In a Fog

We returned from the south a week ago, and I still haven’t caught up with my emails and duties. It feels like the world (fate, the gods…?) is determined to stop me. Bastard.

The day after we got back D. went to harvest his second early potatoes from his raised bed at the allotments. When he got there he found no potatoes to harvest. They had all been taken.

As the person who manages* the allotments I set about trying to find out what happened.

I found out.

I did this by looking at the evidence and asking anyone if they’d seen anything. This led to one possibility: that a young volunteer had taken them. I’ve rarely spoken to this volunteer, he’s shy and anxious so has never turned up when we’ve arranged to meet (at his instigation) and other volunteers manage him (we are all volunteers!), but we have had a lot of correspondence on Messenger. Thus I sent him a message:

Hello Peter** did you clear potatoes from raised bed 14?

He responded: I only took potatoes that I planted in April in that bed.

And from there we continued:

Me: But that was someone else’s bed, and he planted and grew the potatoes.

Peter: I’m sorry but I put potatoes in that bed in April as there was nobody using them.
I planted potatoes in that bed in April there was nobody using those beds I knew of.

Me: He planted his spuds in that bed, and the one beside it, on 22 March. It may have looked like no one was using it, but someone, a rent paying allotment holder, was.

Peter: Well I’m sorry how was I supposed to know

Me: Please don’t take other people’s raspberries and blackcurrants.*** You need to ask before assuming a plot is not being used, all the raised beds are rented this year.

 

That afternoon one of the volunteers who supervises/guides Peter found him tearing up his plants and saying he was never coming back. The next day I got an email from this volunteer saying, amongst other things, that I owe Peter an apology for my disgraceful behaviour. Later he responded to a Face Book post about the loss saying Peter had permission to use that bed. But from who?

How can I keep track of who has which plot/bed/space if someone else is giving permission to use them? Surely it’s that person who owes Peter an apology?

Or, was that exchange problematic: do I sound aggressive or unfair? Could I have worded my question, and my responses to his answer in a gentler way? Or should I not have asked him at all (I actually did email the angry volunteer (let’s call him George) who manages Peter two days before contacting Peter himself,  but got no response. If he’d said he’ll deal with it and get back to me I’d have left it; I have no need of confrontation)?

I replied to George’s email accusing me of ripping Peter away from his haven immediately, trying to explain my position but four days have passed and he has said nothing more. Other people have given me their full support, including the Chair and other site users, but I don’t feel this can be resolved if George won’t engage.

We have a board meeting tonight and Peter’s other overseer should be there, hopefully he’ll be a bit more communicative even if that involves giving me a hard time. But, quite frankly, I’m on the verge on taking all the paperwork involved in this, dumping it on George’s doorstep with a note saying that as I’m so crap and he’s so brilliant the job’s his, and never going to that damn place again†.


Apologies if this is muddled and ranty.


*Basically this entails allotting plots, raised beds, and polytunnel spaces to people who want them; sending those people each an agreement form to complete and sign; sending invoices; keeping a record of who has what plot/bed/space; and helping to make the site a nice place to be.

**Not his real name.
*** He’d posted on his FB page that he would have lots of raspberries and blackcurrants soon, and I know he doesn’t have any canes/bushes of his own on site.

†Unfortunately I’m hindered in this by not wanting to trouble the Chair who has worked incredibly hard to save the charity from extinction and is a very good person indeed.

6 Comments

    1. I does, though I don’t think anyone here has, or had, any intention to harm. Which doesn’t mean harm hasn’t been done. I have to hope that we can all learn from this, and do better next time someone like Peter turns up.

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    1. This is small town living: in cities there are places specially for people like Peter (childlike, fragile…), but in a place like this there’s nothing so it’s left to ordinary people, no training or support, to try and accommodate them. I feel really sorry for him, but I can’t privilege him over everyone else and have him helping himself to the hard work of the tenants. I have to hope that George will be able to see that.

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  1. I hope I do not rant.
    I do not like thieves, Peter stole those potatoes. I do not accept his excuse that he did not know that there were already potatoes planted into bed 14, he should have seen them whne he grubbed around. If he did at all (sorry, this sounds mean, but I have no idea about this person). This is one thing, but the point is that he did not ask, but simply took bed 14 and started something he should not have started in the first place. I do not know (and frankly do not care about) if, and if so, in what way, Peter is challenged. If he wants to use these facilities he has to follow some rules, he can not simply stumble in and act. Of course the rules must be explained to him. In this respect he is not challenged.
    (If it were my damn potatoes I’d confront him and demand them back. And, depending of my anger level, chances are good that I’d get them.)
    If Peter wants to react in a childish way, like ripping out his other plants, stomping his feet and telling anybody that he will not come back, so be it.
    In comes George, who in some way seems to be responsible for Peter.
    George demands an apology from you. Apologise for what ? For Peter’s idiocy? For Peter stealing crop ? For Peter’s childish reaction ?
    Goodness, as you described it, Peter has not even faced the sack, he was reprimanded and told to do better. This is not worth an apology. In fact an apology would be very inappropriate in my humble opinion. George should ask himself what he wants Peter to learn : If he wants Peter to show that it’s okay to grab things and do what one wants, ignore rules of a group one joins, and steal other people’s crop, then he is on the right path – thank you George, well done ! If he wants Peter to be a happy potatoe farmer, it is his (George’s) job and responsibility as overseer to make Peter understand and follow these basic rules. Or, if George thinks that all this is burgoise crap, he should at least make sure that the guy he is responsible for, uses a bed or plot he is allowed to use.
    If George thinks not answering & avoiding communication is the way to solve this problem – oh what a manly way ! – he is wrong in his job. Personally I would not move one inch into his direction, not before he says something acceptable. But I am only a sad authoritarian sack. And I would not start to explain nothing to him, before he did not clear his position : He needs to explain what he does there.
    As you say, it is small town living – the more important are rules : The closer the neighbours, the more important is who, where, what, when. Yes, it is supervision & policing, but one can not change it, or escape it. The escape is the big city, anonymity and freedom. But in the rural town you follow the rules, or you are out – and the kids yell “potatoe thief” behind yer back.
    Wonder what that board meeting brought.

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    1. Thank you, Mago!
      The board meeting was good, everyone very supportive; the Chair has read this post and expressed concern that I really would leave. But, of course, once I’d shared my woes with you all I felt immediately better.

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