A whole allotment of love


Posted by in July's Magazine

It’s been a long time but it’s worth it. After a six-year wait we have a patch of dirt. Well, it was more a rectangle of nettles with a tumbledown shed than a clearly defined piece of earth. Yes, an allotment is what we were waiting for and a lot of nettles are what we got. Thankfully my lanky green fingered man’s expertise at pulling weeds, gleaned from clearing our communal garden on Albert Street, combined with the fitness levels attained from my vocation as a personal trainer meant we cleared old Tam’s patch quick smart. Actually it took us nine days of weeding and litter picking to discover good quality vegetable growing dirt underneath. It reminded me that hardcore weeding is a good workout for both hamstrings and upper back. One thing that inspired us to work so quickly (other than the fact that it was the prime growing month of June) was the history of the plot and the fact we wanted it to be back to it’s former glory as quickly as possible.

Thwack of leather
In fact, for the first time in years, we forsook Leith Gala day in favour of our new allotment. A quick nibble from Suruchi Too whilst being vibrated by the heart thump beat of Messenger Sound System convinced us to seek quieter climes. Crossing the Links to our own personal oasis of calm we could still hear frantic Polish techno as we scrabbled about in the dirt, aaah, bliss. Once upon a time, lying on the grass with a bunch of friends on Gala day would have been my ideal summer’s day. Now I prefer the gentle thwack of leather on willow as I listen to the Leith Franklin cricket club do their thang right outside our allotment.

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There’s something very peaceful about watching cricket (the ‘noble game’) whilst pottering about. For this reason, Leith Links allotments are perfect for us. Did you know that cricket has been played on the Links for over 150 years? Check out leithcricketclub.co.uk for more information and the fixtures listings. Hearing the occasional ‘howzat’ reminds me of my antipodean roots. In fact only last week I learned that antipodean does not refer exclusively to people of Australasian heritage. According to the dictionary it means, ‘placed diametrically opposite each other on the globe’. Therefore, Scottish folk should be antipodean as well, at least to Aussies! Later I checked the word in my Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary – which my pommy hubby refuses to believe is a valid reference book – where it says antipodean only refers one way, so there goes my theory!

Whilst it’s obvious that the weather is very different here from my homeland, what may not be obvious is that gardening is a completely different undertaking here in bonnie Scotland. There are seasons here. Leaf burn and drought is not a huge issue, whilst I’ve heard that the regular flooding of Leith Links allotments is. So I bowed to my hubby’s superior garden knowledge…what have we planted? In alphabetical order we are having a bash at growing: aubergine, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cos lettuce, herbs, kohlrabi, land cress, leeks, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb and rocket. Hopefully most of it will grow. There’s something rather satisfying about preparing food that you have grown and it’s fabulous that we can do this whilst living in the heart of Leith.

Our next undertaking is to patch up old Tam’s shed. The front appears to be laid to lawn and half of the wall is missing. One of the first lessons we’ve learnt is that we need to make it secure to prevent the disappearance of garden tools.

Very fine Poundland
Thankfully our tools were from the very fine Poundland, so we weren’t that out of pocket when they went walkabout (£4 to be precise). It has to be said that Poundland is the best place to buy gardening stuff, and we’re both very excited about the opening of a huge Poundland at Kirkgate, where Woolies used to be. We’ll be able to buy garden stuff en route to our plot, although hopefully with a good sturdy (secure) shed in place, we’ll not need to buy tools on a daily basis!

As part of my client’s fitness programme, I quite often time them doing a lap round the Links (about a mile). This is a great way to see how someone’s cardiovascular fitness is coming along, and a scenic route at that. Perhaps I should start stopping en route and offering fresh lettuce leaves to aforementioned peeps. Surely more appropriate than finishing a run with the odour of deep-frying from the Seven Seas chippy next to my studio on Balfour Street. Tracy Griffen

Illustration: Claire Brearly – The Allotment

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