Sunday, 25 May 2008

Mud, glorious mud

Here is a question I don't think Trinny and Susannah have ever properly addressed: what to wear on the allotment? It came to mind when I was being interviewed about my book by Robert Elms on his lunchtime radio show on BBC London. Dapper man that he is, Robert didn't seem to be all that keen on allotment gardening. He didn't know an awful lot about it, but had the distinct impression that it involved mud, and he really couldn't be doing with mud. I tried reassuring him by explaining that there were these things called gardening gloves, which is applied correctly did quite a decent job of keeping the hands mud-free. We are pretty keen on gardening gloves down on the Low family plot: I have got at least four pairs - don't ask me where I got them, they just sort of appeared, like odd socks at the bottom of the laundry basket - my wife has got several, and even the children have got a pair each. They look very fetching in them. I draw the line, however, at those rubber surgical gloves that come in packs of 150 which some gardeners like to wear and throw away after use. They are not very green, I would have thought, but my main objection is that they just look plain weird. Anyway, sometimes you just want to feel the earth between your fingers: it's quite sensual, in a muddy kind of way.
No, no, explained Elms, it wasn't the mud on his hands he was worried about: it was mud on his best suit. There's really no answer to that, is there? Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with gardening in a suit: people used to do it all the time. While researching my book, I found pictures of our allotment from the Second World War where the men did not just wear suits to dig their spuds, they wore ties as well. And hats.
Monty Don famously favours corduroys, and that leather jerkin. I have got a fleece-lined checked shirt for winter gardening, and a lightweight one for summer wear. I have, however, yet to adopt the fashion item de rigueur on our allotment: the flat cap. Perhaps it's an age thing.
Robert Elms was right, though: there is no avoiding the dirt. My friend Jason pointed out recently that I should have subtitled the book after that movie which came out earlier in the year: There Will Be Mud. I wonder what Daniel Day-Lewis wears for the garden?


colleen said...

Can't believe you have never considered the issue of what to wear. So much satrorial richness - hat v cap; tweed v fleece; boot v wellie. I'm with M Don on the jerkin. I dug out my dad's this year (top quality, local council issue) and it is brilliant. Best worn, I find, with a nice leapardskin effect cardie. As to gloves, OK for when handling manure or other toxins, but otherwise they're for wimps, aren't they?

Esther Montgomery said...

If you were to establish that practical allotment gear (grubby) is in perpetual fashion, maybe 'Robert Elms' would volunteer to help with the digging - so he could get the 'Authentic Look'.

Esther Montgomery

Scalper said...

I'm 1/2 way throught the 13th chapter of the book and have only had it for 4 days. It's made me laugh out loud a couple of times getting me more than the usual amount of strange looks that I receive.

I'm nearly at the end of my first year of allotment ownage and today was clearing my garlic plot, I was surprised at the incredible number of snails that had been attacking said plants. It led me to think of the French culinary tastes and how eating the snails may give me a taste of my own garlic plants. It is also a fantastic revenge to ensure the little blighters don't eat my produce again. I'm surprised you've not made the observation yourself as some of your anecdotes seem amazingly inciteful. Thanks for the laughter.