Tuesday, 5 August 2008

1980: A Tale Of Three Marrows...

It all began in the spring of 1980, when Seth Armstrong phoned The Woolpack with a message for Amos. As it happened, Amos was down in the cellar at the time, so Mr Wilks took the message, which was that Seth had news for Amos and would be calling in later that day.

Amos was not happy. He hated phone calls of this nature, and he was ill at ease wondering what Seth wanted.

Amos was suspicious of Seth at the best of times: "Any man who spends as much time as he does in't Malt Shovel when he could drink good beer in't Woolpack... He needs watching."

The Malt Shovel was Seth's "local" at the time - although as 1980 wore on, he switched to The Woolpack, which didn't please Amos either.

Seth had invited Sam Pearson along to hear the news he had for Amos.

"What were you phoning me about this morning, Seth Armstrong?" asked Amos. "Mr Wilks said it were important. You can have folks worrying leaving that sort of message."

"It's about your allotment," said Seth. "It's come through sooner than expected." Amos had applied for an allotment some months before. "There's been one disused for awhile up near't Ramseys'..."

"Well, what's that got to do with me?"

"It's yours now. I know how disappointed you were when you didn't get one a few months back. So, me as Chairman and't allotments committee have moved heaven and earth to get you this one."

Amos was most unhappy. He confided in Mr Wilks: truth to tell, he'd gone off the idea of an allotment. But he didn't want to turn it down when so much trouble had been taken to secure him one.

"Anyway, Seth and Sam were waiting for me to back down - I could see it in their eyes."

And the Brearlys had their pride.

Amos made his way to the allotments and consulted a rough map Seth had drawn... where was his plot?

Then he saw it: "Oh, 'eck!!"

Amos had been allocated a shambles of an allotment. And he knew Seth Armstrong had done it on purpose.

"You'll sort that out in less than five minutes, Amos," said Seth later that day in The Woolpack. "Anyway, digging runs in't family, don't it?"

"Eh?" Amos was puzzled.


"I hardly thinks that's the sort of comparison to go making in polite company," bristled Amos. "Anyway, techniques are quite different."

"How?" asked Seth.

"I've no intention of discussing that sort of thing over my bar!"

"Well, Amos, if you can't cope..." said Sam, impishly.

"Of course I can cope! Us Brearlys have always been noted for keeping a good garden - we've always had brown fingers!"

- So, fleet of foot and light of head, Amos made his way down to the allotments again to start work on transforming his patch the very next day.

Off with his duffle coat, out with his fork, dig in, and...

... immediate humiliation as the fork handle snapped in two. Of course, there were a couple of village worthies nearby to spread the news of Amos' glorious debut at the allotments all around Beckindale.

However, the Brearlys were not to be put off by minor setbacks, and when Sam and Seth arrived to check on Amos' progress (this should be a laugh, they thought!) they were taken aback to find that Amos...

... was bringing order to what had previously been chaos. Neighbouring allotment holders were agog.

Of course, the physical toil took its toll on Amos and one afternoon Seth and Sam called on him and found him in a very undignified state...

... sleeping like a true allotment holder.

Amos set to to study horticulture and came across a "deep bed planting method" he reckoned was well worth a try.

It involved not walking on the soil - hence the plank.

Several villagers got told off for treading on his precious patch of ground: "I'll not have my horticultural facilities sabotaged!" Seth and Sam were, despite themselves, interested in Amos' efforts and Sam even suggested that they might have to look to their laurels.

Amos even bought a propagator. He really was very devoted to his hobby.
Until a new fad came along.

As 1980 progressed, Amos held a charity auction and investigated bogles (what?!) in the locality. The allotment fell by the wayside and soon Seth was complaining about the weeds which were beginning to sprout there.
Mr Wilks made fun of Amos' neglect of the allotment and, stung, Amos set out to make amends. Once on his patch of God's good earth, he lifted a piece of sacking and found...

... a magnificent marrow - which he had planted but which had since grown with no help from him!

So, horticulture was well and truly back on the agenda. Seth and Sam were in heavy competition with marrows for Beckindale's annual horticultural show, but Amos reckoned he had the winner.

Seth was well pleased with his little beauty, and went to feed it some of his top secret preparation a few days later...

... unaware that he was being spied on.

But then...

... he did become aware: "What do you want, Amos Brearly?!"

Of course, Amos was all innocence.

Sam was later bothered by Seth in his shed. The competition was intense, and Seth was out to discover the strength of the opposition. Having seen Seth off with a flea in his ear, Sam settled down to play his recorder. Then a terrible thought struck him!

Outside, it was plain that Seth had no intention of leaving Emmerdale Farm just yet. Stealthily, he set off in the opposite direction...

Until Sam appeared and pointed out that the direction Seth was taking led to his garden...

... and that he should be walking in the opposite direction - off the farm.

Well, of course, Seth was all injured innocence.

The day of the show dawned, and Amos applied the final beauty treatment to his pride and joy:
"Are you sure it's according to the rules for you to do that?" asked Mr Wilks.
"There's nowt in this but a drop of oil and vinegar, Mr Wilks, and nowt illegal in giving it a sheen."
All was hustle and bustle in Beckindale as preparations for the show began...

Seth arrived with his marrow in a little cart behind his bike...

Amos arrived, as did Sam. Their greetings were friendly on the surface, but highly guarded:
"Morning, Sam."

"Morning, Amos."

"Nice day for't show."


"Aye. Very nice."
Amos could see that Sam was looking at him with thinly veiled hostility.
"I'll see you inside."

"Aye. I daresay."

"Aye," said Amos and scuttled off towards the marquee.

On the way he met Seth:

"Morning, Seth."

"Morning, Amos."

"Nice day for't show."

"Aye - nice day."

"Aye, very nice."
You could have cut the atmosphere between the two men with a knife.

Marrows all laid out in the marquee, it was time for Amos to open The Woolpack. Seth and Sam joined him there for a drink. Tension was running high. The Judgement Hour loomed.

Richard Anstey, NY Estates boss, who had been at the show earlier, came in.

"Judging's not done yet?!" cried Amos.

"Oh, aye - they're letting the crowds in. They decided to start early because of the bowls match." For Beckindale was taking on Robblesfield that afternoon.

"Who won?" Seth was highly agitated. He had to know who had won the best marrow section.

"I didn't see that. I can tell you who won..."

But Seth, Sam and Amos were off: "MR WILKS - TAKE CHARGE!!" squawked Amos, as he shot out of the door.

Mr Wilks was highly amused: "I don't know about the three minute mile," he told Richard, "but I reckon there's gonna be summat close to it there!"

The three men flew from the pub...

... and across the village...

... to find a very large marrow had joined theirs in the marquee - and what's more, had been awarded First Prize!
The three men stumbled to a halt:
"Whose is that?" cried Seth.
"Mine!" cried a jaunty female voice. "I thought I had a chance! And they're so easy to grow, en't they?"
And there was Nellie Ratcliffe, winner of the Best Marrow Prize in the Beckindale Horticultural Show, 1980.
Amos, Seth and Sam were numb with horror. Sam was even more distraught when the realisation hit him that his marrow had been awarded joint second prize along with Seth's and Amos'. Imagine being lumped in with those two!!
Amos carried his disgruntlement back to The Woolpack where the locals were reeling: Robblesfield had won the Butterworth Ball. It was a grim day for Beckindale.
Mr Wilks reminded Amos that he had other fish to fry with The Hotten Courier, which cheered him up a bit. He even bought a round of drinks for his customers.

Meanwhile, through the back lanes of Beckindale, wended a weary figure on a bike. A broken man. A man who had been subjected to complete and utter humiliation.

"Nellie Ratcliffe! Anybody but Nellie Ratcliffe!!" he was muttering.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9.8.08

    These were the Glory Days!