VALE ROAD ALLOTMENT SPOTLIGHT
AN INTERESTING STORY ON WELL TRAVELLED KEVIN LAUE COMMITTEE MEMBER PLOTS 9 AND 4
My mother taught me to grow vegetables. I grew up in South Africa. It was easy to grow things. I don’t remember there being droughts. At Christmas time we would go to visit my granny in another province for three weeks and I would be astonished to come back to see how big my radish, lettuce and beetroot had grown in the interim – it was hard to believe, some sort of magic, because when I watched them each day the process was much slower.
I came to England in 1975, and for reasons too complicated to explain ended up living in Orkney in Scotland for a year. The wind there is notorious, so I built a wall around a patch of ground using big slate sheets off the roof of a ruined homestead to protect my veggies. There is a dish which the Orcadians call clapshot which is a mixed mash of tatties and neaps – potatoes and turnips – which people eat with haggis, so I grew potatoes and turnips of course. I never did learn to grow haggis. I also grew radish.
Then I moved to London and lived in Clapham for several years, ending up on the fifth floor of a block of flats. We had an unofficial balcony, which was just a concrete ledge accessed through the bedroom window. I found an old zinc bathtub which I filled with soil and put on the ledge, and grew radish. I like growing radish.
After a while my wife Anna and I went to live in Zimbabwe for twenty years. Again it was easy to grow things, including radish, but now there were droughts, and sometimes water rationing. Later the water system in Harare began to break down. Some people then got boreholes, powered by diesel, but then diesel became scarce. We didn’t have a borehole. We left eventually, and came to England once more, and after a few years in Surrey and then London settled in Haywards Heath in 2007. I put my name down at the Town Hall for an allotment and got one at Vale Road in 2010, just a small one, number 9, which I still have, but now I also have number 4, since I retired in early 2017.
In addition to radish I grow the usual veggies: potatoes, marrows, pumpkins, peas, leeks, broad beans, shallots, butternuts, cucumber, beetroot, carrots and that sort of thing. I’ve stopped growing ‘standard’ runner beans and prefer borlotti beans, the Italian runner bean, instead. Anna was born in Italy but grew up in Africa and she taught me about borlottis. I also grow radicchio, another Italian invention, a type of red lettuce. I haven’t been very successful with garlic and onions, and will need to try harder in that department.
I never grew fruit or flowers until I got my allotment, but am now getting the hang of those too. Still, what I really like growing is – yes, you got it – radish.
Sent in by Eva after I had done one which is below. David Pidgeons.
I am sending some requested profile information about myself. I feel rather privileged to be a part of this.
Interestingly for me, when I took on my allotment I had to dig down into my memory and fish out some childhood vegetable-growing experience. Yes, I am a country bumpkin (not quite a pumpkin yet). I was brought up in a small village in communist-era Czechoslovakia, in Central Bohemia. Everybody had a garden and an orchard. My family also kept a bull, pigs, ducks, rabbits, hens, geese, turkeys, goats, cats, dogs and many uninvited rats and mice. My father helped farm carp (for eating) in the village pond. Growing food was part of life, whether you liked it or not. One of my happy memories is of growing my first carrots, not so happy is the memory of all the tons of bloody potatoes we had to grow, and which were hard work. Looking down Mike’s rows of potatoes reminds me of those days a bit.
As an adult I discovered a passion for growing which maybe I did not have as a child. Having my own family now, I enjoy growing to feed them, and growing the food they like most. But it’s not just about food. I like plants which please the eye and please the wildlife. My parallel passions are floristry and garden design, and I use some of my allotment for flowers. I don’t have a conscious methodology, but am inspired by a mixture of English gardening and the influences of my gardening friends from other countries, such as Italy, Mauritius and France. My plot has evolved into irregular segments like a Mondrian painting. I am keen on composting, which might be the influence of my highly self-sufficient grandmother, who lived all her life with a wood burning stove, without running water, raising her own food and recycling everything. I can’t say where it’s going to evolve next!
I hope that is useful.
David retired early after working for the Met Police. During his years there he had an important job of secretary to a famous Commissioner. "You had an insight as to what people got up to," he said. Another job was being responsible for licensing laws, gaming, firearms, and shotgun laws. This is why he made such a good Chairman on our committee in the past with all that expertise. "Pub licensing was a perfect job for a beerbuff," David quipped.
Born in Wandsworth London he lived for 23 years alongside the delightful smells and sounds of Young's superb brewery and he recalls the magnificent dray horses sadly now gone. Moving from London on marrying Leslie 46 years ago they have lived in Haywards Heath since 1971. They have two sons and seven grandchildren, five of them living in Northern Ireland, and two in Nottingham, (which might explain David's regular disappearance from the site, (he's away on grandchildren visits.)
Having had his allotment for 15 years he enjoys it immensely especially the company and most of the rest - the exceptions being the last two winters with the excessive rain, and the flooded plots, and the outbreaks of thefts and vandalism on the site during his spell as Chairman.
David has been church warden at St Wilfred's for seven years and a member of the church council, both before and since holding that role. Currently they are busy preparing for St Wilfred's 150th birthday celebrations in 2015.
Always prepared to help out, mowing grass etc, David is a valuable member of our Allotment society. He says 'let's all enjoy this wonderful site we are privileged to share.'
SPOTLIGHT ON EVA HALL
- Blackberry Romance
Eva came to this country from a small village in the Czech Republic 14 years ago. Although Eva confesses it would have been 15 years but she had to return home for a time when she missed her country and family so much.
Unable to speak much English Eva met her husband Ben in the middle of a blackberry bush where they were both picking the fruit. Ben chatted to her and suggested she ought to find a boyfriend to teach her English. The rest is history and now they are happily married with an eight year old girl. Ben and Eva both work at the Princess Royal Hospital.
Eva has her own special way of planting on her allotment. No conventional run of the mill straight rows or uniformity, but nevertheless a pleasing way to set a garden out. She especially loves flowers which derives no doubt from her horticultural family at home. Her sister owns a flower shop and nursery, while her mother and grandmother are from an agricultural community.
Eva has a friendly personality and is willing to learn as well as help others on the allotments, and recently passed her City and Guilds diploma for horticulture and flower arranging at Plumpton college, which she said was hard to fit in with her work and family. For a girl who didn`t speak English a few years ago this was a superb achievement and so congratulations to her.
SPOTLIGHT ON TIM NEWNHAM
Looking at the lovely flowers and veg on plot 11 it`s obvious that Tim has plenty of gardening experience. Indeed he started at the tender age of 14 on a plot in Balcombe where he was born and bred. Then he furthered his knowledge on a Balcombe nursery when he left school. Tim is proud to say that he can trace his Balcombe Newnham ancestors back to the 1400`s.
Tim took on the plot at Vale road when he moved to Haywards Heath around 15 years ago. ``I love it here, the people are so friendly and you can have a laugh and a joke` he said. I can vouch that Tim is an amicable chap himself and often offers to give his flowers and veg away to people passing by.
He has his own plastics business which is now largely run by his two sons, but does go in for while each week to lend a hand. Previously he has worked in a Crawley factory which he hated. `They just thought I was a country bumkin and I didn`t fit in there at all` he joked. `That was why I went self employed`.
Tim`s other love besides gardening is fishing and occasionally he goes out in a boat with his two sons, but in his younger days he loved to fish in Balcombe.
Tim met his partner Pauline whilst she was a patient in `intensive care` at the Princess Royal. He was visiting his sister there and saw Pauline lying there and chatted to her. He made further visits to see her and eventually they became a couple. `We are very happy together` Tim said.
SPOTLIGHT ON DINO AND VINA
SORRY PICTURE OF DINA AND VINA HAS DISAPPEARED
Meet Dino and Vina
Dino hails from the medieval town of Assisi in the Umbria region of Italy. He met his wife Vina whilst she was on holiday from England and they were married in Italy. Dino was doing his National Service at the time. They stayed there for 3 years eventually settling in Brighton and then to Haywards Heath.
Dino and Vina have had their allotment for around 12 years. `I don`t like using manure, much better to use `blood fish and bone` or chicken pellets, there are too many weed seeds in the manure` he said.
Dino emigrated to Melbourne Australia with his family when he was just 14 years old. `You can grow tomatoes as big as melons out there`he joked. They stayed for 11 years before, and as mentioned Dino returned to Italy to do his National Service. where he met Vina.
They are dedicated church goers and help to deliver bibles around the Sussex area. Dino has also for several years tackled the London to Brighton cycle ride and raised money for the Heart Foundation, so well done Dino.
Despite living in Aussie, Sussex, and Italy, Dino has never lost his Italian accent which goes for the other Italian members over here. You never want to lose your native language accent do you ?
SPOTLIGHT ON ARTHUR MEACHEN PLOT 17
Arthur has been on the allotments for around 10 years or so, and always a keen gardener as you can see even snow doesn`t stop him.
Now 80 years old Arthur has had a varied and interesting life. He has now settled in Bruce close with his wife June after having lived in Western rd and Sandrocks close previously.
In 1960 Arthur joined the Royal Engineers and signed the dotted line for 6 years and went to Singapore, where he was consigned to drive a land rover with a machine gun at the rear, as there was conflict with China at the time, but fortunately he was not involved in any battles.
In 1974 they spent 15 months in New Zealand before returning back to the U.K. They the spent the next 6 years in a farm cottage in Cuckfield, where they reared chickens. He then returned to his business as a refrigerater engineer which is now largely run by his son.
Arthur used to love going abroad on cruise ships and sometimes went twice a year. We did have a joke that he was `Cruising Arthur` but he always has a sense of humour and takes it all in good spirit.