The bills have gone out this week, my income evaporates this coming Friday as I take voluntary redundo from the somewhat knackered Guardian, the planet is going bust, but what the hell. It’s only money. And we didn’t become allotment gardeners to get rich off the fat of the land, did we? We do it for love (and the occasional bottle of the red stuff), don’t we?
On the question of getting rich though – a curious little snippet turned up in my ex-employer-to-be’s organ a wee while back that stated that the “average” allotment gardener saves £1,400 a year in food bills by growing their own – a not inconsequential sum, especially when you are about to join the ranks of the impoverished classes.
I mentioned this little factoid to one of my heathen chums in the pub recently, and met with the usual disbelief and derision (“and why bother with all that back-breaking-getting-wet-and-muddy-stuff anyway when you can nip down to Tesco’s and get the lot for £25 a week?”) Yes, I responded, but £25 a week is £1,300 a year – not far short of my fellow hack’s apparently bonkers statistic. So who’s the mug there then? (Yes, OK, what price my time etc)
We digress. To come back to the bills, how much is the People’s Republic of Haringey demanding that we cough up to rent our modest slice of north London clay? It’s a question commonly asked by new recruits or those joining the waiting list. The answer, at 2012 prices, is in most cases about £45. “What? £45 a week or a month?” they ask. Errr, no. That’s £45 a year, all in, and you can put your chequebook away as you won’t be getting a bill for a wee while yet (unless, of course, we are back to the subject of bungs). That adds up to about £9 a pole (or rod), including water.
It’s not exactly big bucks, is it? Even when you are staring at penury, as I may well be. And it’s about half that if you are retired or registered disabled. Beyond that, it is entirely up to each tenant how much money they throw at their plot. Some go down to B&Q and spend many hundreds of hard-earned rabbit skins on some crummy little matchwood shed that would fall over with one good kick. Others, like me, wait until we pass a skip stuffed with old floorboards and build something much more robust for free.
The subject of money has never been very high on my agenda (I try not to chuck it around in reckless fashion, but neither do I see any particular use in accumulating it for the sake of it), but I fear the same may not apply to our landlords. The closet capitalists of the Republican Guard have spotted an opportunity here to claw back some of the millions they lost in a flutter on Landbankski by jacking up our rents by 50% – which is exactly what they have done over the past couple of years. The trouble is, they were coming from such a miniscule baseline that even that even a 50% hike did not amount to a hill of beans (more on the changing social profile of our tenants and their ability to pay it in a future post).
I have to say that our tenants shouldered this burden with true equanimity. I heard not a single murmur of protest from any Shepherds Hillbilly when this increase was imposed. The only observation, made by one of our fellows, was that this amounted to about 20p a week.
At last, we’ve found something on which we can all agree. And who’d have thought it? They’ll be telling me that money grows on trees next …