Bench pic for allotment blog

Mr MS’s contribution

It’s unclear who’s in charge at our plot.  Officially it’s my 87-year old Dad. But I spend a lot of time down there and own all the gardening books.

Mr Mandy Sutter is there so infrequently he doesn’t even dare voice opinions, especially since Dad and I are working hard this month, hoiking monstrous roots up from the Underworld (me) and ‘strengthening’ the shed (Dad). The shed now has more reinforcements than the Forth Road Bridge.

Mr MS’s last contribution (3 months ago) was building a self-assembly bench.

It looked fine, but when Dad and I sat on it, there was a loud crack and Dad dropped down two inches.

‘Well, what do you expect when you buy a bench for £35?’ he said calmly, and set to work with the screws, tools and small toblerone-shaped pieces of wood that are his stock in trade.

The bench was strengthened.

‘Great job, Dad!’ I said.

He frowned. ‘It’s adequate.’

Flattery always irritates him.  The word ‘great’ is probably meaningless when spoken by a DIY dolt like me. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like being patronised.

Whatever, I contented myself with sitting on the bench again and enjoying a feeling of confidence that the seat was going to hold. But Mr MS hasn’t been seen on the allotment since.

One Sunday, after a particularly strenuous session, I come home caked in mud to find him lying on the chaise longue, reading the Sunday papers.

‘Are you going to put some preservative on that bench?’ I ask, by way of a greeting.

Allotment humour: as an allotment novice I need an L plate!

A driving instructor in his spare time

Mr MS, a driving instructor in his spare time, reacts to danger by slowing down. He makes langorous hand movements.  ‘It’s on the list.’

I know ‘the list’ for the passive-aggressive tool it is. But I don’t want an argument; I want a bath. I settle for the last word. ‘Well, it needs doing, with the bad weather coming. That’s all I’m saying.’

Later, Mr MS says that funnily enough, the job had been on his mind and he intends ‘putting an hour in’ on it next weekend. I am mollified, and make turnip mash for tea.

A few days later, while Dad and I are building a compost heap out of logs and old pallets, I mention Mr MS’s plans for the bench.

Our first compost heap at our Yorkshire allotment

Compost heap

Dad is dismissive. ‘Doesn’t need treating. Made of hardwood. Should go a nice silvery colour.’

I am quite pleased.  I can put Mr MS’s proffered hour to use digging up brambles instead.

But before Mr MS is due to start work, Dad rings. ‘Don’t know why I was laying down the law about preservative. After all, it’s your bench.’

Then he rings again, ‘Besides, I’ve been thinking. Treating the bench will keep it the same colour as the shed and that’s no bad thing.’

I report all this back to Mr MS, who frowns.  ‘So… what did you say?’

‘I said you’d make your own decision when you got down there.’

‘Hah! Now we both know that’s not true. Is it, foreman?’ That’s his pet name for me.

‘No,’ I say. ‘You’re digging up brambles.’

Later, I’m eager to hear of Mr MS’s progress. It happens to be our ninth anniversary of love and we are out for a meal at the time.

tapenade pic for allotment blog

Over the tapenade

He says, over the tapenade, that I may have to sue him for pulling up the wrong bush, and for spending twenty minutes at the allotment instead of the full hour stipulated.

I nearly choke on my Rioja. ‘What…?’

‘Now, don’t get arsey.’  He explains that he had to rush off and do a driving lesson. His ‘timings’ got mixed up.

‘You don’t have to be Freud to work that little slip out,’ I snarl.

‘No,’ he concedes. ‘But there is some good news.’

‘What?’ I teeter on the brink of rage.

‘I really enjoyed those twenty minutes.’

I don’t want an argument; I want a nice evening. And I sense an opening. ‘So you’ll be going down there again, then?’

‘Oh! I…’

I shoot him a look that says he’s one step away from a written warning. He leafs through his diary. ‘I could pop down  tomorrow.’

The foreman nods.

The next time Dad sees the bench, he’ll shake his head and say, ‘I don’t understand why he hasn’t done that job,’ and nothing I say about brambles or priorities will explain it to his satisfaction.

But for tonight, peace is preserved. The chain of command, though rattled, remains unbroken.