Red shuns gold

An obscure knocking sounded from Red's plot, but I couldn't see Red. Then he emerged, mole-like, from the corner by his shed where all his "it'll be useful someday" flotsam washes up. "Make do" is the motto around here. Nobody buys something that can be had for free. He tossed three motley bricks down on the earth. Retrieved, no doubt, from some demolition site.

"Morning, Red. Lovely morning."

"Bee-yootiful. As good as summer."

"So what are you up to now?"

Red, who often says how much he loves his plot, is always gleefully pleased to tell you about his latest exploit. This time, pathmaking. His plot has seemed to me an arena of such totally dedicated horticultural endeavor that paths would waste space. But there, like a thoroughfare, a backbone amid the furrows, a straight row of vertical bricks stood like a queue at a post office.

I had a question I wanted to ask him.

"Did you hear about the man down South," I asked, "a Mr. Roger Smith, in Bicester, who has refused an offer of 35,000 for his plot? It's in several papers. A house-building company wants him out. Most of the 50-odd plotters have caved in after about 10 years' pressure. But he and his next-door plotter, Mr. Ralph, refuse to sell out."

"Quite right," said Red. "It's his life."

"So you wouldn't sell your plot?" I asked. "I mean, if you owned it?"

Our plots are rented for 10 a year. The heroic Mr. Smith bought his. No one can force him to sell.

Red said: "I'd do what the guys down there are doing. Those builders can keep their money."

That settled, I started in on my row of peas, stretching out a string and index-fingering a line of holes, one per pea. You're meant to "scatter" or even "broadcast" peas in a shallow trench. But I am trying, as Red often says, "something new."

"How about 45,000, Red?" I shouted as temptingly as possible.



He gave me a look signifying: "Forget it."

I collected wire hoops from my shed to arch over the peas and support a white-cloth bird-deterrent. I hesitated (on one of my paths) and called: "75,000, then?" A low, persuasively negative grunt rose from the furrows.

"100,000?" No answer. "250,000?" But as he bent over, positioning his bricks, I surmised his grin.

Later, peas sown, I took the dog down the main path for a word with Tommy Docherty. Passing the far side of Red's patch, I innocently inquired again, "300,000?"

Red stood up. His voice suggested a percussive finality: "Not For Sale." In this world there are men. And there are men of iron.

TOMMY considered the matter a moment. "Och, no, I wouldna take it. I mean, the family'd get most of it. And a few years doon the line, you'd have no money left and no plot either." He reckoned too many people believe property is all that matters. "Not a thought for the environment!"

Knowing the ferocity of her devotion to her plot, I guessed Monty's answer. I was wrong.

"I'd have to think about it. Maybe a clean start would be good."

Fiona and Jim were just arriving. Fiona said: "I'd grab the money and run!" Jim agreed: "You wouldn't see me for the burns on my fingers!"

But then, by plot standards, these two 30-somethings are virtual juveniles. You might expect the young to have a keener interest in windfalls of a pecuniary nature.

On the other hand ... they could be joking....

*A weekly series about a municipal garden in Glasgow, Scotland.

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