I don’t know whether it’s ironic or not – it feels like there’s a certain irony to it – but mere days after posting about how “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” types alone won’t prevent future civil unrest, I’ve been made to feel a little like a Daily Mail reader, because someone has vandalised our allotment.
Some context. We applied for the allotment about a year ago, and waited nine months to get one. Over the three months we’ve had it, we’ve done nothing but dig and build and weed and clear, because our plot, a ¼ plot, hadn’t been tended to in a year as the previous occupier had been unwell. We’ve built raised beds, sown grass seeds, eradicated every trace of seven-foot-tall parsnip plants, which had not just gone to seed but beyond seed and out the other side. We’ve planted no crops yet, because the allotment simply wasn’t ready to do so. But it is now, and after three months of toil we’re planning what to plant and when, so we can start to reap what we sow, in a very literal sense.
Last Thursday, a month or so after ordering it, our shed arrived. It’s not a big shed; just enough to keep tools and a chair and spare off-road tyres for my bike in. It’s my first shed. On Sunday, with a little help from Emma and Peter, I built it, atop the concrete slabs we’d lain down a couple of weeks ago in anticipation. It took us a couple of hours. On Sunday evening my arm started to hurt, and on Monday morning when I got up I couldn’t move it, and went to A&E. Building my shed had inflamed a muscle in my shoulder, and I needed to rest it completely for a few days, take ibuprofen, and let it heal. No more shed building, no more digging, no more cycling, for a few days. But that was OK. I’d be fine for the weekend, and then we could paint the shed.
At lunchtime today I got a phone call from Bev, who runs the allotments. Someone had broken into the allotments overnight and vandalised people’s sheds. Some sheds had had their windows broken. Our shed is too small for windows. We’d debated whether to padlock it, but decided not to – if someone wanted to break in and steal our fork we figured it was cheaper to jus buy a new fork than to buy and build a whole new shed if they decided to kick the door in to get at what was inside.
Whoever broke into the allotments opened our shed door, saw what was inside, and decided not to steal my chair or my tyres or our tools. But they did decide, as you can see, to take our paint pot, and throw the contents over the shed door. We were going to do this ourselves on Saturday anyway – a little more carefully, granted, with less paint on the concrete slabs and the door hinges – so in some ways they’ve saved us some effort. But they’ve also cost us £15 for a new pot of paint, and the effort of cleaning the slabs, and the spatters of paint that have landed elsewhere, and getting some white spirit on the hinges, and the effort of dealing with the mental weariness that hits you when someone vandalises your property, more than outweighs the fact that we don’t have to paint al the door from scratch now.
Exeter is a nice city. There are no real areas of deprivation. There are no areas of the city I would not or have not cycled through, even if there are areas I’d rather not live in. There are no racial ghettos, no generations of kids without hope and identities who’ve been caught in a system that doesn’t care for them. There’ve been no incidents of the police shooting local people in dubious circumstances. This allotment vandalising is not the result of decades of pent-up social problems. It’s dickheads out to cause mischief. They’ve not acquired anything, not sent any messages, not made anyone in power aware of their plight. They’ve just undone months upon months of hard work by people who like to grow their own fruit and veg. I can almost understand theft as covetous act; I can almost justify graffiti as an expressive act. But throwing someone’s paint over their shed, smashing someone else’s shed windows, trampling a fence… this is just wanton idiocy.
The police have taken the paint can to check it for fingerprints. I hope they find who did it. I hope I get to speak to them, get to try and make them understand how pissed off I am about what they’ve done to my shed, to everyone’s sheds. Somehow I suspect I wont, though.