LITTLE SNORING   By Peter Bunting

In this pseudo-fictional article Peter Bunting shares his frustrations with National Societies. While this may be largely fictional there is a very pertinent message for the Officers of most horticultural societies.

Peter has also contributed to the Discussion Forum on the topic 'Engineers of our own demise'. The Discussion Forum link can be found on the homepage.

Little Snoring
Little Snoring is a sleepy village in the heart of Norfolk, you know the sort of place, a few houses, pub and a few sheep. In a small cottage live Ken and his lovely wife Mary, they have no children as they are leaving that until later when the mortgage is paid and they have enough money to feed the little blighters. They both work to earn enough for their needs and are very happy the way things are - total freedom to do what they want. They both have something in common they like to garden and just like everyone else they have a front and back lawn, squares with plants and things round the edge and a plastic windmill at one corner. A small pond full of algae and a few pieces of what look like yellow grass round the edge - not a horticultural delight but something the cat has done after eating something from next doors bins!

Ken's World takes a flip
Kens world takes a flip when he comes home one day with a 8 x 6 greenhouse, he bought it off old Bob at work because he has gone up in the world to a 10 x 12. With Bob's help they erected it, not far from the pond but near enough to the house to run an electric cable to it, to provide light and heat in the spring to produce seedlings. Mary was thrilled, she saw cucumbers down one side and tomatoes down the other and her lips drooled over the thought of something fresh from the vine a taste you did not get from the dried up fruits in the supermarket.

Opportunity to 'specialise'
However Ken had other ideas he wanted to 'specialise', and one day on a trip to a large flower show, he saw them, a sea of colour. "Geraniums" said Mary, "No" said Ken with his chest puffed out, "these are pelargoniums". "That's right" said the little man on the other side of the display, "do you want to buy any"?  "Yes please!" said the panting Ken and home they went with Regals, angels and some of them pendulums. 

"Join a club", said Mary
"You must join a club" said Mary, "you need to know how to grow them". And so they found this club, a room above the local bakery used at times for weddings and the like. On the first Monday of every month Ken would would sit in the audience to listen to the speakers. "You should join a national society", said his new friend Keith, who he had made at those nights, as they both liked a pint after the meeting. He showed Ken his recent bulletin and Ken duly sent his subs to an address he found inside. "That's good", said his friend Keith "they are always after new members, the secretary is always writing about the need to have new members to keep the books in the black and to pay for his stationery".

The 'National Society'
"What does a member get for his money"? Well said Keith "you will have three or four bulletins a year which will tell you how to grow these plants and provide books that you can buy". This was too much for Ken, all this information of what to do. Why, he dreamt at night of taking home huge silver cups with the words Best In Show blazoned across the front. Mary dreamed of having to clean them but she did not mind, her Ken was happy and she did not mind running the duster over the cups on the sideboard. 

Disappointment creeps in
However, six months later Ken was down in the dumps every speaker who came to give a talk always seemed to assume you knew the basics. His plants were growing away in his greenhouse and he did not know when to stop the plants, or what was the best way to feed them. The speaker ran on about balanced feeds, what ever that was, with a high potash to finish, he might just as well have said, 'plaice and chips', Ken had never heard of such stuff. He could not ask Keith as he would feel like a right 'pratt' not knowing something that everyone was nodding their heads to in the audience. 

Finally getting there
So Ken tried to find some books on the subject, he went on the net and bought several and after work he would sit and read. He read the bulletins as they came in and he began to talk with a bit of authority on the subject, he could talk of balanced feeds now and he was getting to grips with the pH of his compost, but that was still a bit of a mystery. Never mind he was getting there. 

The local show
Then came the day of his local show, with a beam on his face he took his best plant out of his greenhouse, cleaned the pot, put on a clean shirt and away he went. He arrived at the door and his face dropped, every pot on the benches were covered in blooms, he had only two on his, but they were good flowers he told himself, so with bright heart he put his plant with the others on the bench, filled out the card he was given and went home while the judging was going on. "Mary" he cried, "you must come and see if I have won anything".  "If its a cup then you can clean it yourself!" she replied, "I have taken up knitting so I have no time for your hobbies but I will come with you".

The dreaded 'NAS'
They stood in the doorway and gasped there was something written on his card, they rushed over, no it did not say first, second or third it just read NAS. What was that, "Not as schedule" said Keith, "I should have told you your pot was too big, but I was too busy and forgot. Never mind, as we showmen always say "there is always next year".

Another member lost
Back home, Ken went and straight to the greenhouse and a tear ran from his eye, Keith can stuff his pint tonight he thought and these plants can go in the bin, he gritted his teeth and said "Damn". The next week the renewal came from the National Society, "they have had that" said Ken "that there secretary has lost another member". 

"It seems that nobody cared" said Mary. 

In the spring, Mary came home one day, she had been to Tesco's.  "I have some seeds for you Ken, perhaps you would like to give these a try". She threw the packets to Ken and he smiled, there was one for cucumbers and one for tomatoes. 

The moral
There is a moral to this tale, "The members are the life blood of every club and society - Look after them or you will lose them" 

Peter Bunting, October 2005

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Last updated on 24 October, 2005