Tony Allen: And finally... Can you dig it?

May 23 | 2023

From a gardening point of view there are two main categories of people: those who have a garden and those who don’t.

Tony AllenIn addition there are two further sub-categories: those who hate gardening and those who don’t. These two statements are not necessarily mutually inclusive.

For three years we lived in a third-floor apartment where our nearest attempt at anything approaching a garden was a small balcony and an occasional, but unhappy, tomato plant. I was a smoker - many were at the time - and I was supposed to be giving it up. My lame excuse of having a look around the garden (whilst I had a few secret puffs) soon fell (literally) on stony ground.

I know that I’m digressing here, but I’ve got to tell you this story which, even with the passage of time, still amuses me.

After many years of trying to stop smoking, I reached a point where I rashly made a solemn promise to Mrs Allen that I was going to become an ex-smoker. I was not having much success and as a result was constantly contriving reasons for leaving the house, such as going to the local tip, or popping down to the garage to get some petrol, etc. or taking the dog out for a walk – but we haven’t got a dog! These of course were all excuses for being able to gratify my craving.

It was a bright Sunday morning and I was at the front of the house cleaning the car when my son drove up in somewhat of a flurry. Upon exiting his car he walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and then remarked: “Dad, I love you dearly, but do you realise that you’re the only person in East Grinstead who thinks that you don’t smoke!” I was somewhat amusingly confused to say the least.

It turns out that he’d been at a dinner party the night before when somebody said to him that he hadn’t realised that I smoked but that he had seen me smoking whilst he was paying a visit to the local council waste tip. Even though my son expressed his disbelief, it turned out that almost everybody in the room appeared to have seen me smoking in all sorts of odd locations throughout the area. Hence the reason why this most humorous and apposite comment was made to me by my son.

I should add that as a result of this experience, which included a wife whose response was heavily laden with exasperation, I decided to give up for good. I should also add that this episode happened some forty years ago and I haven’t smoked since; although to this day people still stop me in the street to remind me of this story about what, after all, was a fortuitous episode in my life.

Now where were we? Oh yes, I seem to remember that I was supposed to be writing about gardening. I definitely fall into the category of somebody who enjoys having a garden. My current garden is not massive and it’s kind of a wedge shape being wider at the bottom (the plot thickens). The problem has been that we have come through an extended and unusually rainy period of weather where I feel that I would have been much better off concentrating on building an ark. As a result, the lawn really needs mowing, and in spite of myself, my plot looks like one of those gardens comprising hay meadows full of wild flowers - which we used to call weeds - and piles of logs, hopefully inhabited by contented prickly things called hedgehogs. All of which would probably fill the heart of any TV garden presenter.  

I know that it’s perhaps an age thing, but I really do enjoy mucking about in the garden and I would love to tell you about it, but I find that I haven’t got the space left. Of course the nice thing about gardening is that you go outside with all good intentions; and then you get talking to somebody; and then after that you get talking to somebody else; and then you have a coffee and then it starts raining; and then it’s time to go indoors and then there’s no time left for gardening – which, when you come to think about it, is maybe a metaphor for this article!

Photo: Tony Allen.