Archive for August, 2007

As I watch the news and see and feel the changes that are happening in the slice of nature that surrounds me, I get a little bit anxious. The devastating floods in Gloucestershire were not far from where we live and I started to feel somewhat unnerved. Its ok though because I have got a contingency plan in place which basically involved saving my cat and then going up the allotment.

I also have a nagging worry that we will all be reduced to kinda cave people constructing make-shift shelters and scratching around in the earth desperate for food. Thankfully, I have learnt a few useful skills up the allotment.

I am doing my bit in trying to halt the progression toward this scenario. Take a look at Bean-sprouts blog for a more sensible disussion of issues relating to global warming and tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Anyways, I stumbled across an article in the Online Ecologist which explains why allotmenteering is a logical and proactive step toward halting the crazy world that we live in or at the very least helps us to not feel so smothered by it. It is a rousing, humorous and comprehensive article about why everyone should have their own piece of land.

Paul Kingsnorth decribes his transition from an allotment ridiculer to an allotment junkie. He describes the allotment effect in terms that are not dissimilar to the rants and ponitifications that we have, as we proudly survey our ‘home’.

“This is when you know the allotment has really done its work on you. For at heart, this is not about growing vegetables at all. It’s not about mulching, or compost heaps, or longhandled hoes. It is a declaration of independence: here I stand, on my own plot of land. I grow what I want, when I want, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And no, I don’t have a loyalty card.”

So if you got the time and/or need to be stirred into action then read the whole thing at the Ecologist Online, entitled ‘Dig for Victory’.

The main thrust of this article really hit home for me, in these troubled and unpredictable times my allotment is my insurance policy and helps me sleep at night.



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The alternative title for this post is how not to escape from a locked mental health unit. Part of the sporadic telling of my experiences in the mental health system. Previous posts are listed at the bottom of this page – Antidepressants.

The story continues on from my first days in the mental health unit – where a rather distasteful and negligent approach was taken by nursing staff – which resulted in me being pinned to the floor and forcibly injected…..

My parents came to visit me later that day and were faced with an appalling sight. I was told by mum months later that she had rang the clinic in the morning and was told that she would not be able to visit that day because she had not made an appointment. My mum did not accept that absolutely ridiculous statement and explained that she would most definitely be visiting me later that day. My mum has worked in the mental health system for decades and was not fazed by the rude, surly and unhelpful responses the ‘carer’ gave her. Eventually someone had the good sense and knowledge of human rights to confirm the visit could take place. Good job really, she probably would have driven the 100 odd miles anyway – two of us locked up wouldn’t have been the best start to 2006.

They were shown into the visitors room and told to wait.

I was shaken awake and told “you got visitors”

I shuffled and mumbled and drooped into the room. Crying and pleading – terrified.. I choked and spat and retched out the details of my ‘rapid tranquilisation‘. I’m not really sure what they said back to me. A part of me was floating above, watching this crazy, disheveled creature wailing and gasping. She looked sorta like a cave-woman. She was traumatised and she didn’t understand what the hell was going on. She needed help but at this time and for a few months yet – nobody could- she was lost AWOL.

The visit spewed to an end and I shuffled off to join my new house-mates. All of us where having a very sane reaction to this environment – we all wanted to get the hell outta there.

My parents immediately went to have a little chat with the staff. They had several queries. Why was I so clearly and unashamedly over-medicated? Why on earth was I refused oral medication when I asked for it? I am confident that my mum explained a few things to them – primarily how their approach was severely lacking and letting them know that she would be visiting frequently. Ward managers were spoken to.

Thank goodness because the next time it was felt that I needed rapid tranquillisation was a much less severe experience. I was given different drugs altogether and I wasn’t wrestled and pinned to the ground and forcibly injected. Funny that almost sounds like I’m grateful – which just goes to show how warped a mind set a mental health unit can produce.

My parents intervention was good for me – but my comrades continued to be used as pin cushions – their screams and the screeching of the ‘panic alarm’ was the background noise to our care and treatment at this unit.

Anyways – so a few more days in and me and this other patient decided to make a bid for freedom. It was a really poor plan. You could say it was insane.

The thing was I was never really convinced that it would work but my mate was very confident and even showed me the cars that we could use to make our getaway. I peered through the tiny pin-prick holes of the grate covering my bedroom window. I would spend a lot of time peering through the tiny holes in the metal sheet, shocked at how unbelievably cruel and pointless it was to stop us looking out of the window. This fostered anger which I desperately tried to choke back down and a conviction that this was a torture prison, where they are performing voodoo on us all. Evil trying to swing the balance of the universe into its favour.

My friend grabbed a book and flicked it against the window enthusiastically, somehow communicating with the parked cars. She excitedly urged me to pick out some clothes to wear for our grate adventure. I wasn’t convinced – these were powerful beings holding us and I didn’t want to rouse their rath again. She chattered on and I asked questions – so she was the old planet earth and I was the new. We needed to leave this holding area together and put an end to this destructive time line. On and on, our delusions, fears and hopes spilling out and melding into a right old kerfuffle and what was basically a crap plan.

I spent the morning on reconnaissance duties. I quickly worked out that all exits were locked. Unsurprising since it was a locked ward for severely disturbed people, but my mind was unable to hold onto that obvious fact as terrors and the bogey man crowded my thoughts. I paced and scurried around trying to think of a way out. I looked at the fire exits and the fire alarms, daring myself/being dared and urged to press it. But I was all out of bravado and self-preservation kicked in. I wanted to disappear, not create havoc.

The morning progressed and we both were just loitering around the corridor and the ward’s main entrance – or exit depending on your perspective. A student nurse came onto the ward and so my pal seized this miniscule chink of opportunity and legged it toward the door. She grabbed the door as it was just about to slam shut. So I ran forward confident that this was the divine intervening to secure our freedom. Yipeeeee, we’re outta here.

I didn’t get to leave, as the nurse grabbed my arm and starting yanking and pulling on it – like she was trying to flush a toilet with a dodgy chain. I resisted – I wasn’t getting any nearer to the door but she’d not wrenched me any nearer to her either. Stale mate. Unsure what to do I looked at my mate who was kinda bouncing up and down holding the door open. She was looking at the nurse and was jabbing into the air with a clenched fist. I was worried that she was going to punch her and that attacking the nurse was the only way we could escape. I looked into the eyes of the nurse, she looked angry and irritated that I’d decided to make a run for it – she didn’t say a word. I didn’t want to hurt her – its just that she wouldn’t bloody let go of my arm and I desperately wanted to leave – So I decided to tickle her.

It must have been very scary for that student nurse. She didn’t know I was trying to make her laugh – you could say she didn’t see the funny side of things. Of course I feel remorse for hurting her, although at the time I honestly thought I was helping her. But then again to this day I have no idea why she risked her personal safety, by single handedly scrapping with a patient. We weren’t going to get very far, there were at least another two locked doors to get through, as well as the external locked gate. She was not ‘last man standing’ – she should have waited for back up.

We both made choices that day.

As was for the best, two of her colleagues came down the corridor to rescue her, as I excitedly tickled her, giving her healing positive energies. I was so utterly sure that I was following a divine plan and this involved escaping. However, two guys put me in some sort of wrist lock and marched me down the corridor and into my room. They exerted a lot of pressure and my wrists seared with pain. Once again I was screaming and wailing. My mate shouted out ‘hey man take it easy on her’ , it seems no-one realised she was part of the escape team. They released some of the pressure and saw that once again I was offering no resistance to being taken to my room. I was definitely sobbing because of the pain and because I was unsure what these two blokes were going to do to me. However, I was mostly crying out because for the first time I fully realised that there was no escape.

The nurse spoke to me warmly in my room and said ‘we just want you to take these and stay in you room’. Relieved, I took him up on the offer. Whilst the tablets were doing their magic, I paced about, frantically scared and appalled that I had messed up – the Earth was doomed now and its all my fault. I dared myself to hide in the cleaners trolley which had been left in my room – perhaps thats what ‘God’ wants me to do. Instead I crawled up and went to sleep.

After this when I was able to direct or have any ounce of control over my mind, I thought of very little else but how to stay calm and quiet and get away from there. So I hatched a more realistic plan to escape by convincing the system that I was sane. Half of me frantically being swallowed and consumed by outrageous delusions of universal battles between good and evil that all pivoted on my actions. The other part playing their silly game that this was a ‘hospital’ – so I tip toed round the ward, politely smiling to all and I got myself a lawyer…


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My parents and grandparents had allotments which as a child I loved spending time on. Planting, growing, picking, eating, and watching the allotment bursting with wildlife. I was hooked.  I was given my own patch, on which I grew many different flowers and veg.  As an adult, I can now see how much this encouraged me to eat fresh fruit and veg. As many parents will know it can be a struggle to get your children to eat veg and fruit.  I couldn’t wait to eat the cabbage or the runner beans I had proudly grown. Not only had I developed a love of veg,  I knew where it came from and how to grow it.  Many children today do not know the origin of their food. They go to the supermarkets and find their food in the isles, in jars or cans, or in the freezer section.  A few generations ago, children gardened with parents or grandparents out of necessity to put food on the table. Unfortunately, this family activity rarely takes place today because the necessity may not exist. Many parents have little experience or knowledge about gardening or the family is too busy. Children have become disconnected from the land. Children need to learn and experience that soil is essential to all life. We also know that children instilled with a love of gardening at an early age grow into adults with a passion for plants and respect for the environment. On top of that, allotments provide opportunities for kids to sample fresh fruits and vegetables and learn about food origins.

Now 20 something years later I have my own allotment with my children aged 12 and 9 years. They both know where veg comes from, how good it is for them, how to grow it and how good it tastes. I was in a supermarket with my 9 yr old in the veg section. It was strange but nice to see him looking at veg for sale in disgust. “Mum look at these beans they are all manky and gone off, they cant sell these can they?” They were of course well within their sell by date, he is so used to seeing the veg we grow at the allotment, which obviously cant be compared with shop bought produce. The two just don’t compare! 

Both the boys come with me to the allotment, only sometimes needing a little gentle persusaion. There is plenty to keep them occupied. They have both enjoyed helping out right from the start when all we had was a bare plot of clay and brambles. The eldest son was excellent at manure moving and shed building, the youngest really enjoyed smashing the huge boulders of clay we encountered. They have enjoyed planting seeds, watching them sprout and grow, then cooking them at home together. Watering, weeding, picking and black fly zapping keeps them busy on most visits. There are of course times when none of this interests them, so out comes a back up plan…… A packet of water bombs, these keep them entertained for hours. Or a disposable BBQ and a quick visit to the shop for burgers and rolls.  They are well happy to sit and experiment with roasted veg from the plot.  Another favorite of theirs (not of mine) is to play chase, running around the winding pathways through our plot.  They are unfortunately the only children on our allotments, which is a shame as they have such a nice time.

It was those memories I have on my parents and grandads allotment that first made me want to have my own allotment. Im sure in the future both my boys will have an allotment, providing fresh home grown food for their own family.


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Edinburgh council opened last year the first official organic allotments in Scotland.

The lucky plot holders have access to an organic composting toilet, and there is a  rainwater collection system to be used for watering plots. The site is accessible to disabled allotmenteers too.

At last an example of a local authority decision in line with the growing number of people concerned about food quality and the desperate state that we are steering the planet toward…

Reports of the allotment’s opening can be found in  BBC News and the Edinburgh Evening News


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Redbridge Council have sadly decided to sell off four allotment sites to raise cash for leisure facilities (and schools). Absolutely ridiculous – allotments are the ultimate leisure activity! Read more here.

However the council will need approval from the government for this to go ahead. Visit the campaign blog – seeking to Protect the environment of the London Borough of Redbridge.

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I awoke this morning at 6.35am, like an excited child on christmas morning. 


I’ll explain……

Keener and I went on an allotment related shopping trip yesterday. We dont have many of these as we are really trying not to buy anything for our allotment, instead recyling,  skip rummaging,  generally making use of anything we can get our hands on. Some of our findings can be viewed on a previous post Skips, woodchips and local scamps.

Yesterday was an exeption. We had worked really hard on constructing our shed.  As we had done such a good job we decided we would treat ourselves to a few essential shed items.

A portable gas stove,  12 gas canisters and a cooking pot/kettle.

Alltogether 35 pounds well spent. This may seem a little extravagent when we go on about doing all this allotment stuff on a very low budget.  This will be our only big spend. I dont think we have have spent as much as 35 pounds to date on our whole allotment.  We have been really lucky to have been given, found or made most of the stuff we have needed to get our allotment up and running.

Anyways this is why I woke with such excitment. 

Coffee in the shed, on a lovely morning looking out over our allotment with a beautiful backdrop of views across bristol.


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