An unlikely start to the day


Last week – in response to an editorial in the Farmers Weekly I fired off an email to the editor. The only reason I even saw his piece is that the Google software has obviously picked up my interest in farming matters and consequently sends me targeted material.  I suppose I should get excited about this but I don’t  – I know it’s happening and the blog subtitle in which I describe myself as a sceptic just about sums it up.  I spend so much of my life closely  examining the teeth of gift horses that I probably qualify as an equine dentist.

Anyway, this morning to my absolute amazement I had an email back from Farmers Weekly acknowledging that I had a point (about knee jerk hostility to environmental targets) and saying they were hoping to print it this week.  That will be a matter of amazement to the farmers who know me, which makes it all the more enjoyable! Then I had an email from a friend who reads the blog offering some flour if we could find a way of delivering it within the lockdown rules. My imagination immediately led me to somewhere like Checkpoint Charlie – perhaps one of the bridges that crosses the Avon in Bath, with a few armed police at either end – Churchill Bridge seems vaguely appropriate. All we need is a grey and rainy morning and a Sainsbury’s bag and we’re on.

Today, though, my random news feed seemed to focus on Dorset stories – so the algorithm is good but not that good, and I was probably the sole reader of an obscure web-based local news service that was carrying a horrible story about the threatened shutdown of all the Weymouth Allotments, which was all being provoked by a local resident who must have lived close enough to the site to record all the comings and goings  of cars and their occupants, and even how long they each stayed. He – it must have been a he, surely, was incandescent with rage at the fact that some of the allotmenteers stayed for several hours and even sat down in the sunshine.  Another had a bonfire and burned grass mowings – now there’s a feat!

Now I’m not one to judge another human being too harshly but this amount of frothing does seem a little – well, pathological – don’t you think? Our site has clear rules about bonfires – i.e. not after April 1st, and so that can be easily enforced, except that the story has spread like a wine stain to include the ‘fact’ that the local fire brigade had been called out – surely not to a pile of grass mowings, I’d think they were impossible to ignite unless it was under a rain of sparks from an axe being ground somewhere nearby? As for sitting quietly in the sunshine on your own allotment it’s hard to think of any activity less likely to cause public harm.  So I put it down to a quiet day for local news, and good luck to the allotmenteers of Weymouth – just stick to the rules peeps.

Back at the Potwell Inn, the final delivery of food arrived from Waitrose who have declined to offer any more delivery slots until the middle of July, and so we are simultaneously urged not to leave the safety of our home while driven by necessity to queue up for hours to buy food. My Dad used to buy a copy of Soviet Weekly from a member of the local Communist Party who was one of his drinking buddies that  he didn’t want to upset.  It was most useful for lining the cat litter tray but utterly useless for lighting fires as it was printed on entirely non combustible paper. It was full of stories of heroism and success which, I imagine, would have been news to the people who were actually living in Russia at the time.  I get much the same feeling about our own media and sometimes I’m grabbed by the thought that actually no-one knows what on earth is going on but we’re staying loyal because …….. well, what’s the alternative?   My only memory of those photos is that there were lots of big tractors – which is a circuitous link back to this morning’s email from Farmers Weekly.

This afternoon we saw the sun emerge and we worked quietly, drank tea and observed the fact that everywhere things are growing. There were an abundance of insects and a few butterflies enjoying the garden, and Madame found an appreciative caterpillar on the chard. So I couldn’t resist the rather wintry looking photo of a spider’s web catching the sun.  The plant in the picture is our prodigiously productive grape vine planted many years ago by one of a group of Italian restaurant workers who all had plots on the site.  The last of them died only a few weeks ago and an energetic Eastern European woman has brought his old plot back to life. We’re as polyglot a gang of allotmenteers as ever; and hooray for that small stand against the darkness.

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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