Novice allotmenteer's new barrow


Mr Mandy Sutter and I are proud parents for the second time.

I refer not to Dog MS, our first born, but to the wheelbarrow that was delivered safely last week. Mother and barrow are doing fine.

Having a wheelbarrow may seem like a big step to take at the ripe old combined age of 105, but we didn’t take it lightly.

We deliberated for all of twenty minutes.  And then we went for it. After all, there was really only one worry: what Dad might think.

Dad, you see, had a garden until 2003, plus associated paraphernalia. It was hard to part with when he and Mum moved North to live near Mr MS and I, to a flat with no garden.

So nowadays out of respect, I try not to use words like ‘wheelbarrow’ in front of him. It  makes him say, ‘That was a lovely barrow I had at the old place. I should never have got shot of it.’

He looks pensive, remembering it.

‘Of course,’ he says next, ‘I had no idea then that I’d be getting an allotment!’

The delight of the second thought goes some way towards cancelling the frustration of the first. But not all the way.

So I’m not looking forward to telling him about the new arrival.

old wheelbarrow at our Yorkshire allotment

A bit past it

But first things first: the purchase begins with ringing round the local hardware stores. Two only have builders’ barrows in. The third says they have a gardener’s model.

‘What’s it made of?’ I ask.

‘Green plastic,’ says the bloke at the other end. ‘With a pneumatic wheel.’

‘A what?’

‘A pneumatic wheel. You know, a pumpy-up job.’

‘Oh,’ I say. ‘You mean we’ll have to pump it up? Does the barrow come with a pump?’

‘No. It comes with a wheel.’

Mr MS, standing beside me, looks puzzled. ‘Is it an inflatable wheelbarrow?’ he asks as I come off the phone. ‘I’ve never heard of that before.’

‘I don’t think so,’ I say, feeling uneasy.

And it turns out fine. The wheel is smart red metal with a black tyre. And the ‘Bronco Bullbarrow’ itself is a splendidly stolid (but not too heavy) item in sturdy forest green.

Allotment humour: decrepit wheelbarrow

A bit more past it

Many of the other wheelbarrows on our allotments have spent the winter upside down. Some though charming, look a bit past it.

But our wheelbarrow makes itself immediately indispensable. It carts sacks of manure from car to plot then stands there open armed while we chuck weeds in. One of its greatest qualities is its ability to stand totally still.

Then it springs into action, barrelling jauntily along on its pumpy-up wheel to the dump. It reminds me of dog MS: one minute comatose, the next alive in every sinew.

Before this, my only contact with wheelbarrows was when a friend persuaded me to take revenge on an ex. We put his phone number in the local free ads paper, offering a red wheelbarrow (‘excellent runner’) to the first person who called. We also offered his new cream sofa, some carpet runners and a cockatiel (complete with cage and accessories).

But I digress. When Mr MS and I finally tell Dad about the new purchase, he falls silent over his fish and chips. ‘I suppose it had to come,’ he says. ‘Where did you get it?’

Fish and chips after a day at the new allotment

Dad’s tea

I name our local hardware store.

‘Coo,’ he says. ‘Bit pricey, then?’

‘Oh, it’s only a plastic one,’ I say. There’s no need to rub it in. ‘And it was reduced.’

This is true. It had £10 knocked off, making it £41.99.

‘How much?’ asks Dad.

I take a slug of my wine. ‘Oh, £31.99. Or thereabouts.’ I feel bad saying this. Giving a specific wrong figure is surely a sin of commission, not omission.

But he mishears me anyway. (Is a lie still a lie if no one hears it?)

‘£21.99 for a plastic wheelbarrow?’ he says. ‘They saw YOU coming!’