That’s the topic of my latest column for the local Muswell Hill and Highgate magazines.
As to what the vice is?
Well, you’ll have to read on…
Our secret vice
But it’s a wonderful vice – it’s growing things! Having attended a number of horticultural shows this summer, including the Highgate, Muswell Hill and Hornsey Horticultural Societies – I have been staggered not only by the produce and exhibits – but the commitment and participation by so very many local people to this raging passion.
Now a veteran of a number of local shows – I am wise to the fact that most of the First in Show honours are collected either by Gary Sycamore or Eric Gurman – who basically clean up on each occasion. However, as one woman who kept coming second to Eric said to me at the Muswell Hill show – that when she does get a First Prize and beats him – it really means something to beat such a master. And there are so many categories – that others do get their chance to shine.
A tremendous amount of effort goes into organising and arranging these shows – and they are all incredibly well attended and very much enjoyed by everyone. Personally, I love them. I cannot grow things myself – for two reasons: a) incapable and b) time poor! But one day, when I have time – it’s on my list – because it is such a joyous thing to do.
I am always amazed at how such beautiful flowers and vegetables come into being – despite last summer with no rain and this summer with nothing but rain. Over my two years of shows, I am learning about what makes a perfect vegetable or bloom and that the National Horticultural Society judging has very strict, high and testing criteria.
It is also clear that there is a wonderful community that grows up around allotments and horticultural societies. This year I ‘launched’ the new ‘shed’ for the ‘Golf Course’ allotments – the result of lots and lots of work in terms of bidding for a lottery grant. Now we have a splendid shed – and a community who all know each other, where the kids can play and where actual food is grown! This isn’t just about shows – this is a real opportunity to bring people together, make people feel part of a community – and to produce wonderful vegetables which save a lot of money.
I was given a basket of vegetables to take home from the Muswell Hill show – and the vegetables just tasted heavenly – completely different from the ones I buy. It makes you think! And it is not just the taste that appeals – it is knowing that there is a vibrant community behind the growing of the fruit and veg that appeals too – because so often, especially in our urban areas, community ties are so weak and hardly anyone knows anyone else.
Anyway, this is just one of the best of local community activities and individual pastimes that you can get. I ran into one of my Liberal Democrat colleagues at the Hornsey show, Cllr Errol Reid (Hornsey) who is now campaigning to expand horticultural horizons. Errol wants to get the National Horticultural Society to extend its judging categories to window flower boxes and stuff grown inside – so that not lucky enough to have access to an allotment or garden can join in the fun!