"They should have made the stones more level. And they should put more down," she complained.
"Who is they?" I asked, "There is no they. There's only you, and me, and all the other plot holders here. One of us put the stones there. If you think there should be more, you do it."
I probably didn't make a friend that day.
But it makes me mad. Who is this invisible army of young, well-paid labourers who she thinks does all the work around the allotments? I'll tell you who. It's our allotment chairperson, and a couple of others on the committee. But they're not paid at all, in fact they have to pay rent on their plots the same as anyone else. Their average age is about 102 (warning - statistics in this blog post are made up). They have no budget, but when they see someone throwing out a few paving stones, or some old carpet, or some hawthorn hedge trimmings, they pick them up and bring them to the allotments to make good use of them. I've had a think about some other things I know they do, and I've made a list:
- They mend the fences when hooligans break them
- They repair the lawnmowers and keep them filled with petrol
- They arrange the delivery of big piles of manure
- They lay stepping stones to help people get past the manure
- They put up with people whinging about the above two points
- They liaise with the council, who own the allotments
- They arrange delivery of compost, fertiliser, seed potatoes, onion sets and all the other things in the shed
- They make sure they are on site to take delivery of these things.
- They used to empty the toilet bucket, and now we have a chemical toilet they empty that (for that alone they deserve a medal)
- They collect the rents and pay them to the council
- They maintain the waiting list and the allocation of vacant plots
- They keep their own plots in spic-and-span order
- They dispense free advice to newbies
There's probably millions of other things I don't even know about. Even if you have complaints about your allotment association committee (and allotment-holders always seem to blame their committee for something-or-other), they deserve your gratitude and your respect.
So hug your allotment chairperson the next time you see him or her. Or at least shake his hand and say a heartfelt "Thank you". I'm sure a bottle of malt whisky wouldn't go amiss, if you feel so moved. They really do a heck of a lot of work for no reward at all, in fact they usually catch a lot of flack instead.