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Funny the things that get talked about round a fire;old jobs, odd jobs, how many times you have needed the fire brigade. How many times they arrived.
It’s that time of year: rent collection.
AGM in October (when I was out of the country), the long dark nights and as the sun starts to rise in the skies it’s time to be brave, decide to take on the rain, pigeons and slugs again – and find the cash.
Never a question in our house. Between us we have three plots (one we have literally won back from an enormous, enormous in terms of height and width) and two that were in pretty poor health and plagued by more pernicious weeds than you could name (well certainly than I could name when I was first shown the ground!)
But this year a revolution; the events committee organised free bacon sandwiches (including a vegetarian option) and a social fire. I was put in charge of that – finding the fuel, the matches and organising some sort of Heath-Robinson way of keeping the assorted ironmongery (nails, hinges and chain) off the car park.
We have been given a state of the art beacon-type fire basket, so no mistaking this for a bonfire (bonfires are only allowed on Fridays, by agreement). The treasurer and secretary ensconced in the container that we took a risk on by filling with bags of compost (now only about a quarter of the initial stock remains – good investment by the shop committee). A couple of committee members manning the shop, the Chair there to cover unforeseen happenings and to smile and welcome people, events committee members behind the gas burners on the trestle tables … and me with a felling axe and firelighters !
But oh so successful. Instead of simply a taking-money exercise it became something of a social occasion: people bringing their butties and cups of tea over to the fire and chatting.
Ok, so it was what ordinary people might have occasion to say “it’s cold out today, I’m not going out until it warms up” … but we have decided to rent allotment plots and standing outside is par for the course. If there’s a fire and somebody to engage in conversation, hell it’s better than eating healthy chocolate!
The fires reminded some people of striking picket line protests back in the 1970s there were stories of where the wood came from to keep the fires going then – this was industrial action taken by the fire service, ironically, or where the bins came from that became braziers.
There was talk about solar-powered heating for domestic homes, memories of jobs done well, er and those done not so well, banter about choices of domestic heater and seed potatoes.
Successful because allotments need to be community places and we need to meet one another. Certainly on Saturday and Sunday I met people I have not seen before, first time   (good to see couples with young families taking on plots) and learned much about those I already know. The guy I was at school with now has too many chickens (would like more, but doesn’t have the space). Did I want a couple of bantams?
The cargo pallets that I cracked up to burn, along with some logs and bits from home burned brightly. There was rugby on the TV, but people stayed and chatted.
There’s something about a fire.




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