Friday, 9 February 2007

The Baby Killer

I would very much like to be polite and sweet and kind about everyone on the allotment site. But... there had to be a but didn't there? A previous tenant had taken it upon themselves to dig a big water tank directly into the ground along the path separating my allotment from the one next door. You can see it in the attached photograph. Surely this must rate as one of the most dangerous and stupid things you could do to an allotment?

I have a toddler, she's a beautiful little girl and in keeping with toddlerdom she rushes around playing and hasn't yet learned to keep herself safe from harm, relying instead on mummy and daddy for the common sense ration (the mad fool!).

Several members of the allotment committee commented on how amazingly dangerous the tank was, even to adults let alone toddlers.

Before signing the paperwork to formally take tenancy of the allotment I decided that the tank had to go, as a matter of first priority.

Fortunately the committee agreed with me and told me to just go for it. Apparently the chap who had put it in had also put another one in somewhere else on the plot and they'd made him remove it.

One week later, my first time on site with a spade in my hand, digging commenced.

If you've never tried to dig a tank out of the ground before then my advice is to avoid doing so if at all possible. If you have dug a tank out of the ground before then you will know what I am talking about.

Those things seem to go on down forever. I had visions of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth as I dug ever further down.

OK. So I am indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, but as I dug ever further down and the rotten thing still refused to budge I did begin to wonder if I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

With a bit of superb foresight (for me) I had at least thought to bail the water out of it before trying to actually remove it. With genius-like foresight (again, for me) I even dug down far enough to stand in a trench whilst bailing out. How much water came out of that tank? Certainly enough to top up the pond on the plot and still flood a couple of the beds to buggery.

All sorts of creepy nasties crept out of the weed in that tank too. I was grateful for the gloves I was wearing. Visions of evil, flesh munching parasites boring their way into my skin flitted before my eyes as each of the abyssal critters leapt viciously from the weed and brutally attacked the leather of my gloves with much gnashing of mandibles (OK, so I'm no great fan of creepy crawlies).

Eventually the tank was dug around on four sides, and the bailing out had left a mere 50 or so litres of water in the bottom (top tip: use a square sided bucket when bailing water out of a flat bottomed tank, you suffer far less of the diminishing returns of a round bucket as you get towards the bottom of the tank - hindsight is a wonderful thing). After a bit of wiggling with a spade, and knocking out a couple of retaining bricks the tank was free.

Of course it was still pretty heavy and 60cm or so in the ground.

It was time for an Arnie moment. Back straight, feet well planted either side of the tank, deep breaths, good grip, and heave!

Fortunately the bugger came out in one go and I bellowed like an apeman, proud of my achievement.

No doubt the governor of California would have flipped it topside with the flick of a single finger and then returned to his hi-carb breakfast, but for me it was something of a triumph.

Naturally enough I now had a dirty great big hole in the path. My previous foresight hadn't extended as far as how to fill the resultant hole. Oh well, I slung a load of detritus from the site in and covered it up with the soil I'd removed when digging it out. There's still a depression there, which no doubt will get worse before it gets better, but do I really give a toss? Nope. My baby is now safe from one of the many hazards on my allotment and I'm happy.


Tristán White said...

Would it not have been more neighbourly (and less strenuous) to have suggested that strong metal wire mesh be placed on the top and held down with a small padlock? Rather than uprooting it without his permission?

Yes, you're 100% right about the man's stupidity and disregard for safety, but I'm all for sorting things out in a more peaceful manner first. After all, you are the new kid on the block, a bit early to start throwing your weight around, surely?

But more to the point, you do realise that every time he is dying for a piss (or worse), or looking for somewhere to empty a can of oil, you know where he's going to go! It could then escalate to full-on environmental warfare - shaking his greenfly onto your sweetcorn, collecting snails for your cabbages, surreptitiously planting knotweed roots into your patch... and unless you have a webcam installed somewhere, you'll never be able to prove it was him!

Let's just hope he never types Richmond Allotments into Google and discover this blog :-))

Honestly though, I think you took a risk in rubbing him up the wrong way. Being a namby pamby liberal tree-hugger, I would have tried to reason with him first, and suggest some kind of secure covering like you see on garden ponds....

I don't disagree with you though that the man sounds like a div for thinking it was a good idea in the first place....

Allotment Man said...

The tank was buried by a previous incumbent, not by anyone currently on site.

The neighbours two plots over seemed to think it was a great idea to dig it out, they too were utterly befuddled by the idea of having a tank dug into the ground.

The thing was a liability, and we have decent water supplies to the site anyway.

Nobody's going to take the hump as far as I can tell.

Tristán White said...

Oh that's alright then - I thought you were already making enemies with your neighbours. :-)