Monday, 31 March 2008

Men in flat caps

There aren't that many celebrity allotment-holders around - probably because once you are rich and famous you are not going to spend your time getting dirt under your fingernails just to make sure you can bring a few cabbages to the table - so it is always nice to discover a new one. Here's the latest addition to the roll: John Humphrys. He was interviewing a couple of allotmenteers on the Today programme this morning, and mentioned in passing that he got his first allotment at the age of 14. 14? Did the young Humphrys have to support his family even before he left school? Things must have been tough in Cardiff back in those days: did he fit his veg-digging activities in between shifts down the pit? I think we should be told.
He was interviewing Andy and Dave Hamilton about their book, The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible: An Eco-Living Guide for the 21st Century, and got on to the subject of whether allotments are populated by old men in flat caps, or young and trendy types who knit their own tofu. I don't know about the Hamilton twins' allotments in Bristol, but I can report that where I am in East Acton, the flat cap is alive and well. My allotment neighbours Michael and John are never to be seen without their caps, and I would go so far as to say that I would not recognise them if I came across them bare-headed. I don't wear a flat cap myself, but then again I am a little way off retirement age. I will probably buy myself one for my 60th birthday, if they still make them then.
Intrigued by the Hamiltons' book, I Googled the twins and found an interview with them in the Times from a few days ago. It mentioned Andy's tip for preventing slugs from eating your lettuces. "Chuck a load of slugs in a food mixer, blend them and then put the goo around your plants," he said. "They won't come near it."
I must admit I had never heard of this method, for perhaps obvious reasons. If anyone feels like trying it on, I would be most interested in hearing about the results.


andy said...

I felt my ears burning so thought I would pop along and say hello.

I was quite shocked too when John said that he had an allotment at 14 but after meeting him I can picture him out there digging away. He was a very nice chap, very genuine.

That was our first bit of big national coverage that show and we were both very nervous, but an experience.

I have this idea in order to highlight the fact that you can lobby for an allotment if you have been waiting for too long. Inspired by recent events the more I think of it the more that I think that everyone should be entitled to an allotment if they want one, the situation here has gotten ridiculous.

Get a bunch of people to dress up as vegetables now and then and do a kind of tame fathers for justice, but call it "allotments for vegetables" - so as
fathers for justice climbed up Clifton suspension bridge we could sit on the humped back bridge at Bradford upon Avon, they climbed up and stood by the Buckingham palace we could sit on a statue in one of the London parks. That sort of thing I was thinking and more about 1 day of action nationwide,
perhaps followed up if it does not make much of an impact.

Sorry hijacked your blog a little there.

Andy Hamilton

Valentine Low said...

Interesting idea, Andy. I think the vegetable world needs a bit more militant action...

andy said...

Yes, well its this new generation of non clothed capped allotment holders and our militant ways.

looks like we might run a little with this idea - but might change the name to crops for plots. Much better ring to it.