George returned to where I
was sitting in the bar of the Dog and Duck, and
placed two further pints of bitter on the table.
He sat down and took a sip
of his pint. There was something else I
wanted to talk to you about, Swan, he said,
What was that?
I know that
youre not keen on gardening clubs, but the
committee has asked me to try to persuade you to
go along for an interview at the village
I enjoy gardening,
I replied, but you know that I view the
hobby as a solo leisure activity. I dont
particularly want to talk about it at meetings,
and you know what I think of the way that
horticultural shows, even the local one, turn
what should be a relaxing hobby into a cut-throat
I know, I know,
George agreed. All Im asking is that
you go along for an interview and make a final
decision after that.
An interview is an
odd thing in itself, I reflected.
Most types of leisure clubs just welcome
new attendees and make membership pretty much a
formality for anyone who then wants to join. This
recent national trend for gardening groups to
interview prospective members, makes them seem
more like secret societies.
Just give the
interview a try, George implored.
OK, I agreed,
to appease my old friend, but I can assure
you that it will be a complete waste of time.
On the following Tuesday,
as I walked towards the shed, on the site of the
village allotments, that had been designated as
headquarters for the horticultural society, I was
regretting that I had given-in to Georges
There was no way I could
join any gardening society. The reasons I had
repeated to George were absolutely true, but I
also had a darker secret that would preclude me
from any agronomical fraternity: In public, I
enthusiastically expounded the virtues of organic,
eco-friendly, sustainable gardening. To do
otherwise in modern, politically correct, British
society would result in at least ostracism,
probably hate-mail and possibly lynching by the
eco-mafia. In fact, I had become quite good at
advising on organic pest control and techniques
for producing home-grown manures and fertilisers
that were beneficial to the environment.
The reality was, however,
that it was all lies. I had tried all that
politically correct, green nonsense, but it
simply did not work. My very successful and much
admired flowers, fruit and vegetables had been
raised with the assistance of slug pellets,
various toxic herbicides and pesticides, and
liberal quantities of synthetic fertilizers.
If I joined any gardening
society, I could never sustain such a subterfuge.
Thanks for coming to
this interview, Swan, said Harry Roberts,
Chair of the horticultural society, as we sat
down in the allotment shed.
I feel a bit of a
fraud, actually, Harry, I said.
George persuaded me to come along here
after five pints of Fuggles Best Bitter at
the Dog and Duck. You know me; theres no
way Id fit-in at the club.
We know the truth,
Swan, said Harry, starkly.
We both sat in silence for
a few moments.
What do you mean?
We know that you
dont garden organically in fact,
quite the opposite.
understand, I replied, defensively.
If you already know that I sometimes
dont operate in a biologically sustainable
way, why ask me to an interview for membership of
just the kind of gardener we need, Harry
answered. He noticed the bewildered look on my
face. Youre assuming that we really
believe all that organic, sustainable crap that
we go on about. You and I both know that everyone
has to spout that kind of bollocks these days. We
both also know that organic, eco-friendly
gardening is like doing it with your eyes shut
and both hands tied behind your back: very little
grows, and those few plants that somehow struggle
to survive get eaten by slugs, snails, aphids and
anything else that blows past on the wind. If
that doesnt finish them off then the last
sickly shoots get struck down with a myriad of
I was amazed. You
know, Harry, I gasped, I never
suspected that the horticultural society had that
kind of philosophy. I thought I was the only one
whod given up on bio-sustainability.
Although I must admit that Id always been
impressed by what you and your other members grew,
and Id wondered how the Hell you all did it.
gardening clubs, nationwide, are now mostly for
members only, Harry continued.
Members have to take a solemn oath, based
on Masonic rites, never to reveal who supplies
the DDT, Agent Orange and so forth - or even that
they use them. Harry gave me a
conspiratorial wink. Will you join us, now?
Did you say you can
get supplies of DDT? I asked. You
cant beat that stuff.
Theres half a
ton of it in Erics garage. Harry
confirmed. In return, we were hoping you
could contribute supplies of that special soil
Ah, you mean the
Chernobyl topsoil, I said. Yes,
theres an old Russian Friend of mine who
ships it as organic fertiliser. I could get the
club as much as you want.
seems to cause plants to grow much bigger,
doesnt it? Harry queried.
Yes, and it kills
slugs and other pests, I confirmed.
For security and safety, you have to apply
it after dark while wearing a radiation suit, but
it causes the soil to give-off an iridescent glow,
so you can see what youre doing, even on
the darkest nights.
Harry smiled. Have
you changed your mind about joining the society?
Well, yes, I
said. Id be very pleased to apply,
Harry responded. And wed be delighted
to accept you as a member.