Saturday, 16 April 2011
It's absolutely terrifying.
My potatoes are breaking cover - now! Lovely little crinkly green leaves are poking through the soil. Looking so sweet and innocent.
But they shouldn't be - I only put them in the ground about 3 weeks ago. Last year nothing stirred for 6 weeks or more. Then I got so desperate I almost started to dig them up to see if there were any stirrings. Now, in less than half the time the little blighters are climbing their way upwards.
The Old Man of the Allotment was of little help. When I mentioned this to him, there was much oohing and aahing, and sucking on his brier and teeth. "It'll need just a touch of frost to do for them, sire" he said. "As ye recall young master, last year we still had jack frost visiting us in May and now it be mid April only". At which point he hung up the last of the magpies - a well known Walthamstow Allotment treatment for willow droop. I thanked him, handed him a grout and served an eviction notice on him, his wife and their fourteen children.
As he hobbled away on his re-cycled charity shop crutches he cursed my potato patch. "He be too shallow planted - I tell 'e". As you can imagine I was pretty upset and turning to my trusted Bible, "Playmate of the Year Annual 1967" sought some solace in the shapely limbs of Miss April - a fetching pedicurist from San Diego with ambitions to be an astronaut.
Having regained some composure from Hugh Hefner's timeless beauties, I thought. "He's wrong, the Seer of the Allotment is wrong." The thing is my 'tats have had an accelerated chitting.
In the depths of winter we went to a garden centre and bought our seed 'tats. Taking them home I left them in the dining room and there they stayed subject to near tropical temperatures as we tried to survive the harsh winds of winter. It was only after their funny little protuberances were poking over the top of the bag I realised they should be in a less extreme environment. So I put them under the veranda and there they stayed until the end of March when I finally found somewhere on the allotment to bury them.
I hadn't buried them too shallowly, they were precocious spuds, ahead of their year, straining to get their 4 grade Cs and above.
Which brings me to our invite to our new neighbours' house warming and 30th - birthday that is. Yesterday morning in our letter box plopped a colourful leaflet which was not offering Curries, Chow Ming, Decorating or Taxi Services. Our neighbours, across the road, had taken on a rather woe begone house and were doing it up as only the young and energetic can. We'd been invited to a party.
We're nothing if not totally up on social etiquette. What to offer as a house warming gift? Nothing too extravagant - a Peter Jones gift voucher, Harrod's hamper? No, we don't want them over aspiring. Nothing too down market - Tesco's "Bag for Life" or one aisle of the local Lidl? No again, we want them to feel challenged. It hit me like a flash - a bundle of our allotment grown asparagus. Sends out all the right signals, organic, earth hugging, and aspirational.
The missus had spent all Friday drumming up business so was quite knackered and wasn't up to dancing the night away. I arrived with a bottle of low alcohol rose ( well, they are in their thirties, and such good value at 3 for a tenner ( the wine that is)) and the aforementioned veg.
It was a lovely party, the asparagus was a smash hit. Everyone there, except me and a couple of other neighbours, were 30 or under; yet I felt hugely with it. I suppose it's the novelty of seeing someone like their grandparents doing the twist and not needing heart massage.
I and a fellow neighbour left before we were invited to sing "Please Release Me" and sign wet tee-shirts, and I fell to sleep dreaming of thrusting hot potatoes and plasterboard.