Monday, 18 February 2008

In Other News

Having just returned from a weekend with the folks I thought I'd let you know what other things have been donated/stolen/built-from-blood-and-steel-and-tears-and-fire/bought so here goes:

- Papa has made some delightful vegetable-name signs to go in the plots. I'm well chuffed with these.
- He's also built a fab old fashioned tool carrying box.
- My darling sister has donated a huge sack of chicken manure.
- My good friend K met me at the stables where she teaches the horse-riding and let me walk away with four giant sacks of super-well-rotted horse manure. This stuff is great!
- Mater & Pater have kindly donated a rosemary bush (which will help protect the carrots) and some chive plants.
- Herbert has scouted out three more bags of hardcore for the shed base.
- My boss is offering up some breeze-blocks, bags of sand and paving slabs.
- Father also gave me a great long-handled three prong "grubber" (which as a child I was fascinated with and, rather sensibly, kept well away from)

I've also picked up the last of my tools from my sisters place and am all ready for some hard graft this weekend. I really want to get the shed base finished so when we get STITCHED UP AGAIN on freecycle we'll be able to gaze longingly at the spot where the shed should be. Seriously, that's four times we've been done out of stuff on freecycle for no apparent reason (two poly-tunnels and two sheds). I don't know what the deal is. I'm over it. Whatever.

I'd also like to thank Griff for the wonderful photographs and all of the hard work. The meandering pathway is perfect and you're welcome anytime. Likewise Lisa Woodmouse. The best friend those worms ever had. Top weeding!

Also, nice to see Herbert's words. Wordberts. Yes, that's what they are. Nice to have the wordberts at long last.

And finally some photographs that didn't make it into the last post. A bit like a blooper reel. And yes, you can read the captions in the style of Dennis Norden on 'It'll Be Alright On The Allotment Site Vol' 18'.

I become a tramp. Like properly.

Gavana Trump tries to levitate a wheelbarrow using only the power of his mind.

Grublet looks like she's contemplating the best way to defeat the Glastonbury security fence. And if the Glastonbury security fence is only that big then either they've misjudged their whole operation or she is a giant. You decide.

Seriously though, you've come onsite, flouted the strict khaki & beige dress-code and worn "boots" like these!!!

Instead of these. I'm probably just jealous.

Man urinates into van (possibly his own). And he was parked like 20ft away from the public toilets as well.

The view from my flat at the end of the day.

Thank you and goodnight.

honkjazz - The Allotment! - Part 7

(names have been changed to protect the innocent - although photographs will be posted and I'm also quite happy to supply addresses, character descriptions and any other information that may be helpful to prospective hitmen/bounty hunters)

Thought I'd start this post with a heart-warming photograph.

Saturday 9th, February, 2008
I leave Gavbot sleeping off last nights ale and head to Herbert's house. I have a terrible hangover but I'm quite confident that the schlepping of heavy things will knock some sense into me (I am right). Herbert and I pick up some free pallets and bags of hardcore and then drive on into Exeter to grab some large framed windows thus completing our first completely satisfactory freecycle transaction. And there ends Herbert's involvement in this weekends work. I feel sorry for the poor chap because he desperately wants to work on the plot but the back says no. Still, as soon as he's better I'll hand over the fork and trowel and open up a deckchair and a beer (not in that order). Don't worry Herbert, there's plenty of weeds to go around.
By the time I get back to the plot it's mid-day and Gavulon200 meets me there to help schlep the stuff up the hill. Once that's all done we go and eat a delicious bacon roll in town before heading back to work
Che' Gavana gets stuck right in and I'm amazed because I've never seen him wearing Wellington boots before. There are lots of people I've never seen in Wellington boots. Malcolm X, Wendy James from Transvision Vamp, Sir John Gielgud, Dennis Law. The list is endless. (ending list now)

Here he is showing me what it would be like if his beard and moustache turned into living plant roots that flailed about his face as they search the air for signs of moisture.

So as G-Unit put down a little pathway I finished off the fence-post repairs and raked away all of the dead, loose weeds from the plot which showed the contours of the land in a much clearer light. We also lashed together some pallets to make a compost bin. This will later be heavily criticized by Old Bill forcing me to change the design in the wake of his blinding common sense .
I decided to get some beds started so we marked some out, each one about 5ft x 9ft. It was wonderful to finally get stuck in and start pulling out the endless couch-grass roots. I know it's going to be a slog but this was a real mental victory for me, just walking on-site and seeing squares of soil rather than a weed-covered scratch of scrub has lifted my spirits enormously. We also raised one of the sinks and planted the garlic (the first thing in!!!).

Our days work done we collected Little Snip from the train station and then went and had a lovely load of ale and some pub foods.

Sunday 17th February, 2008

I leave Gunter and Heycorn to sleep off the previous nights ale and make an early start tidying up the plot and chatting to Old Bill. He points out the design flaw in the compost bin (compost will catch onto the horizontal slats reducing the rotting-downyness apparently) and I can see his logic.

He makes up for being a smartypants by offering us some thick wire to lash the pallets together in place of our temporary string arrangment and it's gladly accepted (I will find this wire placed on the top of the compost heap the next time I visit, bless him).
By the time Griffnock and Kazoo join me I'm just about to take a lovely cup of tea. And it's made 1000% better by the bacon sandwich that they bring for me. Aces!
We get stuck into the weeds with great gusto and everyone has a wonderful time. Here is Little Dipper with a wondrous beastie.

Weeding and digging and digging and weeding. Here I am either pointing out something really interesting or screaming at Cockleshell because she's not working hard enough.

The last job I did was to plant the six raspberry canes and put a picket fence around them. I think it looks lovely with the little broken-brick wall that I did make in the morning behind it .

We were also given some potted gooseberry plants by Bob & John. We hadn't planned to grow any fruit but I'm quite pleased about it now. I think it will be a lovely addition.
So loads of jobs got done, we had some pub action, watched 'Grow Your Own' (G's verdict - Doin' The Schmaltz Waltz!) and had a lovely time out of doors.

What more can you wish for?

Monday, 11 February 2008

honkjazz - The Allotment! - Part 6

Well Brazil ole buddy ole pal you've made a hell of a start in this here blog. Here's to the Honkjazz Musical Allotment. hurrah!!!

In a land far far away from the allotment (about 10 miles actually) I can confirm that the the Limes Court scavenger hunt is well under way. We have secured the following:
- Large bag of gravel
- One door with no glass
- One door with glass
- Some bricks
- Some wood (when they decide what they want and what they want to try and re use)

You see I (Herbert) live next door to a renevation project with my better (only slightly) other half. Well that is to be quite liberal with the truth (it's been the same for years) ("I love the way that the bit about it being like that for years could either apply to the building site next door or to your other half being better than you." - BB). However this has proven in the last few days to be a blessing following a nice chat on Friday that revealed there is a lot of worthy material that is going to the first person clever enough (stupid?) to take it away.
There are definite benefits to this situation not withstanding the banging from next door which is giving me a serious headache. 1) There is going to be a lot of this material 2) We've got ages to move it!

On a different note i do have some input regarding the following:
Freecycle - Some nice people (a whole lot of shitbull from others)
Old Bill - I've only spoken to him once but it made me put down the shovel and pick up a fork
Friends getting involved - FANTASTIC AND NO MISTAKE!

As indicated my involvement at base camp honkjazz has been limited due to a mystery illness that doctors around the world are defying scientific boundaries to understand (a bad back) so i'm doing my level best to offer any support from afar.
Well BB i look forward to the new photos. I'm off to look at some bits of wood i can't lift.

honkjazz - The Allotment! - Part 5

Loads and loads and loads to tell. Including:

- freecycle kicks us in the ass again!
- Old Bill tells me that everything I've ever done ever is wrong!
- More free gifts from our lovely neighbors!
- Wonderful friends surprise with enthusiastic display of manual labor!
- Bonfires are still great!
- Things are put into the ground that might end up tasty!
- Heavy things are schlepped!
- I make friends with a mushroom-headed hippy!

Just waiting for the photies to be sent over by the wonderful gardener and documentalist Gavin.
I just bet you can't wait? Right?

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

honkjazz - The Allotment! Part 4

Horse-crap, Movies and No-Good Do-Gooders.

Picked up eight bags of horse manure and made a good friend and helpful ally this morning. After finding this link (scroll down a bit and see the list of locations on the right) on this website I discovered a stable yard just a couple of miles away from the honkjazz Garden Of Delights (Tm). So I called them up and spoke to the very lovely Wendy who invited me to wander down and help myself. I will admit to being a tad disappointed by the freshness of the manure on offer (1 week old perhaps?) but still, it's free and it'll make the start of a beautiful compost heap that will be ripe for the beds next year so I can't complain.
Never look a gift horses arse in the mouth? No. That's wrong. Never look a gift-horse in the ass? Never gift a horses ass a mouth?
What the hell is a gift-horse anyway?

(Wanted a photo of a horse doing a poo but I couldn't find one. And folks, if you're going to do a google image search on "sh*tting horse" please, please, please make sure your google safety filters are set to MAXIMUM! Don't say I didn't tell you......)

Acting on a hunch I asked Wendy if she knew anyone who was interested in puzzle magazines, especially Sudoku puzzles.
"Well, yes. Me.", she replied with caution.
"In that case, Wendy my love, it's your lucky day!"
With a twinkle in my eye and a swagger to my step I produced a box of the puzzle magazines that my employers publish.

"Ere' you go darlin, 'ave these for yerself.", I said, all traces of
west country burr dropping from my accent quicker than me plates of meat'll carry me down the rub a dub for a pint of Nelson *. My son. etc.
(note - have you ever tried to swagger whilst wearing boots caked in horse crap? Not easy, my friend, not easy at all.)

* Nelson Mandela - Stella (I know, it's astonishing, isn't it?)

They were only old back issues but I'd packed them on a hunch which proved to be correct. As Wendy's eyes lit up she promised to call the farmer who takes the bulk of their horse manure away and said there'd be no problem in helping myself to the really stanky stuff from his mountainous dung-heap.
Result. That'll go straight into the potato beds we dig out this weekend.
Talking of this weekend, we'll be having our first guests to the plot. Some friends are coming down from Bristol to stay despite the repeated warnings of manual labor. And on Sunday even more friends are coming over to lend a hand and deliver some more well rotted horse muck so we're expecting a good amount of progress to be made.
Which is nice.

What the hell is up with Freecycle? I understand the concept, agree completely with its "one man's rubbish is another man's treasure" ethos and participate eagerly in the whole process. But am I missing something here? Twice now have we been gazumped on Freecycle.
The first time was over a poly-tunnel. It was only a 20 minute drive away and we thought that it would make an excellent addition to the site. Emails were traded with the owner who I shall name and shame as the asshat PAUL SHARMAN OF KILLERTON and he even gave us his address to collect from. Then an email is received saying "sorry the poly-tunnel is taken". What? What? I wrote back to say "Woah there, I thought we had a deal, we're all set to collect in a couple of days. What's happened?" and he replied by saying "I'm freecycling it, not selling it. I can give the tunnel to whoever (sic) I want!". He even rubbed salt into the wound by sending another e-mail that simply stated "I said yes to a lady from Lympstone" which I think sounds like the start of a dirty limerick.
The second time was over a shed and you can imagine how keen Herbert and I were to get that. After e-mailing the woman and saying "yes please, let me know when we can come and see it" I received a mail two days later saying "sorry the shed has been taken". Yes, BY US!!!!!

So what exactly is happening here? Are we going about this the wrong way? Or are we just dealing with meanies who like to show that they are The Boss (The Asshat) and no-one else can tell them what to do? I feel a little bit strange having a go at people who have the good grace to use freecycle anyway but at the end of the day it's just not cricket.

Movie About Allotments Review 1 - 'Grow Your Own'
(I'd imagine there won't be too many other films that make this list. Just saying, like.)

Released: 2007
Director: Richard Laxton
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce & Carl Hunter
Starring: Benedict Wong, Philip Jackson, Eddie Marsan, Diveen Henry

Set on an allotment site in Liverpool, Grow Your Own follows the fate of a group of immigrants who are granted allotments on the Blacktree Road plot as a way of helping them deal with the mental scars of war, separation and exile. Sounds like a right barrel of laughs.
Well actually it is.

The main story follows Kung Sang (Benedict Wong, right) as he tries to recover from the terrible trauma of his family's exile from China. His two young children bravely shoulder the burden of the allotment and their everyday lives as their catatonic father stumbles on in silent apathy. Slowly, the process of working the land and the relationships he builds with some of the other plot-holders start to take effect.
The quirks and foibles of the British character are brought to life by a brilliant set of actors and the stereotypes so common amongst the allotments, womens institute meetings and lawn bowls societies are poked and prodded with loving respect. The cast is a showcase of stellar British acting talent. Nearly all of them are "oh, it's that bloke, you know the one, what's his name? He was in that thing, oh, you know..." and include Omid Djalili, Olivia Coleman and Roland Manookian. No idea? Image search their names and you'll see what I mean.

They are a beautiful collection of British oddballs, from the belligerent Kenny (Alan Williams, far left with Pearce Quigley and John Henshaw), a grumpy maverick who refuses to bow down to the letter of the allotment law imposed by site chairman Big John (Philip Jackson), a retired copper who tries to enforce the tightest of regimes in an attempt to oust the "influx" with red-tape and regulation, to the chairman's brow-beaten son Little John (Eddie Marsan, below) and his endearing attempts to woo
Miriam (Diveen Henry), a Zimbabwean single mother.

All of these sub-plots make a wonderful background to the main storyline and provide just enough of a glimpse into the character's lives to keep you interested. The heavyweight issues of eco-culture, immigration (and the old school British attitudes that greet it), mourning and mental trauma are filtered through the setting of the allotment beautifully and the film never seems to preach at the audience, rather letting the human relationships that form between the most unlikely of friends pass on the message. Admittedly the story-lines are fairly obvious from the start but they still manage to amuse and entice as the community aspect of the allotment draws you in and makes you care.

Visually the set is stunning and looks so natural and lived in that I couldn't believe it was anything but a real allotment (make sure to watch the DVD bonus documentary charting it's creation). The cinematography is simple and effective, showing the nooks and corners of the gardens that are such a creative and important part of allotment culture.
Some critics have spoken against the slow pace, especially concerning Wong's almost silent turn but I think that the various story-lines and character arcs keep the whole film balanced beautifully and Wong portrays his character with a frailty and depth that amazes. Some of his scenes with the other gardeners are just brilliant and I really never thought that the sight of two men painting a shed could bring a tear to my eye.
Hardcore allotmenteers may be disappointed by the lack of gardening knowledge displayed here but then there are plenty of television programs for that sort of thing, right?
Overall, this film has charm, comedy, romance and drama. All are dealt with in a way that brings a lot of smiles to the face and reinforces the British film industry's ability to present the quirks and follies of this strange country in a touching and interesting way.
Top marks/best in show.

'Grow You Own' can be bought here and you'll find a lovely little official website here.
Brazil Banks

Monday, 4 February 2008

honkjazz The Allotment! Part 3

Friday 1st February, 2008
Today is my day off. The time is 8:20am. The weather is freezing cold, damp and depressing. Where should I be?

a) In bed, buried under duvet and quilt, protected against the elements and dreaming lovely dreams as I catch up on some well needed rest.
b) Stood on our allotment trying to get a bonfire going out of old German sudoku magazines, dead couch grass and 2004/2005 Chelsea FC commemorative Premiership title winner posters.

I think we all know the answer to that one.
It's bed, alright? I should be in bed.
So I'm cursing at the incinerator, cursing at the morning damp and, most importantly, I'm cursing at Frank Lampard's stupid face (and seriously, I can't even think of a better use for two boxes of Chelsea posters).
8:30am, I ask you!
Sadly I didn't have a camera with me to record this exciting event but it looked something like this...

Yeah, and then I was all like.........

Yeah, and then these fire chicks came along and were all dancing around and twirling fire sticks and we had an awesome fire party.

I think we're probably dating now so pretty soon we'll be hanging out and going bowling and stuff.

All of the above did actually happen (didn't happen at all).

It was probably a bit more like this.

OK - Worst. Post. Ever.
So I had a bonfire and then Herbert wandered up at about 10am. After staring at the fire and prodding it with sticks and that we drove down to Totnes to pick up some hardcore/rubble from a Freecycler. Sadly it turned out to be several bin-bags full of mostly rubbish with the odd bag of bricks in the mix (hee!). So we basically acted as free bin-men. As I schlepped breeze blocks, bricks and bags of breeze-blocks and bricks back and forth in the freezing wind and sleet, Herbert had to stand around and make excruciating small talk with the lady because he can't do much lifting at the moment. They talked about all sorts of fascinating things from her guinea pigs to her children to their patio and I don't even know what the hell else! I was too busy schlepping the muddy rubble around in the bloody freezing cold rain!.

So my question for you is this - who had the worse deal?

And that was that. We'll be back there this weekend to construct some compost bins, finish off the fence repairs, spread some rubble onto the shed base and mark out the plots.
And if there are any saucy fire chicks (not too saucy) that want to help out with the next bonfire you can contact us through the myspace page. I'd imagine it will be on Sunday so you can just, like, let us know if you need any special fire-dance stuff like mats or buckets of water or anything and that'll be cool. And awesome.
Thank you.
Brazil Banks