Another day, another barbecue

This one nearly didn’t happen.

With the weather forecast apparently set fair for the foreseeable future, and having missed the last barbecue because of scout camp, I was keen not to miss another opportunity.

However, we (I say we, I haven’t actually touched it, so it’s very much a collective ‘we’) are in the process of dismantling the shed (the one that Barney set fire to last year – see ‘Barney the Arsonist’) in readiness for its replacement, which means there is quite a lot of dismantled shed lying about the place. It was therefore felt by some that there would not be the room to hold a barbecue. Somewhat miffed, but undaunted, I proposed a picnic instead. This was deemed acceptable and a general invite was issued, to which no one responded.

By Saturday, therefore, my best laid plans were looking somewhat tattered as I made my way down to the allotment. Having picked some blackcurrants and done a bit of weeding I sat down for tea, at which point Barney enquired about the picnic plans. ‘It seems that no one wants to go on a picnic’, I replied. ‘So why don’t we have a barbecue?’ said Andrew. A quick look at the patio led to the conclusion that there was indeed room to hold one safely and so it was determined that a barbecue would go ahead on Sunday at 4. ??!!

Freezers were consequently raided, Halloumi dragged from the back of the fridge (keeps forever), baking done and between us we cobbled together a decent repast by Sunday afternoon (though Andrew and Kirsty left their Halloumi behind).

The barbecue was easily lit thanks to the various slivers and chunks of deconstructed shed that were lying about, which made excellent kindling. I am now slightly more inclined to believe Barney’s story about the random spark setting fire to it last year (not 100% but…).

During the course of the next few hours the usual ragbag of bizarre and irrelevant subjects was pored over. Killing Eve (again), the teaching of grammar (like, what even is the present perfect tense?), dogs (though I promised Barney not to write that one up in any depth) and whether Kirsty is my twin or Sam’s twin or some kind of hybrid of both (no, me either).

The Glastonbury festival, concluding even as we spoke, cropped up, with Barney turning out to be the only one amongst us who had ever been, though he was somewhat hazy about which year it was and who was playing for some reason. Further reflection led to the conclusion that it was 1987, enabling Kirsty to download the list of performers for that year and read them out so Barney could say, ‘really?…no, don’t remember them….how did I miss them?….Really?’ He claims to definitely remember meeting Robyn Hitchcock, who the rest of us initially assumed was a friend of his from University or something but who further searching revealed to be a bona fide musician who was on the bill, so who knows, maybe Barney really was there.

In any event, by the end of this I had somehow acquired a necklace which Kirsty deemed necessary to complete my festival outfit. Admittedly I had shorts on, but no wellies and no Madchester 1990 flowerpot hat, so I’m not quite sure why she thought I was wearing a festival outfit at all, but there’s no arguing with some people. I am now tasked to retain said necklace and wear it at the scout Jamboree in Vienna in 2020 into the bargain. At some point I might ask why.


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Has Anyone Tried Gary?

We woke up this morning and thought “What a great day for a BBQ.”  It was raining and it was extremely blustery.

“It was always going to do this today,” conceded Andrew.

As usual, the baked goods from the Softley house were “last-minute-warm”, but at least we had the batteries for “Bop It”.  At 3.45pm we left, armed with all the accoutrements for a BBQ, including an avocado: The Vegan “Grey Area”. We also had the cooking utensils but, as it turned out, not the skewers for the Souvlaki.  How Remiss?

Moments away from the allotments, I saw Sam.  So I called “Sam”.  She turned around and waved but didn’t wait for me.  That hurt.

She was, however, waiting at the gate and she told me that Steve had been her personal weather forecaster:  “It’s sunny in Parbold right now – you should be ok…”  We guessed he was on lock-down in the scout camp.

Whilst Andrew returned to the house to get the aforementioned skewers, Barney and Sam went to check out the BBQ (Steve being noticeable by his absence).  Barney and Sam went to cast their “expert” eyes over the state of the coals and Barney declared “Thunderbirds are Go.” But Sam and Linda decided that the coals needed longer so thankfully no one interfered with the cooking of the food and therefore didn’t ruin everything.

It was windy.  Plates were weighed down with anything heavy and Kirsty’s suggestion of paper plate usage was laughed out of town.  Andrew fashioned a useful holder comprising a plastic wine container inside a mug – it became the way forward.  Several things blew over which made Sam apoplectic with puerile laughter.  It was to do with the tzatziki.

There was a plethora of lovely things: mini soda breads, sausages, Linda’s pork skewers with her finest peanut sauce, kebabs of all kinds and a mix of sauces and dips.  And Halloumi – Sam nearly panicked when she thought there wasn’t any.

As always, thoughts turned to the intellectual: who would be the best PM – Boris or Michael (neither, we decided).  What was the best series to watch?  Game of Thrones?  Killing Eve?  Line of Duty?  Years and Years?  Some weird comedy that Sam had watched about vampires.  People covered their ears at different times as each series was mentioned to ensure there were no spoilers (there were no spoilers).  

Then we considered the “thinking” that modern teenagers do.  Did we think that the thinking that they think they are thinking is the thinking that we recognise as thinking or is a different type of thinking?  We thought that it was “different” not “better”.

Conversation then turned to bomb making and drugs and Polenta.  Sam doesn’t like Polenta.  Linda asked “Has anyone tried Gary?”  We went through our mental lists and none of us had.  We tried to imagine a baby called Gary and then we had a “Bop It” contest.  Barney won.

As we tidied up, the men talked about sheds and things and we (the ladies) discussed camels and what they eat and whether there is any reason why we don’t drink horse milk.  Bernie couldn’t remember the taste (or the point) of camel milk and my phone told me that they eat grass but “in the desert, food is scarce”.  We knew that fact.

Cups of tea were served and Linda wondered if Barney would notice that his tea had “gone missing”.  Linda touched a Hobnob, which meant she had to eat it.

We all walked home.

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AGM 2019

After a prolonged delay, as we searched in vain for a mutually convenient date, we finally managed to hold the Community Allotment AGM on 11 May and thus restore ourselves to constitutionality. On the upside, it was nice to be able to sit in the scout hut with the door open letting in fresh air rather than in a scarf and woolly hat.

Once the kettle had been boiled and tea procured we moved on to business. The minutes were quickly approved (who can remember what we agreed to do a year ago?!) so we headed swiftly to finance where it was revealed that, based on the Micawber principle (see last year’s AGM) the consequence of the last year is misery. The bank balance is lower than at the same point last year, mainly thanks to the glorious summer which reduced crops of key jam-making fruits such as Loganberries to a pitiful, shriveled remnant of their former selves. In addition there were outgoings such as buying a new incinerator (without which Barney would never have been able to set fire to the shed, so money well spent there). In any event, we’re still solvent.

The next item on the agenda was the chair’s report. This involves a summary of the weather last year, and of what grew well and badly, a passing note on the great shed conflagration and mention that there was still a lot of work to do on the fedge as well in lowering some of the raised beds which are rather full. On the upside, it was also noted that socially in 2018 we managed one tea party, four barbecues, mulled wine and mince pies in the polytunnel and a Christmas meal. We also had a couple of schools visits which went well (i.e. kids enjoyed themselves, no one got stung by a bee or put a fork through their foot).

Discussion following the report noted that there had been quite a few new volunteers over the last 12 months, which is great news. Unfortunately for me, some of this volunteering was attributed to the blog, which means I’m going to have to keep writing it (Sam, who took the minutes, has summed up this discussion as follows: “Steven’s blog is ok, I suppose”).

The two main issues that came up for discussion in the remainder of the meeting were the ongoing saga of the deer, who continue to graze their way through a range of our crops, and the reconstruction of the shed, which currently has the bottom half of one of the corner posts missing and appears to be being held up by either will power or a spell of levitation.

With regard to the former, given that a fence for the whole allotment and shooting appear to be out of the equation, we have agreed to try and find ways of building barriers around the most vulnerable plants, whether by netting or fencing. A book was helpfully brought along showing how one can make fences and gates out of coppiced hazel and the like. It’s going to be like one of those TV programmes where they get people to recreate the experience of living and working in the 18th century, just so you can thank your stars you live in the twenty-first century.

The shed is a rather more challenging proposition, given that there isn’t enough money to buy what is required to build it. Task number one is to source the flags for the base. We have about half of what we require and we agreed a set of plans to acquire the others, mainly of the beg, borrow or steal variety, though we are hoping that the begging will be all that’s required. It was also noted that while we have an assorted collection of timber we will need some more. June is the allotted time period for shed building, so I guess we had better crack on.

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