Plot 51

I enjoyed growing flowers in Italy however over the past two years I’d fallen behind on my veg growing. So in February as it became evident that hospital appointment forecasts meant that we’d be here for a longer time than first anticipated I decided to check out allotment availability in the area to kick start my gardening activities. First I viewed a few council run plots, most completely unsuitable; one so overgrown I’d need a JCB to get it in order, one that was little more than builders’ rubble and another that had what can only be described as an unsuitable neighbour. On the 10th of the month I viewed several available plots at, The Limes. They all looked suitable for my requirements and eventually I settled upon plot 51, (the double greenhouse swayed my decision making somewhat).

It’s a long plot with a shed at the top and the greenhouse at the bottom, it’s cluttered, apparently the previous plot owner didn’t throw anything away, this is evident by the many bags of rubbish, tucked into spaces between compost bins and behind the greenhouse.

Feb (3)

I took over the plot at the beginning of March and my first job was to decide on what will go and what will stay, the submerged bath filled with old strawberry plants will be going soon but the greenhouse will be emptied and cleaned first.

So with my iPod plugged in to its new portable speaker I set the dial to shuffle and as Stargard set the tone for the day with Which Way Is Up? The 1978 disco/funk theme from the movie of the same name I set to ripping out desiccated tomato plants and some nettles. The shelf unit at the end of the greenhouse was cleared of the endless supply of plastic pots and bits of electrical wire that had previously been used as plant ties. After copious amounts of disinfectant and glass cleaner the first job was completed and as I packed up for the day another disco classic shuffled, meaning the session ended with another, boogie-on-the-job track: cleaning is much more pleasant if you can swing your ass as you sweep,mop and polish.

March  (22)

Suddenly the world went mad and we had lockdown and the Coronavirus, I wondered if that meant I’d paid my yearly fees for nothing, not to mention the new gardening tools that had been purchased.

The government came through and said it was okay to still work on allotments as long as you practice social distancing and so I was back to my planning and it was time to organise the removal of the rubbish – or so I thought. All local recycling centres were closed and so the bags of old wood and plastic would have to wait, but that bathtub and submerged dustbins had to go.

March  (1)

Suffice to say, the first few trips to plot 51 were taken up with clearing out old plants, filling compost bins with ancient kale and making a small mountain beside the shed with enough plastic waste to shame the gardening industry.

March progressed into April and slowly my design for the plot was becoming fixed in my head. Garden suppliers; the ones still able to trade had received seed orders and between plot visits I was at home sowing and pricking out in readiness.

As the month kicked off with weather that was welcomed I was starting to feel that things were taking shape, the spot beside the shed was designated for a new sitting area and the biggest proportion of digging over had already been done.

May (5)

Flat Out

The magazine I work for is having a grand re-launch following a take-over and a make-over. The result being, my workload has increased, which isn’t a problem as with winter approaching I wont be subjected to the desire to go to the coast. Okay, I lie a little. Yes, there will be days when all I want to do is sit looking out over a throbbing grey sea rather than be tapping at my laptop, but these days will be few and far between though. so, (hopefully) I will be able to use my time productively.

My editor has asked me for my next three-month work schedule, this entails pitching all the new stories well in advance, discovering the ones the magazine wants me to write and setting my copy delivery dates in stone. I have finally organised a schedule and hopefully if I can follow this, I will know what type of feature I need to submit at any given time each month. The new regime means I can work out how much time I need to devote to each article each week, and maybe even build up a bank of non-specific date related features to help me out when procrastination creeps up on me.

December-crop

My OCD managed to have a hand in the planning, and categories soon became colour coded.

Non-Fiction writing is a fine balance between research and writing, too much research and you can become so bogged down that you delay the actual act of writing as you sift through all the facts that you have collected. Too little and your work will be flimsy and have no guts. So when do you know when you have enough research? – that’s a tricky one. For me it is when I have all the things I want to say at my disposal and looking for any more will over-complicate the story. For example, a piece I’ve just completed about visiting the catacombs in Rome features the important things readers need to know; where, when, how and who and yes a little history to colour the required word count.

Interviews can be tricky things, you have to initially ask some standard questions, then from these you can build up an idea of how you want the interview to go and ask questions that are specific to your idea and the client. Some people can be hard-work and you can be emailing backwards and forwards reams of questions before you get anything worthy of writing up. Some people however can be a joy, I have just interviewed a young man in Piemonte and it turned out he was a snowboarder and also enjoyed big Italian family gatherings around Christmas. Perfect for the December issue. The Only difficult thing about interviews is the restructuring of some sentences to fit them into the body of your piece without losing the meaning and truth of your interviewee.

Of course the iPod shuffles in the dock, I need the constant buzz of background noise when I’m working, for some reason it stops me being distracted, well that is until something like, Taste in Men by Placebo starts to play, and I have a stretch, remove my reading specs and sing along, as the dogs look at me as if to say, ‘the human has gone mad again’