Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

How to plant asparagus crowns

At the risk of sounding like an insufferable egomaniac, I’m always stunned by the performance of my ‘how to plant asparagus’ video. It gets hundreds of plays every weekend, especially at this time of year – from which I infer that there are a lot of folks out there wanting to know how to do it right.

If you’re one of them, this video aims to help. I’m embedding it here again for punters arriving from search engines wanting to know how to do it:


A guide to planting asparagus from Soilman on Vimeo.

Posted on 28th April 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Back and not really loving it

Hello – er, I’m back. I think.

God, where did the time go? Can’t believe it’s been so long. Certainly can’t believe the state of my vegetable plot, which is primordial. I hadn’t been for three months until yesterday… and I got a horrible shock.

Reason for this extended absence is obviously the Works, which didn’t finish until shortly before Christmas. But also the not doing the allotment – the not going, the not digging, the not weeding, the not spending hours and hours a week there – has been oddly addictive.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to go back. I DON’T want to go back.

Having run a large (a very large) vegetable plot for six years without a break, I’d lost sight of how much time it was costing me, and how much energy it was sucking out of me.

Having had some time away – and enjoyed it – I’ve realised that I need to moderate my time on the plot if I’m going to continue enjoying it. The 12 months to August 2012 were, if I’m honest, pretty miserable. It didn’t help that we had the shittest of shitty seasons last year. But I was also fighting the clock every week, desperately trying to fit in an hour’s digging here, 20 mins weeding there. When I wasn’t at the plot, I was feeling guilty about it. When I was, I was in a hurry and resenting it.

Somehow, this has to change. I need more quality time with my vegetables.

Any suggestions?

Posted on 9th February 2013
Under: Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

Service interrupted by Works

New roomI’ve not been near a growing vegetable for four weeks. Apologies. Reason: See pic.

There are works at Soilman Towers, and they’ve been distracting me. By way of illustration, consider the lunch I ‘enjoyed’ not 10 mins ago. It consisted of microwaved/reheated Chinese takeaway noodles eaten off a paper plate with a plastic fork, accompanied by the whine of an angle-grinder. This is my new life.

It won’t last much longer – in theory, another three or four weeks. But ominously, the builders said those dread words “ready in time for Christmas”.

Which means we’re FUCKED.

Posted on 29th September 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Attention Blogger users

I’m not a fan of Blogger. I don’t use it.

I do understand, though, that lots of people DO use it – and nothing I say will ever change that.

So I’m not going to waste your time urging you to dump it. This is just a very simple plea to you to look at one thing in Blogger and one thing only:

Your comment settings.

By default, Blogger (or certain themes in Blogger) make it impossible for non-Blogger (or non-Google) users to comment. It IS possible to change this setting so that anyone can leave a comment… but lots of Blogger users either don’t know how to do this, or aren’t aware that people are being locked out by their comment settings. That’s the way Google likes it: they want everyone to be registered, tagged and monitored in their universe – so that’s their default setting.

There’s plenty of folks whom I’d love to engage with on their site… but can’t. This seems a shame.

Fancy doing something about it?

PS You might also consider turning off that Blogger CAPTCHA anti-spam function that produces impossible-to-decipher words and numbers.

Posted on 31st May 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Politician misdiagnoses problem shocker

A follow-up to my ‘all politicians are the same’ post of the other day. Apologies to those who come to for, you know, gardening (what is wrong with you guys?).

I laughed out loud at this today. McNicol is at least smart enough to spot the problem – namely, that increasingly UK voters think all politicians are the same.

But as usual, he misses the main point. Rather than moaning about folks complaining that there’s no point in voting (and desperately casting around for ways to ‘engage with them’ better), he fails to ask the most obvious question, viz:

WHY do we feel there’s no point in voting? What on earth would put that foolish idea into the heads of the benighted, moronic, lumpen proletariat?

Well, McNicol, I’ll tell you (even though you’re not asking): Because there is no point in voting. Demonstrably. Provably. Evidentially.

Doesn’t matter whom we elect. We get basically the same-ish policies, the same-ish social arrangements, the same-ish direction of travel. Any differences are trivial. Parties try to sell them as significant, but they’re piffling and irrelevant (50p tax rate, anyone?).

Government in the 21st century, it turns out, is the art of tinkering feebly and pointlessly around the edges. Better education and better communication merely reveal this fact to the electorate in starker and starker detail.

The only thing that will ‘reinvigorate’ politics and ‘re-engage’ voters is the moment when politicians stop telling us they’re so important and start acknowledging the opposite: that they’re not. That most things are out of their control. That what we want is very different from what they, politicians, can realistically deliver. That events dictate policies, not vice versa.

That Jerusalem will never and can never be builded here. Actually.

And that if we ever want to see some real, radical change – something that WOULD make political debate relevant again (like debating, in detail, how we’re going to deal with the end of oil) – then we need to ditch this stupid consensus bullshit that encourages politicians to lie about their intentions, then renege on them in office to pursue the path of least resistance and lilly-livered lying.

Posted on 17th May 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Men: Click away now

It’s tough being a man.

Like my female readers (who are no doubt scoffing and/or laughing their arses off at this point), I don’t hear this from men very often.

I hear women, on the other hand, complaining about their lot all the time. All the time. You can’t get through a daily newspaper, a night in front of the TV or a day in the office without hearing the full litany of disadvantages and unfairnesses women endure.

As a result, women have my heartfelt sympathy. Genuinely. Women are the bedrock and sine qua non of civilised society, and without their superhuman efforts we’d all fall apart in minutes. I believe them – wholeheartedly – when they tell me how tough their lives are. I see the evidence every day. And even if I didn’t see it, I’d be reminded of it: women’s voluble conversations on the matter see to that.

Of men’s view of the world, I hear little or nothing. Men fill the airwaves with their views on sex, sport and politics (of the non-gender variety). They dominate the humorous discourse of popular culture.

But of their ‘real’, private thoughts on their lives – their priorities, their place in the world,  their loves, wants, needs, desires, hopes, fears – they are almost entirely silent.

I find this frankly weird, and disconcerting.  I’m a man with plenty of views on the matter. I can’t believe I’m alone. Yet I have never had a meaningful, sincere conversation with another man on this topic. I wouldn’t dare. None of us would. The ‘omerta’ of silence between men is strictly enforced. In conversation with men, anything goes – except anything important and meaningful.

Suicide: a men-only participation sport

If men have little to say, though, they have plenty to act out. You see it all around you in the darker side of male behaviour: anger, bitterness, withdrawal from family and friends, confrontational aggression, destructively competitive behaviour, violent criminality, heavy drinking and drug use, infidelity, despair.

All of which I find troubling, intellectually. If men’s lives are so much easier and better than women’s, how come men are so over-represented in prisons, addiction programmes and  institutions for the homeless? How come suicide is an almost exclusively male sport?

I’m not sure men feel as fortunate as they clearly should.

Take work/life balance, for example. This is a phrase that holds no meaning for most men, whose ‘balance’ is work/work. ‘Life’ isn’t an option, never has been. Earning money is the only meaningful contribution men can make. Hence their work – the only thing they’ve got and can ever have – becomes so hideously important and emblematic for them. I don’t think most men want it that way. But that’s how it is, and always will be.

More money = less happiness

Women counter that men make more money, which is true. But here’s the thing (and it’s a thing anyone sane over 30, of either gender, eventually figures out): Money means nothing. It brings comfort, not happiness. None of the things that matter a damn in life can be bought – or sold. If money is the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

Perhaps most depressing for men is the tragic mirage of sexual satisfaction. To steal from Oscar Wilde, sex is ‘the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied’. Testosterone, in man-level doses, is the most dangerous and damaging drug of all. It puts sex, for men, at stage centre from the age of 13 until at least age 50. That’s almost 40 years of obsessional sex-seeking that delivers endless disappointment, disillusion, shame and misunderstanding. Not until late in life do most men escape the death-wish pain of their own sex drives… by which time, for many, it has damaged them and their nearest and dearest beyond repair.

I could go on, but I’d hate to infuriate my female readers more than I already have. And I know the men have already clicked the ‘back’ button. That’s what we do when things threaten to get too ‘real’.

Relax, guys: I’ll get back to gardening next post.

Posted on 23rd March 2012
Under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

At least the carrots are good

carrotsEr, gosh. Wow. Can it really be that long since I last updated this blog?

Dear, oh dear. I’ve not gone a month without posting since I started this nonsense four years ago. I guess circumstances must really be as difficult as they’ve felt. I won’t bore you with the details.

Anyway, I’ve actually been to the plot and dug up some veg. Carrots, my reliable standby, have been excellent this year. We’ve had buckets and buckets of ’em. A welcome consequence of the rain that otherwise ruined our summer (shame about the chickweed, which has run rampant in the wet).

Fountain in front of National Museum of Modern Art, RomeOne nice thing: I’m just back from Rome, one of my favourite places EVAH. Spent three days simply walking… and walking. Really the most wonderful city in the world: beautiful, exciting, stimulating, moving. I’m footsore, but delighted.

Just the one disappointment: couldn’t get into the Galleria Borghese, so missed the ticklesome statue of Pauline Bonaparte, posed from life as she reclined, Venus-like and semi-naked, on a divan. When asked how she could possibly have posed naked, she replied: “Oh it wasn’t cold. There was a stove in the room.”

Love it that she’s still embarrassing her wretched brother all these centuries later.

Posted on 3rd November 2011
Under: Roots, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

‘Unacceptably weedy’

allotment letterI’m sad tonight. I got this letter today.

I’ve been on this allotment site seven years. I’m not one of the oldest people there, but I’m one of the longest serving. I produce crops every year and often they’re ‘best in class’. In short, folks know I’m serious.

Then I get this.

It’s true that the plot IS weedy and I’ve not been there much in the last month. Readers of this blog will know some of the reasons: in-laws visiting, heavy workload, two weeks of bronchial problems and rain coinciding with my free moments. I certainly don’t deny the plot isn’t looking its best as a result.

But here’s the thing: Anybody who knows anything about my record on this site (and lots do) should have assumed that it was a temporary glitch and not got in touch until much later. Certainly I’m stunned that I’ve got this letter after just a month of inactivity.

I was angry at first. Now I’m just sad – sad that my fellow allotmenteers are so quick to ‘grass me up’ despite my record on site.

I often say that the worst thing about getting older is the growing sense of disappointment with oneself and other people. Today was a big disappointment spike. Disappointed with myself for putting myself in this position. Disappointed by my colleagues’ intolerance.

Of course rules are rules – and you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. So I’ll use this as a wake-up call, and tidy it pronto. If it must be pristine to keep ’em off my backs, it will be. I’ll sleep even less… but I value my plot and am grateful for it.

I’ll not see my neighbours in the same light again, though. They wouldn’t give an inch, and now I daren’t. Neighbours are apparently to be distrusted. So I’m withdrawing from the smiles and the chats.

Which I guess makes us all the losers.

Posted on 12th August 2011
Under: Uncategorized, Weeds | 29 Comments »

Of Hugh Grant and media abuses (continued)…

I know I shouldn’t, but I really do have to comment on Hugh Grant’s interventions into the phone-hacking scandal.

Hugh’s a splendid chap and I have huge respect for what he’s trying to do. The cynic in me fears he’s motivated less by selfless concern for the public good than by revenge (it was News International papers that cheerled the story of his embarrassing roadside blowjob), but I’m willing to suspend my cynicism. Hey, right thing even for wrong reason etc etc.

My worry about Hugh and his enthusiastic cheerleaders is that they risk exemplifying the dangerous adage that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

I don’t disagree for a second with his analysis that “there has been a grotesque power over our lawmakers.” Spot on. That’s how Murdoch (and, for ages, Conrad Black at the Telegraph) kept scandal at bay. Nobody in public office (or in a private position of power) wants to offend the media – obviously. It’s dangerous.

And yes, it IS grotesque. It affords the media, as I’ve said before, a disproportionate and shocking power. Which they will abuse. That’s human beings for you.

But here’s the thing: The alternative – politicians wielding grotesque power over the media – is far worse. If, like me, you deplore the vices of a free media uncontrolled by government, wait until you see the behaviour of a ‘free’ government unrestrained by media.

Speaking for myself, I’m forever amazed by what our lords and masters get up to even when they know the eyes of the press are upon them (parliamentary expenses, anyone?).

Believe me, you do NOT want to live in a country where the media lives in fear of politicians. On the contrary. We want our lawmakers and powerbrokers to fear the press. We need them to.

The downside, as ever, is that this has a price. Freedom – of the media, of the individual, of society – always does.

Example: You want to be free to own a firearm? Fine. But you’ll have to put up with an increased risk of being shot, or seeing your children shot. Americans, on the whole, understand this freedom dilemma better than Europeans, and I admire them for it. This side of the Atlantic, we’re all for minimising risk – all risk – at the expense of a wide range of freedoms.

When it comes to press freedom, it is exceptionally dangerous to tinker – no matter how noble or desirable the goal. I’m all for preventing a repeat of the phone hacking, and all the rest of it (I have an even greater interest in stopping it than a non-journalist), but every ‘solution’ proposed, so far, scares the shit out of me.

It should scare the shit out of you too. We must get this right – which means cool, unemotional deliberation and great, great care.

We do not need excitable luvvies running around talking about grotesque press power and demanding that politicians ‘control’ the media.

Posted on 13th July 2011
Under: Rants, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Soilman: As boring as you suspected

Given the news today – SECOND lesbian blogger turns out to be middle-aged American man (following on from the first, yesterday) – I thought I should just take a moment to reassure readers of my identity.

For the record: I am NOT a lesbian living a secret gay life in Syria or a lesbian activist running a feminist website.

I AM an allotment holder lamenting shitty crops and whingeing about lack of rainfall. I AM, furthermore, a boring, middle-aged man living in London’s suburbia and trying not to succumb to a midlife crisis by pretending to be a person of the opposite gender campaigning for things I don’t fully understand.

For total clarity: I will NOT be coming out any time soon as a high-rise, homosexual apartment dweller trying to set up a branch of the Terence Higgins Trust in Riyadh. I will not be leaving my faithful followers feeling betrayed, wondering whether they can trust any of my detailed onion planting advice, or whether it was all the figment of a foetid metrosexual imagination.

This, I hope, will put your concerns to rest.

Posted on 14th June 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments »