Recently, I had a rather moving conversation with a bloke from a nearby plot.
He must be well into his eighties, and he gave me a great tip to keep pigeons away from new plants. They’re a pain at the Burnham plots and especially love the spring cabbage. However much I net, they always seem to find a way to have a nibble of the leaves.
I always know when this particular plotholder is arriving, as I can hear his mobility scooter. I’m often head down, weeding or sowing or something, and I’ll hear the beep beep beep as the gentleman reverses the vehicle next to his shed.
I know he’s old, not just by his mobility scooter, but from when I did work experience at the local boatyard as a schoolkid. Bernard is his name. He doesn’t recognize me, but I do him. That’s 15 years ago, and Bernard doesn’t look much older. Just a little slower.
Back then Bernard smoked like a chimney, and lighting up a ciggie is normally the first thing he does when he turns up at his plot. He then pulls up a plastic chair, sits down, and starts to work the allotment. This is normally digging, but he’s also rigged up a hosepipe system so he can sit on the chair and water. At first, watching him made me feel really sad at the sight of this really old guy struggling, but then I made the effort to talk to him.
Allotmenteering is Better Than Watching TV
On closer inspection, the first thing I noticed was that Bernard’s plot is immaculate. The ground is perfectly dug over, and his broad beans and cabbages are looking green and healthy. As I spoke to him he smiled and told me he’d had a plot at the Burnham allotments since he was 15. He comes down every day because he’d ‘…rather be out here than sat indoors watching the tele,’ and suddenly I stopped feeling pity, and felt inspired instead.
Bernard’s pigeon tip?
I watched him sitting in the chair, putting sticks in the ground and then tieing strong along the top, from which he hung CDs down on more string. I asked what this did, and he told me because the shiny discs were just a few inches from the plant, the birds keep well away. Much better than my plastic milk bottles on bamboo canes attempt, and I shall be rooting around my crap CDs this weekend.
(Yes, the picture is Bernard’s plot. That super tilth was made by hand digging with a spade, sat on a chair. The broad beans look pretty darn good, too.)
Keep at it Bernard, you’re an inspiration.