Monday 30 July 2007


I just can’t get enough of muddy fields in Somerset, so I’m off to the Big Green Gathering tomorrow in a partly home-made tent.

What is it with tents? Folding poles and water resistant fabrics were invented quite a while ago now, surely it’s not that difficult to design something that basically works. It seems unlikely that people design tents who have never actually camped, but when I thought about getting a new one and saw the way some of them are made I started imagining them improvising budget versions of the product testing machines on those Ikea adverts. Everyone in the office stands in a row and blows on it at the same time: it’s windproof. Stick it under the water cooler: it’s waterproof.

It’s perfectly obvious, for example, that having to construct the inner first is going to get everything very wet when it’s raining, so why does anyone still design them with poles on the inside? And why oh why does my current tent have an outer door flap that overhangs the bloody inside bit?

After opening the door and watching it direct the rain exactly onto the end of my sleeping bag for about the hundredth time at Glastonbury, I recently bought a whole new tent from, to more or less the same design but with a proper porch over the door.

“This tent is fully waterproof to 2000mm hydro static head (the recommended use for the UK is only 1500)” it said. “Abrasion, mildew and ultraviolet resistant it said. Fly sheet – 70 Denier Polyester (190T Threads per square inch)” . Very nice. Cut to me lying in said tent in a muddy field, a very long way from the nearest central heating, curled around the edge with a plastic bag in the middle to catch the steady drips running straight into the tent from the ventilation mesh right in the top.

So I’m back in the old tent again this week and will appreciate anew all the other things about it which are not shit. It doesn’t actually leak. It has loops for the pegs that can indeed be attached to the ground with pegs. The poles go in keepers that they fit in rather than on stupid pins that pull them too tight, and it now has a custom-built, rain-deflecting, transparent U.V. stabilised plastic porch. Oh yes.

No photos yet because I’ve neurotically packed it three times already, but if it works then I think I’ll patent it. If it doesn’t then sod it, I am definitely going to get a yurt and that’s that. With a wood burning stove and a horse to carry it for me.

Friday 20 July 2007

"Saturday" by Ian McEwan

The style and especially descriptions of music are good, but I'm still not sure what the point is supposed to be. What does any of it have to do with the anti-war march in the end? Why don't any of the characters actually go on the march? What's the purpose of having something so massive as a backdrop if you're not going to use it? Puzzling indeed.

Monday 9 July 2007

Bastards bastards bastards...

...bastards bastards bastards bastards.

My allotment has been vandalised. The greenhouse tipi that used to look like this

Now looks like this with several bricks and a saw bench inside it

The bender greenhouse now has ventilation

The shed has been relocated to the middle of a flower bed and repositioned on its side, leaving the green roof in a pile on top of some strawberries

And I will never again be able to safely stick my fingers into my soil because it’s all completely covered with tiny shards of glass. There is also a layer of large and medium sized shards of glass which I spent two hours today picking up without seeming to make much difference. There are at least three whole greenhouses in there in little bits, which at least might set the slugs back a bit.

This is quite pretty though

Thursday 5 July 2007

Sign a Petition!

Got a message today about allotments in Guilford which are about to be built on. The message is copied below, and at this stage a petition is likely to be actually, practically useful. It's a legit "10 Downing Street" petition which asks for your name, e-mail and address, but this is only to verify that you're a real person and the only mail you'll get is notification of a government response if they issue one. Doesn't even involve getting cold and wet!

"We have been campaigning for many months to get our local council (Guildford Borough Council) to cancel housing plans on our local Allotment Site.

2 acres of woodland (some of it really ancient) and wildlife habitat are threatened by housing and being concreted over.

Oue message is that the part of Guildford where we live is already over-developed with Housing and we badly need to keep areas of open space to prevent our area becoming a concrete jungle.

And there are vast areas of brownfield land elsewhere in the town to build houses .. support us by signing our online petition today.

When you sign it you have to give your name and address but this will be kept confidential, all that visitors to the Petitions website can see is your name.

The address is:

If you are keen on preserving the Environment, or saving Open Spaces, saving Wildflife habitats - or even Allotment Gardening - then take a look at our Allotment Self-Help Group's website and you'll see the site & read about the open space & everything we're fighting for. You can find it at:

Please do pass this message on to your friends and Allotment colleagues - we need all the help we can get.

Many thanks

David Bird
Allotment Buff & Petition Organiser"

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Dream Last Night

Young soldiers going home. They arrived months ago in a 52 seater coach, and I'm watching as they all get back into the same seats for the long trip back. 52 out, 52 home.

Most of them look shell shocked, many are being carried onto the coach, but it's not until I see someone carrying a man over his shoulder down the aisle that I realise they're putting the dead ones back into their seats too, still in full uniform and propped up as best they can in their seats next to the living.

I start staring through the coach windows trying to work out which expressions are frozen in death and which in horror.