Wed 4th March:
Today was sunny and spring-like. I fired up the tractor after cold months in the barn and drove it around the field a couple of times to charge the battery. The bees were out happily foraging and blackthorn is blossoming. There’s frog spawn in the water cress bed. Over the last week or so, apart from brief blustery sunny spells, it’s been mainly hail, sleet and rain. Normally if the weather’s wild, I do the bare minimum – empty the midden, a couple of token pottering jobs, then back home.
That’s changed – I’m doing as much as I possibly can to prepare to grow as much as I possibly can. It comes from a rush of enthusiasm and a sense of urgency. Is it my imagination, or are we in a pre-apocalyptic state, as freak weather ravages arable land; trade with Europe (where a lot of our food comes from), is terminally fucked-over by billionaire pricks and the spread of coronavirus causes panic?
The beds are now all mulched with wood-chip manure and sprinkled with volcanic ash (for essential nutrients). All the tree planting/transplanting is done and most of the hedge laying/pruning is done.
I’ve planted the onion sets and I’m regularly planting small quantities of seed.
Last Monday, Elias and I had a big planting session, as torrential rain scuppered our heavier outdoor plans. We planted lots of native seeds and loads from packets that say plant from February: peppers; chillies; tomatoes and various other things. I make the same mistake every year – it’s too early round here on the harsh hillside – I should really add on a month.
Elias also senses the apocalyptic and he wisely says that we should put a lot of investment into infrastructure. That’s what I’ve been trying to do on a small scale for yonks – juggling gardening with building projects and so on. He’s right though – I need to stop pissing about and do things properly – hire a digger; get a poly-tunnel; get a better tractor; invest in proper irrigation and so on.
Above are the beds in the main allotment. They came about randomly over the years, starting off wooden-framed then progressing to brick, all of which I’ve dug up from the allotment and field. We live in an area of brick-works. Bricks were once very common and readily available and were universally used on allotments for paths.
The path between the beds is a pretty affair, made from cobbles that I got from the landfill site opposite our old house. I piled them in the back yard then carried them up two at a time in a rucksack. They’re very heavy!
The path is pretty, but useless. Instead of being stepped, it follows the sloping downward contour. It soon gets slimy and for much of the year, it’s like ice. I scrub it from time to time with grit sand, but it soon gets slippy again. In fact many common forms of paths are useless: decking (gets slimy); block paving (weeds grow between the blocks); grass (gets boggy and weedy).
The best kind of path is concrete in steps small enough for the wheelbarrow to get up. The brick beds work well. I’ve drilled drainage holes at the bottom. They retain moisture well and don’t get too soggy. With hindsight, I wish I’d made them all exactly the same size so I could rotate a brassica frame and mini greenhouse between them.
I set myself the goal of documenting the year as it unfolds and so far I’m doing OK. It’s story-telling and writing; film-making; music-making and illustration all play their part.
Talking of film-making, I finished our consultant recruitment film (bar a couple of edits). I have enough footage to make a 30 minute documentary and condensing it to a 2-minute social-media eye-catcher was extremely difficult. Above all, I wanted to make something different to all the stunningly dull recruitment films that I watched before I started.
I’m in the unique position of being an insider so after a while, people just got used to me farting about with a camera. Also, I deliberately didn’t use the recorded sound from the camera, so I could talk to people as I filmed and there was more scope for natural shots. I wrote an instrumental for the backing and used text on the screen. I filmed half an hour of a CMT meeting just to capture 5 seconds of Carole’s quintessential Caroleness. Someone was presenting us with yet another f’ing flowchart/protocol and I managed to capture that thing where she takes her specs off, flicks her hair regally, gives a coruscating withering look, then ever so diplomatically points out the flaws – a perfect un-boring shot for a vice-president.
I ended it with a bucolic shot of me driving the tractor last summer wearing my shorts but I’ve decided I look like a twat, so I’ll probably edit that one out. I’ve tried to capture that sense of surreal humour and indescribable camaraderie that keeps us going – not something that I’ve seen captured in other A&E films.
My friend Jon Mitton and I started making a series of short films a few months ago. He had the notion to film in a slow-moving gentle ambient style and he showed me some examples – e.g a bee-keeper in Ireland. The broad notion is to document the annual cycle of the ranch, peppered with particular themes such as letter press printing, the influence of punk, going to medical school and so on. We also want to include some how to stuff, and talk about the nutritional value of the food I grow. He’s a far better film-maker than I am. Here’s episode 4: How to print with letterpress and woodblock
The government are great. They’ve reassured us beautifully that the NHS is well-prepared for the worst case scenario. That’s good. Well-done government. We the people salute you and bow to your command. Obvs it must be a different NHS to the one I’m seeing. Maybe they’ve used some of their offshore trillions to build a new one whilst I wasn’t looking. The one I’m seeing is creaking and collapsing and there just aren’t any more staff.
It’s OK though. The government have got that one covered too. Yep. Well done government. They’ve come up with a brill idea. They’re going to get NHS staff out of retirement to help out. Whoohoo.
Coronavirus targets over-60s and retired people are over 60? They’re all going to rush out of retirement to expose themselves to a life-threatening disease. Genius. Actually, I know a couple of surgeons who would come out of retirement just to have a ‘consultation’ with the condescending patronising nobtard fuckwit prick who came up with that idea – said genius would leave the hospital with a little gift bag, with his surgically removed trollocks in it.
In fact a French doctor came up with a trimming device a long time ago that would allow the government to watch over us from the spikes of Westminster bridge. No such thoughts cross my mind – I’d just strip them all their multi-billion pound assets and plough them back into health and social care. I’d give them all turquoise track-suits, whits socks, grey slip-ons and a one way parachute trip to help out in places like Syria and Yemen.
Government, you have serially fucked-over the NHS since coming into power by under-funding it and selling it off to pricks like Branson. You’ve taken away all bursaries and financial support for nurses. You’ve terminally alienated the most senior and resourceful NHS staff by stealing their pensions through a wicked taxation scheme (resulting in lots of them giving up over-time and retiring early). You’ve allowed our emergency departments to crumble with unsustainable numbers of patients and now you expect us to miraculously provide non-existent extra resources. Fuck you.