One for the rook, one for the crow…

Or how a post about sowing peas led to a life-lesson learned.

Writing this post has made me realise that one of the things I regret most about my last allotment was not taking photos of the friends I made on it. I have pictures of my own plot, but nothing that reminds me of the camaraderie I knew there.

Not long after I took over my first plot. Young Tom’s plot is behind me, but Tom himself is nowhere to be seen.

For my last site was a bastion of old-school, old-boys, of a variety I don’t think exists any more.

There was Derek who, on my very first day, presented me with three rhubarb crowns and some raspberry canes.

There was Dave, who ran the ‘lotty shop. Kind to a fault, always taking the time to show me how to chit the best spuds or explain that no, that wasn’t a notifiable bug, that was a ladybird larvae and if I didn’t want it could he have it please?

I have images of the raspberries but not the guy who gave them to me

There was Young Tom, well into his late 70s, on the plot above me who, when he wasn’t digging, was deep-sea diving. He was called Young Tom to distinguish him from Old Tom who was 96 and cycled to his plot every day on a pushbike that looked twice as old as he did.

There was the unnamed chap who, bare-chested like Putin, dug trenches all year round, all hours of the day and night, creating holes so deep his plot looked like the Somme. He kept a corpse-like scarecrow high on a pole, that had shredded to the point where it looked like something out of The Wicker Man. I confess I gave him a bit of a wide berth, but I sort of wish I had a pic of that scarecrow to creep-out small people.

I have (some, not many) pictures of my first plot, but not of my plotholder friends.

And then there was Bob, who liked nothing better than to watch me do something badly and then explain why what I’d just done was totally wrong, despite the fact that I’d made it clear I’d welcome advice from all-comers, preferably before I made a stupid mistake. Not long into my first season he stood over me while I carefully planted one pea seed per station in a new row. I’d just covered them up when he said, without malice:

One for the rook, one for the crow

One to rot and one to grow

and disappeared off to pee in his compost heap, which he did often, with much glee, telling me that my own urine wouldn’t be any good as I was female.


Ah, those were the days, when I could grow sweet peas and not get powdery mildew…

For some reason, perhaps that allotments weren’t yet fashionable in 2002, there were few women to infest compost heaps with their unsuitable urine*. My next-plot neighbour June was one of those very few. June, of a certain age herself, used to arrive on a moped wearing one of those funny, dome-like helmets and make strange, weedy fairylands out of old boots, pebbles and discarded kitchen cabinets.

I moved on from my old plot long ago – not for bad reasons; I just moved house. My current site seems to be 80% women – with venerable male exceptions – and I like it that way, but I remember the characters from my old stomping ground with great fondness.

I sometimes pass the site when I go home to visit my dad, but I never go inside. The people I knew have all moved on, and my plot will either look better than when I had it and I’ll feel bad, or worse, and I’ll feel sad. So I move on.

Which brings me, rambling, to what I meant to write about today – sowing early peas.


Given it’s a relatively old variety, I’ve never tried Meteor before, so I soaked a few overnight on Saturday and sowed them on Sunday. I can never do this task without thinking of Bob and his little rhyme.


I’m not convinced many rooks and crows come to Greenwich these days, they’ve been muscled out by the parakeets, but certainly the mice enjoy a nibble, the foxes like to dig around and the parrots won’t say no. If they find my peas, in stations of 3 or 4 as per Bob’s rhyme, I can’t quite believe they’ll divvy them up neatly with the other creatures, but hey, it’s a cute adage and peas are cheap enough to keep tradition.

I still collect pea sticks as Dave taught me to.

When I started to write this post, it was going to be about sowing peas but I realise I’ve learned something more important. Next time I’m up at my current plot I’m going to take time to take pictures of my ‘lotty pals and their plots, for one day I will thank myself.

PS *Shocked though Bob would be I happily use urine in my own compost heap



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