Today somebody in TV asked me to help ‘keep an ear to the ground for unfolding stories’ about allotment life. (S)he was making a documentary, you see.
I was rather rude. I usually am when journalists ask me for unpaid help to do their jobs. I spent 12 years scratching around looking for ‘stories’ in various guises. It was hard, thankless work. I did some things I regretted to unearth those stories, but never – I’m delighted to say – did I ask anyone else to work unpaid on my behalf.
(Sorry, T***. I’m an evil bastard and you deserved better. Blame all those moronic journalists I helped in the past who never bothered to thank me.)
It got me thinking, though. If you’re a documentary maker and you want to make one of those whimsical flicks about eccentric allotment holders… well, what do you go looking for? Men in cloth caps? Modern mums growing organic food? ‘Modern’, child-friendly sites given over to flowers, bring-and-buy sales and weekend group-hug barbecues?
Just what IS the modern non-allotmenteer’s stereotype of the allotmenteer? What’s the REAL stereotype of the modern allotmenteer?
I couldn’t even construct a stereotype of my own allotment site. The folks there defy stereotyping. We have old, young, fat, thin, male, female, undecided, the works. All classes, all social groupings. There’s not a pattern to be found, nor a good character portrait to be painted. Most of us are so fucking bland and brain-dead (I include myself in this description) that it’s a wonder we get through the day without climbing into a brimming bath hugging a plugged-in electrical appliance.
Sure, we have some cloth-capped old boys. And some earth-mother orgasm knitters. But we’ve also got family men, young singles, old ladies, retirees, newly marrieds, salesmen, writers, designers, tradespeople, civil servants. The full range of humanity, in short. With all the foibles, irritations, disputes and friendships that you find in any heterogeneous group of human beings.
Really, TV makers, there’s no great ‘story’ in this – any more than there’s a great story in Salsa dancing clubs, the George Formby society or duplicate bridge night at the Rotary club. It’s just something done by folks who happen to share an interest.
They thrum ukeleles. We plant parsnips. It ain’t the meaning of life.
Get over it already.