Before I started school as my mum was training to be a teacher, I spent a lot of my days being looked after by her parents. My grandmother patiently showed me how to make jam tarts and current slices while my grandad let me help him in the garden.
My grandfather was a skilled gardener producing great spuds, runner beans, cabbage and all the other veg to go with meals.
My grandad also had a greenhouse which in the summer, everything came from that was needed for a salad including the tastiest of tomatoes.
I have such fond memories of such wonderful times and I am sure the produce from my grandad’s garden was the tastiest I have ever had. Mind you it could have been the extra protein from the greenfly or slugs on the lettuce and cabbage – well my grandmother didn’t always spot them when washing them!
My next experience of working with fruit and veg was when I started working on a stall in Leeds Kirkgate market when I was 15. I was thinking about that time in the seventies – oh the good old days – when shoppers brought their own shopping bags with them and bought spuds which either went in a brown paper bag or were put loose straight into a shopping bag. No plastic bags and plenty of knobbly potatoes with the odd slug hole in which the unsuspecting purchaser got amongst the perfectly formed ones!
No waste in those days and recycling was taking glass pop bottles back to the shop to get your deposit returned.
I lived near the Headingley cricket ground and when the test matches were on, when entry became free in the afternoon, I used to go along with shopping bags and collect empty pop bottles. I took the empties to the nearest shop to the cricket ground where a Ronnie Barker type shopkeeper offered me a price at less than what the haul was worth in refunds knowing I would accept rather than struggling to the next nearest newsagents.
My career did not take me in the direction of food producer, cook, retailer or entrepreneur (bottle collecting did not make me a mint!) but rather public service as a police officer. I also have to admit I never really got into gardening which may seem incongruous as I Chair the Pateley Bridge in Bloom group.
The Pateley Bridge in Bloom group volunteers are for the second year preparing the field below the Bridge over the River Nidd by seeding it to create a wildflower meadow. The area to be seeded is being extended and local farmers Norman and Robert Shepherd came to assist. Norman used a tractor with pasture topper to cut back the long grass whilst Robert later used a rotavator to turn the soil.
Norman’s daughter Kirsty, my son Alex, and Tim Ledbetter have also been hard at work preparing the meadow raking away the cut grass.
While watching the meadow being prepared by the volunteers a couple came to speak with me. They said they had recognised me from being on the recent BBC TV programme Britain in Bloom featuring Pateley Bridge. The couple were from London and had come to stay in the area which they had not been to before, purely because of the TV programme.
I chatted to the couple about the show and discussed the ongoing work on the wildflower meadow explaining it was going to be part of Pateley Bridge’s entry in this year’s Britain in Bloom competition.
A blooming expert – must be in my DNA!