I’m not a naturally frightened person. I deal with stuff as it comes and handle crises reasonably well.
Some years ago, I came home to find my flat burgled. It freaked me out – not because of what was taken but because someone had invaded a world I thought was personal and private. They’d been through my knicker-drawer, for god’s sake. My partner was away and I had to spend the night alone. I knew the intruders were long gone, but my nerves were jangling. In my imagination they were still there, lurking in a dark corner, watching me.
I’ve had this, most recent allotment plot for six years now and to now I’ve never felt unsafe on it. It’s a small, urban plot, with a lot of trees, nooks and hidden corners, but you look down onto it from the street; I thought it was fine.
Recently, however, it’s got to a point where I don’t want to be there alone. It’s not just me – all the plot holders are the same but most of us have jobs and diverse commitments which means it’s not that easy to co-ordinate visits and let’s face it – why the heck should we be forced to garden in gangs?
It all started a few months ago, when some kids started coming onto the site. They got in through a weak point in the fencing, down the bottom of the hill by some lock-up garages. We’ve told the council about this on many, many occasions and, with very few resources they could fix the issue. It could be stopped with a piece of high fence about 2m long, but it needs specialists – which the council employs – to do it.
Anyway, the kids came on. I know who they are. There’s an emergency access gate from his place into our site, which is, under specific rules, supposed to be kept locked. Of course it isn’t. This kid – about 10 – brings his mates over the fence to tramp through the site, then disappear. I’ve seen them on a number of occasions and told them they’re not allowed on the site and they need to go. They told me, in as many words, ‘make us.’ They know darn well I can’t touch ’em.
To be honest, I don’t care about the kids. I did it myself when I was a child – only me and my mates diced with death on a golf course. They were just having fun. I even discussed manure with them (“Eurgh – you grow food in poo?”)
The trouble is, the kids have broken down the fence and now we have a much worse problem.
It became clear we were getting older folk in – I just had to spend the first part of my gardening day clearing up beer cans, cigarette packets, fag ends, empty chocolate biscuit bags, bottles, etc. Then stuff started moving around – my chairs went missing, turning up in other people’s sheds, accompanied by clouds of cigarette smoke. Crops started getting trampled down. Then little plastic stash packets began to arrive – some clearly used, others not. Rizzla papers/packets.
I put all my chairs away in my shed, minus one that had gone missing once again.
Last week an older lady on my site was working alone when two blokes turned up. They told her they were waiting for the owner of the plot with the white table (that’s me.) Apparently I am called Oscar and have dealings with blokes that creep out my neighbours. This older lady is the woman for whom the word ‘feisty’ was coined, but she was unnerved.
I was away at the time, but when I went I got back I found a park bench on my site, next to the lost chair, all in a row behind the table, with more stash bags, beer cans, Rizzla packets etc.
Basically they’ve turned my plot into a shop and I’ve stopped wanting to visit. So far they haven’t taken any crops but that’s mainly because they’re not ready.
We have called the council constantly about this. The chap listens sympathetically and promises to pass on the message. Nothing gets done.
I haven’t visited the plot for a week, except once early in the morning before work to water; all the time slightly on edge. I can’t prove my plot’s being used for dealing and I I’m sure not all dealers carry knives, but frankly I don’t want to find out the hard way. A couple of weeks ago there was a burglary next door but one to me. My car has been broken into three times.
On Wednesday there was a big drugs raid in the next street to the plot – smashed doors, big haul, the lot.
When I heard about the drugs bust in the next street, I got a friendly copper I know on Twitter to put me in touch with the team who led it. They told me to call 999 if I’m down there and feel threatened, but to me that’s a sledgehammer to crack the proverbial nut.
I garden on my allotment for fun. To find a little relaxation and get away from stress. The other morning when I went down to water, I was jumping at every noise (our gate squeaks and we like it that way).
I know that in the grand scheme of things, where people are dying in fires and terrorists are targeting pretty much everywhere, this is a small thing and for months I didn’t bother telling the police at all. Even now I only did it to try to put some pressure on the council.
Several plot holders are talking of giving up and I know how they feel. I won’t, and I’ll fight for this – all I’m asking is two metres of fence. I’d do it myself if I had the kit but since I don’t, I’m resorting to sounding off to the universe.
Sorry about the rant. I needed to get it off my chest. Next time will be back to normal service. Honest.