Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't bust a glut

Settle down, little ones, and hark to a lovely story. Once upon a time there was a brave but somewhat dimwitted lad called Jack, who swapped the family cow for a bag of magic beans (to the great disappointment of his mum), and sowed them, and grew a mighty beanstalk. At the top of the beanstalk lived a rich giant...
What do you mean you’ve heard it before? And what do you mean the panto season doesn’t start for at least another four months? This is serious stuff, as long as we don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Because what we’re talking about here is glut of vegetables, very much à la Jack up a Gum Tree. Or maybe even several gluts. What’s the collective noun for a glut? We already have a flock of seagulls, a parliament of owls, a piteousness of doves (look it up if you don’t believe it). Logically and self-referentially, it ought to be a glut of gluts.
Regular readers will already have been astounded by the report of the 25ft courgettes in Mrs D’s allotment, an effusion of journalistic licence which is already the subject of close scrutiny by the Press Complaints Commission. The effusion, not the allotment.
And every day it gets better. Or worse, depending on your point of view. Because we now have runner beans coming out of our ears, potatoes tumbling around us every time we open the airing cupboard, onions making the mattresses all lumpy, mange-touts that aren’t getting manged. And the Attack of the Ten-Ton Pumpkins is becoming more of a reality by the day.
We’ve even heard of cases where friends have visited others’ houses and not been allowed to leave without taking at least a bushel of beetroot with them. At gunpoint.
This grow-your-own malarkey is all well and good. You commune with nature, you spend the kids’ inheritance on seeds, some of them grow, you save loads of money on greengrocers’ bills. But why does it all have to come to fruition at once?
Why can’t they use some of this gene-splicing technology that everyone’s on about’s all the rage these days to give a controlled flow of organic abundance throughout the year, rather than concentrated into a six-week period between the middle of August and the end of September?
The timing’s pretty damned inconvenient when you come to think about it, what with the kids going back to school and the ongoing redecoration programme. (On which subject, let’s not get into who has locked themselves into the bathroom how many times this week. It will only end in acrimony.)
If you still don’t recognise the extent of the horticultural glut problem, just turn back to page 22: it’s direct action time.
Last Saturday, The Bear pub on Wellsway is held the Bear Flat Glut, which as well as having a certain gloopy-sounding poetry to its name was also a sort of vegetable Swap Shop at which those with a copiousness of carrots could offload them in exchange for someone else’s munificence of marrows.
What a commendable idea. Next time they have one, if we could swap a couple of our overflowing carrier bags of runner beans for any spare beer that the pub might have lying around, then at least one of us would go home happy.
Hope, like carrots, springs eternal...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

True Brit

So that’s it then. You scrimp, save and slave for 50 weeks of the year for a holiday, and before you know it, it’s all over.
Nothing left to show for it but fading memories, peeling shins (the only part of your body to have got much exposure to the elements over the last two weeks) and half an inch of sand in the boot of the car.
Before the memories fade completely, though, it’s perhaps worth noting for the record that credit-holidays in the UK can indeed be just as much fun as full-on Euro-funded beach-ball-extravaganzas – as long as you keep your upper lip stiff and your sturdy waterproof top and trousers within arm’s reach.
And even if the weather really does turn offensive, every British holiday resort worth its salt has its own swimming pool or leisure centre, and in some, the queues of prospective paddlers sheltering from the rain may only stretch a mere two or three times round the building.
What’s more, many of said resorts also offer their own hi-tech white-knuckle thrill rides and interactive entertainment zones: normally in the shape of a squeaky narrow-gauge steam railway and a dilapidated crazy golf course.
Ah, crazy golf: the saviour of many a holidaymaking parent with bored children in tow and a few pounds in their pocket.
Everyone gets a differently coloured golf ball, forestalling arguments about whose went furthest but starting them about who gets which.
Not that such arguments will be anything but academic. Because every time you whack yours with your (obligatorily bent) golfing stick, it bounces back off the windmill, tunnel, or garden gnome you’re supposed to be using your mad golfing skillz to negotiate. And hits you smack in the chops.
Even if you do somehow manage to score (20 on a par 3 if you’re lucky) you then have the delightful task of fishing for your ball in the cup, which already contains either yesterday’s rainwater or the previous players’ dog-ends.
And wherever you play, it’s always nagging in the back of your mind that the course in Victoria Park is the best in the world (official), and has a special chute to return balls to the kiosk when you finish.
No matter. On days of at least partial sunshine you can get some free entertainment by jumping in the sea. Remembering first to lever yourself into a wet suit to fend off hypothermia for the five minutes it takes you to realise that you’re never going to be any good at bodyboarding, let alone proper surfing. Whatever it was the Beach Boys were singing about, it didn’t happen in Frinton-on-Sea.
And what’s changed when you get back home? Well, there are some subtle differences. All those jobs that needed to be done before you left for two weeks of R&R have got slightly more pressing, especially as Mrs D has announced her intention to repaint the upstairs bathroom.
(Hope she doesn’t get locked in like a certain columnist did when he worked his decorative magic on the downstairs loo.)
And sticking with Mrs D for a moment longer, in her absence the courgettes have grown and grown, in some cases reaching lengths of 25 feet (subs please check, this sounds a bit too long). Before us stretches an autumn of soup...