The book begins with the statement “These stories of allotment life draw on the author’s own experiences as an allotment gardener of over 30 years’ experience”. Immediately upon opening this volume I reckoned I was going to enjoy every word – and I was correct. The little book comprises of two stories, both about allotment life, work and politics. The illustrations in the book (by Rob Jackson) appear on most pages and their simplicity is most endearing.
David first writes of the Gates of Eden allotment and give us a cast list, each member having their own accompanying picture. Being a bit of a gardener myself – and having lived for a while on an agricultural commune, I was totally drawn in by the horticultural references included throughout the book. This form of knowledge is something that can’t be faked. Only someone who has grown their own food and experienced allotment life, could write so well about the horror of perennial weeds like horsetail, the need for compost bins, and the rebellious and (sometimes) grumpy characters. As is the case within many organisations, there are also the inevitable officious rule-enforcers. It’s a great little story with an inspired and very unexpected ending (with accompanying drawing – brilliant!).
The second story, ‘A Life in the Year’ gives us a breakdown of the life of Sally, the allotment site secretary. Clearly pulling together many of his own experiences, David Jackson again indicates how much insider knowledge he has. There’s a believable mix of idealism, officiousness, rule-making, rule breaking, cash flow problems, fire, bees, a dumped car (mobile shed!), a scarecrow competition, and worries about potential housing developments on site land.
It is a brilliantly observed piece. Anyone with experience of committees or councils will recognise how well-observed it is. Determination, and conflicts between strong characters on the allotments, unexpected intruders, and vehicles on site erupt into the life of the growers. Inevitably, people get upset. Sally says ‘This isn’t what allotments are supposed to be about. They’re supposed to be about freedom… We’re not here to dictate to people”.
The drawings really bring David’s stories to life and add an air of subversion. This is a great little book and an easy, be-happy read. If you think you’d like it (and I think you would) then have a look at David’s blog at: http://www.emrystpress.blogspot.co.uk.