Skirmish of the week this time round has to be our full-frontal assault on the Kremlin – the Republic’s citadel in Wood Green, to which I was invited, as honorary winner of the BBC Loose Cannon of the Year award, as a stand-in member of the cabal also known as the Haringey Allotments Forum steering group.
The battleground, of course, was the Republic’s attempt to sneak in a 100 per cent rise in allotment rents, the sneakiness of which was firmly blown out of the water last week by yours truly in a post a fortnight ago, followed up by a blast in the local press. And for once, the local rag (or what remains of it) managed to distinguish themselves by simply regurgitating my press release, thereby completely failing to misquote me – and, better still, also heeded my warning that if their somewhat weary sub-editor was rash enough to reach for his even more weary, clichéd “lost the plot” headline yet again, I would never, ever speak to them again.
We digress. The invitation for a little chat was issued by none other than the Republic’s head honcho, the “lead member for the environment” – who clearly hadn’t got much of a grip on her brief at all, flanked by the generally avuncular but somewhat slippery head of “recreation services” – a man who is very difficult to dislike, even when he’s telling you that you are about to be forced to eat worms and die. He was basically there to dig said lead member out of a hole – and she did indeed manage to find herself at the bottom of one or two.
The ruck got off to a flying start when I found myself in total agreement with said lead member as soon as she opened her mouth, urging us all to switch to an adjacent bunker as the one where we had gathered was insufferably hot. Said member is quite a lot better padded than me so she obviously felt the heat even more than I did, and I reckon she was expecting things to get hotter still (if they really want to save some money, why not turn down the thermostat, for heaven’s sake).
Once ensconced, she then kicked off with a grumble about the volume of abusive emails she had received since her comments to the Republic’s “scrutiny panel” meeting the previous week, at which I quoted her as saying that having an allotment was “a privilege” (which is exactly what she did say). Alas, in her attempts at qualifying what she said, she dug herself even deeper into the same hole by noting that there are not enough allotments to go round (yes, we know all about that), that there is a long waiting list (yes, we’ve got the hang of that bit too), and it is therefore not unreasonable to attempt to price the hoi polloi out of the market. Charming.
The remaining 40 minutes of trench warfare involved various grenades being slung in various directions, punctuated by the odd bayonet charge. The long and the short of it is that the Republic is frantically seeking to scrape together as many rabbit skins and bungo beans as possible, regardless of the source, in their attempts dealing with a £25 million cut in grants from the filthy Con-Dem coalition over the next three years while attempting to fob us gardeners off with a load of baloney about how they are going to spend all this extra wonga on infrastructure improvements and repairs across its 27 allotment sites.
You may not be surprised to hear, dear reader, that the cynics amongst us would argue that no such thing will happen, and that what has happened here is that the Republic have simply hit upon the idea of turning the allotment “service” into nothing short of a money-spinner.
So what happens next? Well, we take the cudgels to the rest of the “socialist” ruling group in the hope of getting them to vote the whole lot down come the budget-setting beanfeast early next year. And the chances of that? Somewhat slim, I would say.
Still, one small ray of hope did emerge – a notion of the flying pig variety. The lead member, as she ducked and weaved her way around the torrent of grapeshot and tumbled down an assortment of elephant traps, came out with surely the best news I have heard for some considerable time – that what we really need is more allotment sites …
Hurrah. Quite so. Let’s bulldoze a few retail parks and turn them over to cabbage patches, shall we? After all, they’re all going bust too, aren’t they? Digging for victory? It worked before.