The British are a bit on the bashful side. We don’t sing our own praises and as a rule we don’t put ourselves forward, we don’t push to the front and say “look at me!”. It’s that British reserve.
And that British reserve is in full action on my allotments. Hours upon hours are spent on our respective plots, tending our seedlings, trimming this, tieing that back, caring and nurturing our precious stock.
And eventually the time comes when you start picking the produce – the bounty for all your hard work. And it is then that the British allotment gardeners display their true colours. There is no big bragging going on here – in fact it seems like the exact opposite is in action.
The very British way of gardening and not singing your own praises.
The perfect looking mooli is commented upon, and you instantly decry it, you say “oh but that’s the only one out of 25 that wasn’t eaten by slugs”. The lovely cabbage you carry home and when complimented on it, you reply “hmm, not had enough water this year have we?” or of the bunch of healthy carrots “yeeees, they are ok, but the leeks have been pathetic this year” or the fabulous blood-red beetroot “well it’s a bit large, probably woody inside”. Or on the perfect crisp lettuce being carried home for lunch, “Oh the blackfly is the worst I’ve ever known it, not a single broad bean to be had”.
You see we don’t take compliments, we don’t huff and puff our achievements up, we don’t open our tail feathers like Kupa, and display them for all the world to see expecting compliments to come flooding in. We are bashful and shy about our achievements but happy to witter on about the things that didn’t work. We detract from ourselves and our achievements. We decry and deny. We both happily and willingly point out our failings.
But at the same time we openly and gamely point to our complimenters plot and marvel at their wonderful produce, their straight lines, their neatly mown paths, the heavily laden fruit trees. And they in turn say, “oh but the weeds have been such a problem this Spring” or “half the onions have got white rot and have had to be pulled and destroyed” or the classic “dreadful germination problems”. You see we are happy to celebrate other people’s successes. But publicly admit to our own? Heaven forbid!
And around we go, never fully taking the compliment in public. But all the time smiling and nodding and agreeing with our fellow gardeners. All done very politely and gently. And off we go with a shrug and a smile.
When we get home and unpack our bags, we take a look at our pickings, we wash them and trim them. We sit back and think about what we will eat for dinner, and maybe, just maybe permit ourselves a little smile. “Hmmm not bad, shame about the …..