Allotment humour: book about bugs


Gardeners see things in a different way to normal people.

An ordinary family meal, for example, is imbued with more tension than a   Christmas episode of Eastenders as I watch Mr Mandy Sutter boiling to b*ggery  the kale nurtured with difficulty over the past months.

‘You’ve cooked it all!’ I moan. ‘We’ll never eat all that: what a waste!’

Mr MS is a wily creature. ‘I’ll eat it tomorrow. I like cold vegetables.’

As he well knows, I’m out all day tomorrow, so whether he eats it or throws it away I won’t be any the wiser. But I shut up. Not everyone feels the way I do about home grown veg, and I appreciate his saying something that saves face on both sides.

Allotment stories: East Riddlesden Hall

East Riddlesden Hall

The gardener’s slant view extends into many  areas. Earlier this week, a friend and I took a tour of East Riddlesden Hall, a small stately home in Keighley. Despite its fascinating history and beautifully restored interior –  including two ‘Yorkshire Rose’ windows and a carved stone head of Charles I – our interest could best be described as polite.

When we got into the garden however, it was an emotional roller coaster. ‘Oh! Oh!’ my friend said amidst apple and pear trees. ‘It’s no good, I’ll just have to move house. I MUST have an orchard.’

We oohed and aahed in ‘Plants for sale’, a limited selection of herbs no different to those you’d find in any common or garden garden centre.

But what really aroused my passion was the compost heaps. There were four. Four! Imagine. All at different stages of putrefaction. And next to them was a large chicken wire drum full of dead leaves.

I’d heard tell of leaf mould and its many good properties but somehow it had never felt personal. This drum, though, with its darkening coppery strata, was a vision.  I longed for beauty like this at our allotment and (perhaps because we have spare chicken wire) it suddenly seemed possible.

novice gardener's first leaf heap


I hardly slept that night. Yes, I know.  But to cut a long story short, the leaf drum is now installed and is magnificent. It may even herald the dawn of a new era, allotmently speaking.

It isn’t the only recent innovation, either.

In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic tale ‘The Road’, father and son walk an anonymous road through a blasted landscape. Armed with little more than a tarpaulin to sleep under, they approach an uncertain fate.

This prize possession was mentioned so often that, listening to the audio book, I became strangely mesmerised by the idea of it.  Never mind the searing insight into humans’ capacity for good and evil that McCarthy offered, what I took from the book was the desire for a tarp. I could keep the compost heap warm with it.

At our local garden centre, I discovered that tarps don’t come cheap.

I could almost hear Dad. ‘£14.99 for a plastic sheet? You’ve got to be joking.’

I got as far as the checkout with it, then realised I couldn’t pay that much. I scoured the place again, as if a cheaper one might have materialised. It hadn’t. I went to the camping section to see if proper groundsheets were cheaper. They weren’t.

Getting summat for nowt in Yorkshire

The tarp

On the way out of the shop, I noticed something in the waste bin.  It was a large piece of thick plastic that had been used to wrap a mattress. I took it to the sales desk. ‘Can I have this?’

The sales assistant had already heard my plans for the compost heap.

‘It’s £48,’ he said.


‘Go on, tek it.’

So I did.

Dad, hearing the story, gave a silent thumbs-up, the ultimate accolade.

Folded in half, the tarp was exactly the right size. It and the chicken wire drum make a handsome pair. And from my new, weird gardener’s-eye view, I know that when the apocalypse comes, at least we’ll have enough fertiliser.