In memory of my Dad

All the scarecrows at our allotments are male. A stuffed character from the animation South Park, for example, is hoisted aloft by a pole up the jacksie. The pole is a sturdy broom handle so when the wind blows, nothing moves. It’s hard to see how it would scare birds, though it does scare Mr Mandy Sutter.

Then there’s the Rastafarian. He doesn’t move much either, just stands ‘taking the breeze’ all day. His fingers, made of plastic bags, stir occasionally. Mr MS finds much in him to admire.

Other plot holders keep it basic and go for things that rattle on sticks. The site fair bristles with Benecol, Actimel and Yakult pots. I’ve often wondered who drinks that stuff.

Old CDs and DVDs are popular too, strung between poles. Paul McKenna’s ‘Overcome Emotional Spending’ and the first series of  ‘Coast’ swing between broad beans on one plot and further down, light glances off the rim of David Attenborough’s ‘The Life of Mammals: Meat Eaters.’

Dad and I doubt that these methods will deter our main pests: rabbits, moles and tiny beetles that turn brassica leaves into doilies. These last were disturbed, apparently, when the land was turned into allotments. Word is that they will ‘settle down’ next year.

‘Yes, but has anyone told the beetles that?’ says Dad when we are round at his sunny flat for coffee.

‘The Council could do with talking to the rabbits as well,’ I say.

Mr MS nibbles at one of the Jacobs Orange Club biscuits that are endemic at Dad’s flat. ‘They could put up one of their strongly worded notices.’


Our fencing of individual crops with chicken wire isn’t working. Having read that rabbits dislike human hair, Dad sprinkles his snow white clippings around the plot, and has also planted certain crops at the back of the plot to form an olfactory barrier. But those methods aren’t helping – our cabbage and pea seedlings vanish overnight.

I’ve got more bad news for him. ‘You know the woman on the next plot to us?’

‘The one that put her shed up on those ridiculous stilts?’ says Dad.

I nod. ‘She’s asking us for £30. A chap is fencing her plot tomorrow and it’ll run down one side of ours.’

I brace myself for a loud noise.

‘THIRTY QUID?’ says Dad. ‘Christ!’

‘Well, she’s paying the chap £240,’ I say, knowing that this information will make things worse. I duck behind my coffee mug for cover.

‘TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY QUID?’ says Dad. Coffee slops over his home made, high gloss coffee table. ‘She must have a screw loose! I could have done it myself for £50.’

Afraid that he’ll refuse to pay and that allotment relationships will be soured, I glance at Mr MS for help but he has immersed himself in his chocolate biscuit. Inspiration strikes. I will pay her myself. Why didn’t I think of that before? ‘Never mind, Dad,’ I say. ‘I’m sure she won’t insist.’

‘Oh, I’ll pay up love, don’t worry about that,’ says Dad. ‘But I can’t get over that money. £240 for an allotment fence? I mean, it’s just not the right idea.’

In part, I agree with him. It does seem wrong to hire professionals to do an allotment job. But if, like our plot neighbour I had no-one to help me, I’d probably do the same.

Anyway, it is too late to stop her spending. But the news goads Dad into action. He drives halfway round Yorkshire in Cheeky Looks until he finds the place that manufactures the chicken wire supplied to B&Q and buys a roll from them. He decides to use thinner posts than most. He rules against a gate: we will just step over the wire. And in the blink of an eye, our fence is up. It is flimsy compared to others, which have posts set in concrete and gates with latches. But it is cheap. ‘Thirty-eight quid all in,’ he says. ‘You can’t beat that, can you?’

I can’t. Though I may be able to equal it in my own way. It is high time the allotments had a female scarecrow. And who cares whether she scares any pests away: the point is, she’ll look fantastic.

Illustrations by Janis Goodman