Out of 18 plotholders, nine of us appeared for what I suppose was the AGM. The sun shone, waveringly. We trooped up to Eddie the Poisoner's allotment, where there is enough paved area for us to set out our rickety chairs; Eddie did not make an appearance, and it seems that none of the regular Committee members were surprised. Eddie mutters about some of the Committee. We sat beside his impressively flourishing potatoes; I compared them despairingly with mine.
Our grand meeting began. To describe it as loosely structured would be an understatement; we rambled, digressed and reminisced, and yes! we fought and bickered most entertainingly. The first round of still-warm ginger cakes vanished silently, but I held on to the rest for later, when they would undoubtedly be needed, like wet sponges between rounds of boxing. P sat slightly behind me, and kept up a running commentary of her own, regardless of who was speaking, so that my recall of some of the discussion, including emailing of allotment-related information, is rather muddled up with P's inability to handle new-fangled things like computer, videos and mobile phones. Likewise composting toilets (oh, the things we aspired to!) versus buckets emptied over the fence....
The Committee was duly elected; Sandra refused the nomination, but to my own surprise, I agreed, although I doubt if it will prove to be an onerous responsibility; I said my main role would be to bring cakes to meetings. Elizabeth said she would want the Committee's support in dealing with difficult issues or people - at this point, P agreed eagerly to join, if she could be the one who did the dirty work in this respect. I saw Elizabeth's face tighten; she mutters about P.
The treasurer performed impressively, producing a printed report which showed us to have barely scraped through with a few pounds to spare, unlike last year's situation where empty plots had meant that we didn't break even, after paying our dues to the grasping but unhelpful City Council. So far so good. There were four people with rent arrears, and some muttering and barbed comments ensued; a note was made that these defaulters should be sent A Letter. By this time, we were growing vengeful; consensus was reached that they should be given a 2-week deadline for payment.
Just at that point, a defaulter's girlfriend arrived, wearing large furry boots and brightly coloured pyjama bottoms, and clutching the owed rent money. We asked and were told why our rents were higher than the next door site's rents (bigger plots) and grudgingly let the subject drop, although I could tell that some people still felt cheated.
More muttering followed, about C this time (everyone mutters about C) - not only was she a chronic rent defaulter, but her plot was in a messy state - I know this, as her rampant neglected brambles reach over like triffids into my garden and thrive on the savage and resentful pruning I give them. P muttered in my ear about C's unpruned blackcurrants.
We had a good head of steam up now, and were growing testy; subjects ranged from the immaculate and uniformly-shedded allotments to be seen in France (at which point I bleated that I liked our haphazard site; I fear I shall be mocked later on by Roger for this euphemism) to the state of the lane outside the site, the cost of skip hire, the stupefyingly huge savings fund of the allotments further along - £3000! We voted against applying for piped water, as everyone would have to pay, whether or not they used it - pyjama girl was the only one to vote for it, on boyfriend's behalf, although she agreed that he wouldn't like to foot the bill for it.
The end plot was what set off the raised voices. P and her partner had struggled with it for years, complaining incessantly about the surrounding trees and their invasive roots. Elizabeth and her husband maintained that it had been fine when they had worked it, and things suddenly got rather lively, with P waving her arms about, deploring the fibrous roots, the rapidly growing white poplars, the early shade, quoting tree growth rates in metres that left us older pre-metric folks a bit bemused, and an equally vigorous response from Elizabeth, whose grasp of the agenda had never been firm. It was evident that this was a long-running grievance between the four of them, although P now has another plot which is turning into a productive and tidy show garden, complete with reconstructed shed with pot-bellied stove and flagged floor (and, oh, how deeply envious I am.)
And then, over 40 minutes late, the much-muttered-over C arrived and with her rent money too. No one mentioned her plot or the brambles. She asked a question about the rent levels compared with next door's, and I nipped in to say that we'd dealt with that item already, and she had the sense to say she'd hear about it from me later - otherwise I think several people may have attacked her with dibbers and pruning knives.
We almost missed out the item on fires (NOT ALLOWED NOW) but after a mischief-making reminder from me, had a lively discussion and a proposal from C, who likes a regular smoky fire, to complain to the Council about the cut-off point of end of March as being too early. There was some digression about fires being allowed at home, and tales of rows with neighbours involving washing hung on lines. The treasurer said that he didn't approve of fires on allotments at all. He also didn't approve of fences between plots, although I disagreed; removal of fences would cause my climbing roses to fall over on one side of my plot, and the thorny bramble-triffids on the other to continue their quest for world domination. I might have a little mutter to Sandra about that treasurer some time; he seems a bit ready to disapprove, if you ask me.
Over an hour later, and we were done. The second round of cakes had been hoovered up, the dog had been sneakily fed little morsels, although I did catch sight of her at one point quietly scratching up a little piece of well-rotted manure from Eddie's flower bed; she saw me watching her and trotted off with a guilty expression. I will be part of a working group to look at grant applications and fund raising, and another to tidy up the worst of the marginal ground, where the site next door is suspected of tipping their rubbish through a large gap in the fence. Alan took our photograph, and we all retired to our respective plots to soothe our raised blood pressure with a little weeding.
A little blood had been spilt, but not much, and, reassured in our own ability to refrain from open warfare, we had agreed to hold another such meeting in late August, this time with a barbecue. P anticipates new potatoes and sweetcorn being ready in time; from the look of my own beds, I might muster herbs and weeds, and not much else, so perhaps I'll do dessert instead.