Posted by: lialeendertz | June 21, 2010

Come on Boden, you know you want us.

The kids at the allotment

I’m afraid this is another ‘plucky triumph in the face of adversity’ type post. I slightly specialise in these, it seems, but hey. That’s just the kind of irrational optimist I am.

I realise I have been writing as if I am some kind of horticultural lone ranger, plodding along in my slightly odd garden. As such I have been rather leading you astray, as a massive amount of my gardening now is carried out as part of a big, happy gang. My husband and I have had our allotment for six years, possibly more. We actually got it before we even lived in the area, and then bought a house within two minutes walk of it. (Y’see, waiting-list languishers? You’re really not trying hard enough…) But from then on high points were a little hard to come by. The allotment, overall, has been a massive struggle. They are anyway, I think, but we had new babies: one, then two. Babies and allotments are a rubbish mix, especially the kind of squally babies mine were. And as soon as they reached the age where they could wander happily without falling and gashing their cheeks on a razor-sharp piece of snapped off bamboo, Michael got ill, and I ended up up there on my own a lot, or rather on my own with two hungry/thirsty/cold/hot/getting-sunburnt/soaked children. Not a lot was getting done, and I seriously contemplated ‘Doing a Perrone’ and chucking the thing in.

Instead, last autumn, I asked a couple of friends to come and help us out. It was instantly brilliant. They have a boy my son’s age and a girl my daughter’s age. The kids played, we worked. Then I got a bit carried away and asked another couple we know (with boy same age, girl same age) to join in too. And then another (girl same age as the boys, boy same age as the girls, for diversity).

It has totally changed the way I think about the allotment. For one thing it has turned it into a family weekend activity, far more satisfying than endlessly pushing a swing in a bleak, windswept playground. The kids run pretty wild up there (no complaints yet, tho’ they can’t be far off) but it’s great to see them doing proper ‘old-fashioned childhood’ things: climbing trees, making dens, finding little hideaways, er…eating other plotholders’ strawberries.

But it’s important for me as well. Since I first wrote about Michael’s illness, several people have been in touch with similar experiences, and a common thread is the falling away of friends. I can kind of understand why this happens. Everyone I know has young kids, a busy job, is pregnant, whatever. People have their own problems, and even though it’s really sad, I see that it’s inevitable that some people will slip away. But not this lot. I have found a way of forcing people to remain friends with me!  We have to hang out together once a week, share food, work together. They ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Someone has usually baked. We sit and drink tea and eat cakes. There is a kind of lively, purposeful chaos. The members of my allotment gang ask me what they should do and I swan around, supervising, doing the glamour jobs, the sowing and planting. The other day I actually heard myself say, ‘Jane, could you water those cabbages I’ve just planted’. Ha! If we were a bit more ethnically diverse, wore trendier clothes and were filmed in Super 8 film we could make it onto some sun-soaked, middle-class paradise type telly programme. We truly should be in the Boden catalogue, at the very least. That’s how good it is.



  1. It’s the swanning around being in charge bit you really like, I know! You sound as if you are on the allotment next to ours (can’t work out how they divvy up the produce) but I know you wouldn’t pretend it was you who had won the ‘best allotment’ cup when it was obviously us!

  2. Well done, you. It seems you have found a really great way of keeping friends around you, keeping children happy and keeping the allotment going through a difficult period. Congratulations. On the other hand, if you told me to water your cabbages you’d be told where to stick your watering can, fat end first! Which just proves what lovely friends you have (you bossy cow).

  3. Sounds idyllic, friends, family, fresh air and food! Who needs the Boden catalogue?

  4. That sounds fab, you have found a way of making the allotment fun and giving you much needed breathing space and friendship – well done you for being so proactive

  5. Could I borrow them to dig the plot and water on demand? Sounds fab.

    I’m sure the catalogue spread is not far away now!


  6. Let me get this right… did you actually purchase your house to ensure you were in the allotment catchment area? This is the sort of dedication I thought people only showed for schools – I am impressed. No wonder you want to enlist the children as unpaid serfs to tend the place. I am concerned though that they may be half-inching all your crops while you sip tea with the other overlords. Suggest you set up some sort of ‘stop and seach’ policy tout de suite!

  7. Ms B and Gilly – you have both hit the nail on the head. Who cares about a few manky vegetables, it is the power I love. Mwah ha ha!
    *sensible face* divvying up the produce is going to be the tough bit. We just harvested the garlic and it’s going to be a little painful parting with so much. We do need to sow/plant in greater numbers.

    Marianne and Helen – Thank you. Yep, it’s a pretty neat solution.

    Ryan – No! They’re all mine! Get your own allotment gang.
    It has been pointed out to me that this post makes it look like I am actually trying to get our allotment into the Boden catalogue, or am after some Boden freebies. I actually think the Boden catalogue is pretty hideous, and kind of detest its middle-class smugness. There that should do it.

    Dawn – well no, if I’m honest it was a coincidence, sort of, but it may have been a contributing factor in buying the house. It is very handy indeed. At the moment there is more of a problem with the kids eating other plotholders’ crops, but they did start on the (totally unripe) raspberries the other day, so you may have a point.

  8. Sounds like my idea of hell, being sociable and having people around all the time and making a noise and bothering me and having an oponion about what I’M doing as EMPEROR of the patch and eating stuff and not eating stuff and playing and having fun when they should be WORKING and getting in the way and not getting in the way and JUST BEING THERE and all that.

    Sounds ace too. Sorry its me period

  9. Sounds fab on a good day and like Mark says on a snotty one, but mainly fab. Think you should have stuffed the Boden catalogue offer quite nicely. Glad it is working for you. You deserve a break.

  10. I’m with Mark it sounds like my (personal) idea of hell too although at the same time I have a deep envy of those who do enjoy having kids and people around and sharing. I think it is a fantastic idea.

    As far as Boden is concerned they once sent me a survey (at the initial set-up time) asking what I liked/hated about it and I said that I found utterly repugnant the pictures of models with tag lines saying things like “Vanessa – loves butterflies, hates pasta” or “Leo – enjoys handgliding and blue seas”. Euch!

  11. Ooh, the backlash!

    Mark – i suppose the serfs tending your many acres do so in cakeless silence. Bloody landowning class. I may have to start an intervention.

    elizabethm – it has been fab so far, although obviously there is potential for massive fallings out over the best cultivars of Brussels sprouts, or something.

    Arabella – it’s not so much that we ENJOY having kids about, more that we have them, and leaving them at home on their own in front of the telly is rather frowned upon. I had forgot that aspect of the Boden catalogue. Vile.

  12. Such a simple thing to do but the perfect answer to those allotment blues… I got overwhelmed by mine a while back and had to give it up.. I wish I could have that time again and do what you’ve done…
    Yes, boden should snap you up…lovely, strawb-munching little ones- reminds me, I must get on and have some more

  13. Do I discern a certain bias against the honest hardworking landowning class? We only turn children on the spit who do less than 14 hour day, – ‘sensible policies for a sensible Britain.’ (wasted youth not on allotment but spending too many hours watching Blackadder)

  14. I’ve noticed over the last couple of years on our site how its often the newcomers who garden as a group who make the best go of it. Have to admit I moved here to be near the allotment site too.

  15. Laeticia – If you announce you are up the duff in three months time, I will be very proud.

    Ursula – ah you see, money can’t buy everything. The children of the plebs run free over the broken glass of the allotment site.

    Simon – It’s a good point. i always feel sorry for newbies as they have no idea how much work is involved. Really think more people should try sharing.

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