Dust and ashes

Today was one of those days when everything that could go wrong did so. Hence the photo from March 18th 2018 when the Beast from the East visited and collapsed the net covering the fruit cage. We just weren’t expecting it to be so severe.  Neither were we expecting the frost that greeted us this morning and which fortunately did no harm but it was a portent of some sort. The sun was shining, and so after an early breakfast we drove over to garden centre number one in the certainty that they would have an abundance of the dripper hose spares we needed.  They didn’t and so we crossed Bath to the only other stockist and managed to buy the very last of the bits, only to discover that the Erysimums we bought in the first centre were available at half the price in the second.

And so we arrived rather late at the allotment and found that that the wheelbarrow had a flat tyre – entirely my own fault because I’d noticed it needed blowing up days ago, days during which the fugitive valve had managed to hide itself deep within the tyre, necessitating the removal and reassembly of wheel, tyre and inner tube.  While Madame busied herself as far as possible away from me, clearing out the shed, I turned to the job I really wanted to do – fitting the new water supply to the drippers in the greenhouse. Unfortunately in my haste to get on I forgot to measure the replacement pipe whilst I had prematurely (it turned out) pulled the other one through its carefully crafted underground passage blissfully unaware that the replacement was 2mm bigger than the original which was built in when the greenhouse was assembled. A search was mounted and an alternative length of hose was found – not in the best condition but it fitted through the hole. At the water tank end, it rapidly became clear that the smaller pipe wasn’t going to fit the tap properly.  When I fitted the click lock coupler it leaked like a sieve, which is not helpful when the whole point of my labours was to leave it turned on to automatic while we are away. And so I resorted to that favorite technique – the bash fit. This involves heating the pipe with a gas lighter to the point where it is flexible but not on fire. After a great deal of hand to hand combat the pipe was fitted at both ends and the electronic unit appeared to work.

“Good”, I thought, “I’ll install the gravel boards now”.  But where was the marking line? Luckily we had a new one in the shed and so I peeled off the plastic wrapper, pulled gingerly on the end and it instantly turned into the biggest bird’s nest you’ve ever seen.  It took 40 minutes to untangle  – no kidding – and I had to fight every minute to retain my buddhist like composure. Eventually I wound it on to an empty spool and – to be fair – apart from having to kneel in the mud for most of the time, and apart from spiking myself on a bamboo on our neighbour’s side of the path, it went pretty well – although I did mismeasure the board lengths and had to hammer in extra pegs. We finished after five hours of work that should have taken about two and drove back wondering which of us was going to cook. Clanger pudding again, then.  This time it was me, and so we had pasta with our own pesto and the remains of a small chicken which has now provided meat for nine meals and some stock as well. We grow two types of basil – the neapolitan and the classic.  I much prefer the first and as soon as I tasted it I realized that the pesto was from a batch of neapolitan.  That’s the first thing that had gone right all day!

However my back aches and any sense of reward I ought to be getting from finishing two listed jobs in a day, is  entirely missing. There’s the unglamorous side of allotmenteering for you! Photos tomorrow if it’s not raining again. We’ve both got pieces in the annual BRLSI exhibition and we went to the private view last night.  Pride, I suppose, came before a fall.

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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