Quick Review: Big Allotment Challenge BBC2 Tuesday 15th April

Seeds SownI’d been looking forward to this series starting on BBC2, a show about the challenges of an allotment, growing your own produce and what you can make or do with it. Or at least that was what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what the program was about.

It was more about the competition element of having an allotment. A bit like the annual village horticultural show on steroids. Very little about the effort that it takes to grow vegetables and flowers of the standard required to show, and much more about the uniformity, conformity and competition.

I admit that I’ve never been one for the competition side of the allotment. I deliberately do not take part in the horticultural show on our allotment, partly because I don’t have the time, and partly because the reason for growing, is for eating and producing. Not for getting one up on my allotment neighbours.

Growing stuff can be hard, but size, shape etc. don’t matter so much when your growing it to eat. A crooked carrot can taste just as good as a perfect straight one.

I was following the show via twitter as well, and it seems that opinion is mixed. Some people loved the show, others not so much. I’m afraid I’m in the latter camp. It didn’t do it for me. I think it had lots of potential, but it wasted a whole growing cycle and focused on the competition. I appreciate this is entertainment and shows such as Bake Off etc. are all the rage. Maybe an allotment is not the right medium for reality competition.

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Out today… The House of Dolls


I’m really looking forward to reading David’s latest book.

Amsterdam = a city that I know relatively well, but am expecting to discover in a whole new set of ways.
Pieter Vos = a new series character. I love a series read, and Nic Costa was one of the best, so am expecting more of the same, plus there is already a second in the pipeline.

Come on UPS, hurry up and deliver already!

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Originally posted on David Hewson:

Vos header Today I start a new phase in this long career with the launch of the first new series since the Costa books began with  A Season for the Dead more than a decade ago.

The House of Dolls is the debut book for Pieter Vos, an Amsterdammer living in a houseboat on the Prinsengracht canal. It’s out now from Pan Macmillan and will be published in Dutch by Boekerij in June. I’m  delighted to say it’s also being bought for European TV by one of the largest media companies in Europe… of which more later.

You can read more about the book here. There’s an extensive post with photos on the video and background here. And if you have an iPad you can download a free background multimedia book on the series here.

Next year’s instalment in the series is now being edited. More Pieter Vos and co…

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Allotment Video Update April 5th 2014

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Today’s conversation with a caller from ‘Microsoft’


The Dark Knight writes books too, great books…

Originally posted on David Hewson:


DAVID sits at a desk staring at a screen, almost ready to type. The phone rings. He answers.


(bright young sub-Indian Continent voice)

Hello. This is Samantha from the Microsoft Window Control Centre. To whom do I have the honour of addressing?



A long pause. O.S behind the phone call we become aware of the loud noise of a busy call centre. It sounds like a bus station in rush hour.


Mr Batman…


It’s just Batman. No Mr…

Another long pause.


Mr Batman… we are ringing to tell you your PC is infected. It’s very important we help you install some software to remedy this…


Batman has no infected PCs. He has the power to infect them. But being good he does not use this.


(seemingly puzzled)

You must go the website I will give you and…

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The Story of Murphy

It began like many a Saturday morning. I got up before breakfast and went to take my dog Wilson for a walk. We had two dogs until quite recently, Wilson and Sparky, but Sparky’s time had come and we lost him eight days before.

Anyway we’d gotten as far as the pedestrian crossing to get into the park, when we could see a dog on its own, barking. As we went to cross the dog came running towards us, tail up and happy to see us. However not the best way to approach a strange dog, who you’ve never met before. Wilson was on his lead, and not happy at the approach and I had to struggle to keep the two apart, fearing now that this strange dog was not friendly after all.

I managed to keep us all apart and we crossed the road into the park, our new companion, with us, but at a distance. I was looking for the owner, figuring that they were out too, but had gotten left behind, however there was no sign, and this strange dog had no collar or tags. I was beginning to wonder if it was a stray or a dumped dog, one that no one wanted. I could see by now, that it was a male dog, and he did seem genuinely happy to be with us.

He followed us all the way round on our walk of the park, again keeping a respectful distance, and I was beginning to wonder what I was going to do when we got back to the road, and what should I do if he followed us home. I didn’t want another dog, not so soon after Sparky.

As we approached the road, I began to get concerned about what I would do, and whether we could all get across safely. I hatched a plan to use my belt as a temporary lead, but when our stranger saw it, he clearly had other ideas. So Plan A was a bust.

As it was early I thought we’d just approach the roadside cautiously, and hang back if there were any cars. Fortunately there weren’t any, so we went for it. Straight across in one go. Our strange friend ahead, now leading the way.

We got home, and he did follow us in the front gate. Wilson’s understandably not happy about this, but happy to tolerate it in my presence.

As we’d walked I’d decided that we would try and get indoors and then call the dog warden. Putting Wilson indoors first, and then bringing our stranger in as far as our front porch. We are blessed with a large front porch, which is great for drying off wet dogs before they get into the house, and storing coats and boots. Now it would seem, a perfect temporary kennel for our new friend.

Calling to my partner Ann, I asked her for the telephone and rang the out-of-hours number for the dog warden.

“I’ve found a dog,” I said. Giving a description and the guess of breed.

“That sounds like a report I had early this morning,” Said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Does he answer to Murphy?”

I tried the name, and sure enough there was a response.

“Seems so,” I said. Thinking that Murphy would soon be reunited with his owner.

“Unfortunately I can’t give out the owners details,” the voice said. “For data protection reasons.”

“I understand,” I said. “Can you give them my phone number and they can call me?”

“No, I’m afraid I can’t do that either.”

“So what happens then?”

“You’ll have to wait until 9am.”

“But it’s only 6.30 now. I thought this was the out-of-hours service.”

“It is, but the dog warden only works after 9am.”

So accepting that out-of-hours, only applied to answering the phone. We settled in to wait. It was clear that we couldn’t let Murphy in the house, beyond the porch, nor would he stay in the porch alone. So we settled in to wait.


It’s now 0825. Murphy likes balls, but doesn’t like being left in the porch alone, even if only for a minute while I nip to the loo. He’s good company, but he has stinky farts, especially when constrained in a 12′ x 4′ porch.

I will update later.


Update 09:10. I wasn’t expecting an immediate response, but turns out that the Council didn’t log my call properly earlier, so Murphy will be with us a little longer than expected.

Update: 10:05 Following sensible and swift action from the dog warden, Murphy a.k.a Pickles, has been reunited with their owner.

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Allotment Video Playlist

Clearly I have too much time on my hands, but here’s a playlist of all my allotment videos that have made it onto YouTube. I’m sure that there are a few more out there that didn’t make it there, as there are a few big gaps in the chronology. If you have nothing better to do for over two and a half hours, feel free to watch!

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Allotment Update 5th March 2014

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