A gala day today. A large package flomped through my letterbox this morning and to my surprise it was a gift from our hero Dr DG Hessayon – the gardening experts’ expert. If you have seen Can You Dig It? then you will know that we spend a significant chunk of the show celebrating the work of Dr Hessayon – or DG as we like to call him. He has proved to be a much worthier subject for my admiration than the pipsqueak Titchmarsh and this latest gift is yet another example of his generosity and marvellous sense of humour. He has very kindly sent both Dan and I copies of his latest book The NEW Vegetable and Herb Expert. I imagine my squeals of delight were similar to the yells of joy from readers of the Old Testament when the NEW Testament plopped through their letterboxes for The Vegetable and Herb Expert is basically our Bible.
DG has signed both books. He describes me as “the original Expert cheerleader” while the other book is addressed “To Dan – who sing’s ‘em while I write ‘em”. He also sent us a lovely letter, which explains that he has “included all sorts of weird and wonderful things” in this NEW edition. “According to the newspapers and the radio this is last one I shall write…but who knows?” he concludes, signing off: “From me DG.”
The NEW Vegetable and Herb Expert does indeed look very exciting as it not only features “standard vegetables” but also “non-standard vegetables” and “novelty varieties”. I can’t wait to read it and I am sure Dan feels the same. Thank you DG from the bottom of our artichoke hearts.
This is me just before we did our first show of 2014 in the delightful village of Whissonsett in Norfolk. Dan told me to adopt a triumphant pose, which is why I have flung my head and shoulders back. Also note the triumphant squash virtually centre stage. We had a great time doing the show thanks to the lovely folk in the audience and the efforts of indefatigable local promoter Lesley Pegg, who gave me some of her delicious homemade blackcurrant jelly to take home with me.
If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know I sing a song about the time someone put up a sign at my allotment that said: “To whoever stole my giant marrow, I hope it does you no good.” Well, a lady came up to me after the show to say someone on her allotment had erected a similar sign that said: “I knows who took my onions.” Putting up angry signs appears to be a common theme of allotment life. I am keen to gather more examples and photos for a coffee table book of angry signs. I think we also met the man who grows all the herbs for Colman’s sauces – that’s a lot of herbs.
Anyway, we look forward to returning to the area very soon with three more shows for Creative Arts East – two in Norfolk and one in Suffolk. In the meantime, we both need to get down to our allotments, which have been badly neglected in all the wet weather. Dan tells me that he has re-built his shed, which was blow apart in the recent Big Storm. Meanwhile I have been living on last year’s crops – mainly squash. However, that’s nearly run out so I really do need to grow some new stuff.
We have added another show – this time in Suffolk! We shall be in the village of Walsham le Willows on Friday, March 14. It seems they are VERY keen gardeners in W-l-W and this year celebrate the 34th anniversary of the Walsham le Willows Open Gardens Weekend – one of the longest-running and most successful open garden events in the whole country.
It’s our ambition to perform Can You Dig It? in every county in the UK and that quest continues in 2014 starting with a series of shows in Norfolk. On February 22 we’re off to the delightful village of Whissonsett where there is an ongoing battle to get the internet to work. It will be my second time performing in the village hall and I am very much looking forward to going back. More details here. Next we’re off to Ovington with a show on March 15 followed by a show on March 16 in the village of Wood Norton. If you’d like us to come and conquer your county then do get in touch!
Everyone knows the old showbiz adage – never work with children and animals. This is probably wise advice but children and animals can be entertaining in some circumstances. Snails, on the other hand, are useless as we discovered when we performed alongside some the other week. We were providing the entertainment at a Christmas party for landscape architects and gardeners and one of the organisers had brought along some props, which included some flowerpots complete with live snails. We were very excited as this was a first for Can You Dig It? Live snails on stage! What would they do? Would they join in the songs? Would they slime up Dan’s trousers? Would they laugh at our jokes and boo every time we mentioned slugs? We were, of course, doomed to disappointment as the snails did precisely NOTHING. This was their big moment but they just stayed in their flowerpot asleep.
Talking of Christmas, if you are racking your brains for exciting gifts to give the gardener in your life then look no further than the Can You Dig It? CD, which contains 16 songs about growing your own vegetables. You can buy it from this very website here. We will continue touring the show in 2014 starting off with three shows in Norfolk in February/March. More details to follow.
AAAGH! It’s a horrible human/vegetable hybrid come to destroy the world! Not really – it’s just me with a hollowed out squash on my head. Why did I put a hollowed out squash on my head? A good question. Basically my head was there, the hollowed squash was there and it just seemed the right thing to do. If you ever feel like putting a hollow squash/pumpkin on your head then here’s a tip – put a tea towel on your head first like I did. This helps stop pumpkin juice from dribbling down your face and neck – but not entirely.
Anyway, this is the giant squash I grew this year and I am very proud of it. And I am not the only one to dream of monstrous half human, half-veg beings because Dan’s new album with his band Pig with the Face of a Boy is called The Girl with the Arms Made from Marrows. The title song is a very sad story about a girl with marrows for arms who goes to seek her fortune in the big city and meets a horrid pickler. I think she sets up a veg stall but it doesn’t end well. I’m afraid the story of Pumpkin-headed Jo doesn’t end well either. It ends with me eating my own head. In fact I ate a bit of it last night in a pumpkin curry.
Dan and his pals have made a video of one of the other songs on the album – Middle. It’s about a nasty climate change denier and is very clever because it was filmed in one shot. You can watch it here.
Devastating news. I have a bad back and have been officially told not to do any digging on my allotment. How am I going to dig over my beds? According to my physiotherapist, I am not to do any digging until she has sorted out my back muscles so my plot will just have to go to wrack and ruin UNLESS Dan comes over and digs it for me. Or maybe Alan Titchmarsh could come and do it now that he is not presenting the Chelsea Flower Show any more. If anyone would like to volunteer to come over and dig my plot then please get in touch.
Here is a selection of the pumpkins and squashes I have grown on my allotment this year including my mega-squash, which weighs in at TWO STONE. I know because I weighed on the bathroom scales. I wonder if it will taste nice. I think you’ll agree that this is an impressive collection although some of the butternut squashes are a bit small and some look almost phallic – or is that just my torrid imagination?
Here I am as “Grower of the Month” in Your Allotment magazine, a boutique publication for allotmenteers in North London. The mag is perfect for anyone battling to grow crops on London clay as all the articles are about people trying to do the same. I don’t know what I am doing in this photo. I think I am pointing to some beetroot, which I have since dug up and made into pickled beetroot and borscht. The inset is an embarrassing photo of me getting my silver cup for flower arranging from the Mayor of Harrow, a very exciting moment in my life, perhaps the most exciting moment. It can be quite stressful when a gardening journalist comes to visit your plot. Before Your Allotment came to see me, I spent days weeding and tidying so I could pretend that my allotment looked smart all of the time.
Dan and I were given a very warm welcome when did the show in Seavington (pronounced Sevington), Somerset on Saturday. Not only had our hosts adorned the stage with homegrown fruit and veg, and THREE bags of John Innes compost, but a local artist had created a series of glorious paintings as a backdrop to our sold out performance.
The show was organised by fellow Jo and award-winning vegetable grower Jo Mills. She’s an archaeologist by trade and sometimes organises talks so had to explain to villagers that the show was about a different type of digging (the world’s best musical comedy show about archaeology Can You Dig It Up? is still in development).
Jo did an excellent job in fulfilling all the requirements of our show rider, including providing Hungry Caterpillar tissues and homegrown tomatoes in the dressing room. I won’t go on stage unless I can blow my nose on a Hungry Caterpillar tissue and Dan refuses to sing unless he has fresh, homegrown tomatoes for his voice so we were glad to see all our not-unreasonable demands had been met.
Jo has also kindly given us some exciting climbing French bean seeds to try. Dan says we should have another competition but we all know where that will lead – to Dan losing again. He’s not an award-winning vegetable grower like me and other Jo, you see. Jo had even brought in an album of her many prizes for her produce – something for both Dan and I to aspire to although I am already half way there what with my silver cup and sheaf of certificates (Dan has none). Anyway, all in all it was a splendid evening and we’re very pleased to have helped Jo and her posse reach their fundraising total for adaptations to the village shop.
If you’d like us to come and do a show in your village then do get in touch.