Some life-events are universal, and you expect them – job, kids, mortgage, inability to figure out what clothes a man of my age should wear – while others creep up on you.
When they appear, they offer irrefutable proof of the ageing process.
If you’d seen them coming you could’ve argued the toss: “I am not that person,” you could howl, into the void, “and I’m not ready to start caring about my fibre intake yet!”
But when they sneak up unawares, they ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’: “You are this person,” they say, “and this pre-approved application for Saga life insurance confirms that.”
(For the record, I am some years away from that point; Saga is simply the lazy signifier of a joke about old people.)
I am talking about allotments.
And the having, thereof.
Despite never having realised we were on the waiting list, or being aware (or interested, in any way), that there was a waiting list.
It does, at least, explain my wife’s recent fascination with shovel-handed TV gardener Monty Don from BBC’s Gardener’s World, and her furious note-taking in response to his sage advice.
With allotments, I’ve noticed, comes new language: chitting, dead-heading, pinching out.
And more than that, there is an entire phraseology to decode. After listening carefully to my wife for a few weeks, I’ve had some success in cracking it:
Things people with allotments say (and what they mean)
“The plan for next year is chillies here, maybe an asparagus crop, some squash, a row of lettuces there, definitely lots of spuds, we’re hoping to be semi-sustainable.”
(We should be alright for courgettes next year.)
“I’m really comfortable with my kids just getting mucky and stuck in – it builds a resistance to germs.”
(I’m fairly sure next door’s dog has shit in my allotment.)
“The kids love helping out on the allotment.”
(I’m paying the kids to help out on the allotment.)
“The dream is to have a lovely regular little crop – just something to sell in the community, door to door.”
(I’m thinking about growing weed.)
So far, apart from a massive increase in my annual pumpkin consumption (from none, to quite a lot, all of a sudden), my life hasn’t changed significantly following the insertion of an allotment into it.
I must admit, I thought I was probably busy enough beforehand.
I am discovering that the appropriate clothing for a man of my age (and allotment renting status) is a pair of hardwearing cords, wellies, and a scruffy woolly jumper.
In the style of Monty Don.
I used to play in a band in Manchester. For a while, I was hell-bent on smashing the system. Finding yourself to be part of the allotment scene, even by marriage, is the actual opposite of that.
I’m not sure how this happened.