But it hasn’t, has it? Our north London allotment site was like a graveyard this bank holiday weekend. So where is everyone? “Oh, they’re all still away.”
“Away?” But where? They can’t all still be stuck in a15-mile tailback on the M5, can they? Or stretched out in the departure lounge of the airport from hell? And what’s with this “going away” thing anyway? How can any serious-minded gardener bunk off for the whole of August, one of the busiest months of the year? Well, I guess the answer is that if they are the parents of school-age kids, they are over a barrel (unless they want to incur the wrath of the appalling Michael Gove by taking time out during term-time). And the other answer is that they’re probably not really serious minded gardeners anyway.
How many three-foot runner beans have I seen in recent weeks (those that have not died of thirst), and how many courgettes that turned into marrows about four weeks ago? What is the point of cultivating this stuff if you really can’t jump those two final hurdles – picking the damn things and then eating them (or taking them down the pub and giving them away).
And what’s with this “going away” trip in any case? I’m going to get roughed up big time, not least by my dear family, if I seek to imply that people can’t, or shouldn’t go away. But I really don’t get it. Do they really all detest home so much that they can’t wait to see the back of it? Do they really find getting ripped off something rotten in 40 degrees of heat so enticing? As one of our (now dead) fellows remarked recently, the whole point of holidays is to make you appreciate home more. And given that he already appreciated home plenty, why bother confirming something that he already knew?
So back on the plot, the only souls to be seen are the occasional “helper”, drafted in to do a spot of watering. Uh huh. Now and again, I politely suggest that they are wasting their time standing there with a hosepipe with a sprinkler attached, giving everything, weeds and all, a cursory shower. OK, so they’ve been mandated to do the watering, but no one ever told them how to water. And nobody told them not to help themselves to all those over-ripe plums that are being eaten by the wasps and the worms (can’t really bring myself to pull them up over that, as no one else is going to eat them bar the wasps and the worms).
And the moral of the story? Well, one can quite understand our fellow’s determination to flee the deeply tiresome beached whaleball contest. And one fully understands the familial pressures to chuck large amounts of money at “getting away from it all” in the interests of “having a nice time” (except that you don’t, because everyone else is at it at the same time, and you can’t, because it’s 40 degrees out there). But to walk away from the fruits of one’s labours, at the very height of the season? Now that’s what I call late-summer madness.