Alfred Menezes’s Story, as told to Richard Rainey

Plots 372, 373 & 374

Alfred’s arrival at plot 372 came through Emrys Morgan, a plot holder who worked for Barclays Bank in Addiscombe. Alfred took Emrys’s advice and had a look at the allotments. That was in February 1980 and today he retains this plot in addition to the neighbouring plots of 373 and 374.

Alfred’s family originates from Goa. He was born and grew up in Kenya, eventually coming to settle in Croydon where he has lived for 50 years. In Kenya his grandfather carried out the planting on a one-acre plantation where mulberries, apples, figs, guava and pomegranates were grown.

When Alfred joined the allotment society, Bill Franklin was chairman, Geoff Moir was Secretary; Geoff was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, FRGS and was a proud holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross, DFC, he used these titles in all his correspondence. Bill Evans was the current ground steward. Alfred’s plot was a relatively new one and a favourite spot for foxes. Nearby Wally Granger grew produce for exhibition only, onions, sweet peas and blackberries for wine making.

The canteen was open but was confined to tea and biscuits only, run by Doris Davis who was later to become the secretary. The trading centre was run by Dorothy Bull who succeeded her father in this post. For guidance, Alfred discovered the helpfulness and knowledge of Ted Viner and the late Ernie Faircloth.

Today Alfred grows his favourite vegetables: Spanish runner beans, mange tout, asparagus, coriander and artichokes. His favourite potatoes are Linzer Delicatess, Charlotte and Desiree. He enjoys growing redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries.

In 2010 Alfred’s wife Margaret was elected as chair of the committee, a most demanding position and throughout the next six years Alfred gave her his unstinting support. During her stewardship a site office was opened each weekend morning giving members easy access to raise any problems with the committee members. Alfred was always to be found nearby taking his turn as a volunteer in the warehouse and helping generally. Their joint legacy was to leave the allotment society the stable, content and tranquil entity it is today.

In 2012 the wild life flower garden was started. It is situated on the ground adjoining the social club dwelling. This patch of land was always fondly known as the pony field because in the past it was rented out for ponies to graze on. This area was never suitable for turning into allotments because the ground near the end of Glenthorne Avenue was always waterlogged as a high-water table runs beneath. The main instigators of turning this thatch covered land into communal use were Malcom Bridge, Hilary Waterhouse and Alfred’s wife Margaret. Always one to take on a challenge, Alfred joined the work parties and planted a long hedge of 150 plants as well as digging, sowing and ditch clearing. The wild life garden, complete with pond has now become a place where many can find peace and tranquillity.

Before he retired Alfred worked in London and found that an evening visit to his plots however brief, eased the stress of the daily travelling. If daylight disappeared, he was able to continue using the street light near to where the orphanage used to be in Shirley Oaks Village. He was not alone in discovering that at such times, it is not what you do, it is what the gardens can do for you.