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Allotments

By Roger Findlay, Gerogery West

When I was a boy, growing up in England, my father leased an Allotment. The first one was beneath a railway embankment with an old wooden shed but he later moved to another that was closer to our terraced house and to his mate who was also a keen gardener. Both allotments were approximately 30 x 20 metres and part of a group of six. At that time there was a waiting list for allotments and one only became available when a tenant became too old or died. The leasing fee was minimal; probably the equivalent of $200 a year.

My dad never owned a car but he did have a cloth cap which was always the trade mark of the working class and an allotment man! Every Sunday morning he could be seen walking the pavements and crossing the roads on his way to the allotment. He would often whistle a tune or light a pipe of Ogden’s rough cut tobacco. Even with his turned-up collar to the wind, he was a happy man. He was going gardening!

His mate, Jim, would be there already. Before they started digging or hoeing they would have a drink of hot tea poured from a Thermos flask with milk added from an old medicine bottle.

After discussing the football results from the previous day they would get busy planting, pruning or fertilising. They would also set me tasks which normally entailed weeding or lighting a bonfire of clippings. I loved exploring and searching for berries, bird nests, spiders and earth worms. I always went home a mucky kid and I’m forever grateful to my father for this experience.

Norman, my father, loved growing flowers. His dahlia and chrysanthemums were his pride and joy. Before leaving for home, he would cut four bunches and we would carry two each. He was a generous man and would give three to friends or neighbours.

Jim preferred to grow vegetables: potatoes, beans, kohlrabi, beetroot and cabbages too big to carry. Norman would give him a bunch of flowers to take home to his wife, Mable, and he would give Norman a large bag of fruit and vegetables for Joan.

Joan was at home preparing the Sunday roast and, as we got close, we could smell a delicious treat that would be the reward for the morning of hard work at the allotment.

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