Just as well that I took time off this Easter to plant things on my allotment, because there was an official Inspection on Sunday afternoon, shock horror! Bad marks get you a notice to quit. My patch had just enough signs of being tended to be acceptable: phew. My neighbour Ron generously shared a bottle of cider, quaffed from enamel mugs in the late afternoon sunshine - very nice too.
The friendship, gentle humour and community spirit among allotment gardeners has to be experienced to be properly appreciated.
Which is one reason why I am saddened, angered and bewildered by the Olympic Games quangos' efforts to evict all the tenants from the 80 allotments at the Manor Garden site in the Lea Valley, East London (featured in the Observer on 9th April; see www.lifeisland.org to read more). I may be wrong, but I thought the whole point of the Olympic project was urban regeneration. As far as I am concerned the Manor Garden is the only place in the area that doesn't need regenerating: it is already regenerated. An oasis of peace, growth, beneficial activity and community - what more could anyone ask?
The other reason for my sadness and concern is that allotments are a refuge where beleaguered wildlife can flourish. We won't know what we've got till it's gone, as the song goes.
I am also cross because taking the land is a breach of the trust created by the benefactor who originally bequeathed the land for use as gardens by locals, over a century ago.
80 allotments are quite a lot of land, and I am mystified why it should all be needed for a pedestrian walkway, as the Olympic quangos claim. That must be a heck of a lot of pedestrians! In fact, I don't believe it. As the whole Olympic circus will be a nine days' wonder, I would have thought that a temporary raised walkway, like the ones that cross the railway lines at stations, would be perfectly adequate; and I'm sure the allotment holders would be pleased to grant a temporary licence across their gardens for the purpose. They could provide local interest, and perhaps wave to passers-by. They might even promise to be tidy! So everyone could be happy.
Unless, of course, the hidden agenda is to get rid of those tiresome little people with their quaint ways and ramshackle garden sheds so that all evidence of real local life as it is lived are removed and nothing mars the razmatazz and glitz that will be put on for the international media?
Seb, Ken and the rest of you, you clearly can't do arithmetic but I hope you can read this. I am very, very annoyed.