The good news continues unabated, comrades, for this week I was the lucky recipient of something called a starter pack. It is a truly wondrous thing, some 17 years after my dear wife and I first started as allotment tenants, to find this in one’s intray. Better late than never.
In truth, it was sent to me by the People’s Republic of Haringey to ask me what I thought (this pack being something that could be handed out to new recruits when they first walk through the door). And in truth, it contains a fair few nuggets of useful advice – so I’ve sent it to everyone. After all, a fresh start would benefit a fair number of our fellows.
I have managed perfectly well over the past 12 years and more as site secretary by providing my own starter pack, which includes a copy of our plot protocol (a voluntary code of conduct), plus one or two other bits. But now that I have the official version, I am more than happy to go with it, not least because it includes a standard and fairly perfunctory “sod off” letter to those who fail to pass muster after their three-month probationary period has expired – one of the bits that I have found most tiresome. But it’s written on the republic’s headed notepaper, so that takes the heat off me when the manure hits the fan and the wailing and howling starts.
But alas, I am going to have to demur over one or two bits of this starter pack – so, in the spirit of bruno’s allotment blog, lets dwell on those.
First up, it is immensely long. Anything more than one side of A4 is likely to be interrupted with a snooze. It then goes on to urge the applicant to “think carefully about the size of plot that you can reasonably manage” (guffaws all round – we have plenty of existing tenants who can’t manage, reasonably or otherwise).
“Take on a half of quarter of a plot first. Master this and then plan for a larger plot.” Yeah, and how is that supposed to work? What am I supposed to do with the other quarter plot that is busy going to seed while they fail to master the bit they have been allocated? A half plot is not just the maximum allocation at the Hill, it is also the standard allocation – and no one has the chance to expand beyond that. But anyone who is offered less than that in the first instance may well have cause to grumble. Am I to be left with a clutch of neglected quarter plots to offer to new recruits who may well be the real McCoy (or not)? Wotever. We’ll work it out.
It goes on to list a fair number of aspirations (“keeping the plot clean and free of weeds”, “areas of grass and hard standing to be kept to a minimum and occupy no more than 25% of the total plot area). Forgive me for saying so, comrades, but we all know that these requirements are at best guidelines, and at worst, a work of fiction.
I can’t bring myself to scoff at much of what this pack says, as it is mostly reasonable enough, even if it is a bit Noddy and BigEars for anyone who knows one end of a spade from the other (and there are a few of those around too).
But to round it all off, part of the covering letter to me contains the proverbial killer blow: “There will be no change in the decision making process as to when a tenancy will be issued or refused. It will remain the decision of both the site secretary and the allotments office.”
Righto then. Not much change there. So the site secretary tells the prospective tenant to take a hike because they’re crap; the prospective tenant then goes and has a good whine to the republic; then, in the interests of avoiding an expensive and time-consuming row over something that they don’t give a toss about, the republic pulls the rug on the site secretary, tells the prospective not to worry about that fascist bastard, and yes, of course it will be alright. You just do what you can manage and the rest of it can go to hell in a handcart.
Starter pack? Y’know, my friends, I’m getting a bit old for this stuff. I wonder if they do such a thing as a finisher pack.