With three days almost completely taken up with the exhibition in Bristol, we came down to earth yesterday – quite literally – with less of a bump than a sigh of relief. We had the greatest of times, met so many people, and it was fun but I went into extreme extrovert mode which, I’ve discovered is a kind of protective device. I’m much shyer than I appear to be – especially in big crowds of strangers. The benefits of sailing through the occasion and having a wonderful time are always offset by the payback. I was greatly assisted by the little pendant I was given that said I was an artist. Although I had a painting in the show I’ve never felt able to describe myself as an artist so the badge helped save me from trying to explain.
Luckily an early bus gave us a chance to wander around Bristol Docks on Sunday morning. Sadly St Nicholas Market (above) was closed but quite apart from team loyalties – we were both born and brought up in Bristol – any comparison between the dockside development in Bristol and Cardiff, which I wrote about last week, would come down in favour of Bristol just for the sheer diversity on offer. It’s more than 30 years since we lived on the docks, but we were there for 20 years in a succession of different flats and I have to pay tribute to Peter Ware, the architect, who almost single handedly started the fight to preserve the Georgian buildings in Hotwells and the character of the whole area. Consequently Bristol has retained and repurposed hundreds of old buildings that set the context for the new ones.
But time and seasons wait for no-one and so we went up to the allotment at the crack of lunchtime to see what needed attention. Our first job was to remove the protective netting on the garlic and shallots which seemed to give a sigh of relief and stretch towards the sky. I swear they were six inches taller after a feed with liquid seaweed which also gave them a good watering.
The fleece also came off the peas, and we put a net over the whole bed to protect it from the birds. Birds, especially pigeons, are a particular menace on the allotments and without wishing them any ill will, we do everything we can to persuade them to go elsewhere. The other most frequent visitors are jackdaws which are great eaters of grubs. Some people shoo them off, but I think they’re irresistable in their glossy black coats and grey capes. Robins, come too when we’re digging and we even once spotted tiny goldcrest which came and then went, never to be seen again.
Gradually we’re taking the propagated plants up to the allotment and we’ve regained one of the windows. The chillies are all doing very well and I’ve been snacking on the Hungarian Hot Wax as they slowly turn yellow. The tomatoes are due their last re-pot before going out and the greenhouse aubergines are flowering.
Down on the coldest patch, the potatoes have shrugged off any frost under their fleece which is being lifted upwards on the shoulders of their haulms. Suddenly the allotment is taking on its summer form once more. We spend a lot of time weeding and watering which are both jobs I really enjoy – unlike many people, I know. But allotments, while they can be sometimes very domineering and far from the cliché of outdoor therapy, have many sides to them. They aren’t just about the satisfaction of growing food. They certainly feed the spirit, but there’s also a strongly aesthetic feel about them as well. Like works of art in themselves, they are expressive of their gardener’s personality. So maybe I really do deserve the little pendant with an A on it?