On becoming Brian. Or Peter.

The Shadow of Brian
The Shadow of Brian

“Now then, lass, how’s it going?”. Brian leaned on the fence and cast his eye over the expanse of freshly-dug soil, small, but insistent collection of weeds, immense pile of steaming poo and me holding my spade like a real professional….in my dreams.

Brian is one of the Elder Statesmen of the allotments. By some spooky coincidence, all the Elder Statesmen here are called Brian or Peter. I suspect for some, it’s an honorary title as they are women, but I can definitely positively probably confirm that I’ve heard everyone who is anyone in the allotment hierarchy referred to as Brian or Peter. There was a Dennis, but he died, or moved to Bramley, one or the other.

Progress to Elder Statesmanship is a lengthy process. Our allotments are on a slope, so new allotmenteers start at the bottom, literally and have to work their way up, literally. On one of his previous inspections, after telling my my leeks were going to seed, he said it was OK because they’d cook up nicely with a bit of butter and grind of black pepper. At that point the leeks were the only edibles growing in the wilderness of couch grass, creeping buttercups and stocky willy, otherwise known as goose grass.

Brian, as an Elder Statesman, knew the full history of everyone who handled a hoe on the lots. He told me the previous incumbent of 31b was rather partial to a drop of ale as she planted her potatoes. I did uncover the evidence as I reclaimed the lot from the weeds, quite a collection of cans there was too, along with an assortment of tab ends and empty packets of Seabrooks cheese and onion crisps. Still, they’d doubled up as slug traps. And quite a collection of the slimy little buggers there was too.

Brian eyed up the piles of poo I was digging in. “I hear someone down this end paid more than £100 for manure,” he said it as if it was inconceivable that money should change hands for something that came out of a horse’s bottom for free. He had a special arrangement with the owner of the stables behind the lots, he got all the poo he could fit in his wheelbarrow. I, on the other hand, had to  engage the services of a certain Mr Muck who lived up to his name though I have to say that for someone who must spend all day every day up to his ears in poo, he was the cleanest man I ever met, even after unloading 40 bags of the finest well-rotted manure.

Of course Brian knew I was the payer-for-the-poo. He knows everything, he is an Elder Statesman. I look forward to become a Brian, or maybe a Peter, when I can get my poo for free. But I think it could be some time.

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