and make it less lethally dangerous. But I always underestimate the muscle power required to use the post-rammer and always regret it a couple of hours later. No it’s not angina you idiot you just never know when to stop!  Et Voilá , the right hand photo seen with the eyes of love I’ll give it at least 750 millihelens. But then I’m the proud father

Author: Dave Pole

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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