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One day, somewhere and sometime on Gods green earth, I hope to have enough land to be able to, if not sustain myself and my family, but at least produce enough fruit and vegetables to make a jams and salads. Until then, I have always loved the idea of the good life, possibly as the child that Tom and Barbara Goode never had. Like Tom flirting with Margot, I have even flirted with the notion of owning my allotment but again like Tom and Margot, never actually getting beyond a Christmas kiss stage, in my case, phoning Flitwick Council to make a half hearted enquiry. So, when I saw the book 'Allotted Time' by Robin Shelton in a charity shop for the princely sum of 50 pence, I grabbed this book like Vanilla Ice grabbed his nine, but all he heard was shell.
Allotted Time: Twelve Months, Two Blokes, One Shed, No Idea, to give it its full name, was first in March 2006 and tells the story of how Robin Shelton and his best mate Steve embark upon the journey of allotment ownership. Their struggle to change an abandoned and overgrown plot into something producing an array of vegetables is told over the year and is much more about the journey than the actual factual gardening nuances.
This is a book about the highs and lows of allotment ownership, about how owning and tending to an allotment helped Robin enhance his friendship with Steve and his struggle to emerge from the pit of depression whilst having to cope with divorce, joblessness and weekend parenting. It is a quintessentially English book - the stories of supping tea in poorly assembled sheds, dying tomatoes in make shift greenhouses, the stereotypical other allotments owners and of course the Great British weather. But Allotted Time is more than that; it is the story of life lessons learned and how a simple plot of overgrown land can restore a long lost balance with mother nature and make you feel better in yourself.
Robin Shelton writes this in a light, heart warming manner but is frank enough to share with the reader his own personal problems and struggles - be they financial or emotional. Although the book has a tendency to ramble a little in places - this is always going to happen when someone is putting their thoughts down to paper,he can almost be forgiven, for the ramblings are witty and entertaining enough that you really don't mind. The purpose, confidence and inner peace that allotment ownership gives comes through beautifully, even to the most un-green of fingers.
A criticism, if I have one, is that the book tails off a bit towards the end and at a time when the year of hard labour was coming into fruition. The end felt a little rushed and not in keeping with the rest of the books enjoyable meanderings, which is a shame, because the ending is what you invariably have as a last impression of the book. Despite fun and interesting sections on the history of allotments and the factuality's of their gardening, taped on at the end, I felt only slighted cheated by the way the book finished and would say it doesn't impact too heavily on the cumulative enjoyment that this book offers
Overall, I enjoyed this light, easy-to-read and humorous book. The ramblings were witty enough to tolerate and this blackened heart of mine was definitely warmed by Robin Shelton's endearing account of life-learning lessons and allotment ownership.
* Hardcover: 334 pages
* Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson (3 Mar 2006)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 0283070323
* ISBN-13: 978-0283070327
* Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
I paid 50p for the hardback version, I believe in Amazon the price for a hardback is around £4 whilst the price for a paperback is around the £2 mark