Ollie’s lifestyle change takes the Banks family back to the land

A magazine article highlighting the dangers of smartphone addiction gives Ollie an idea about how to help his wife and family re-connect with nature…

Lizzie looked up from her magazine. “It says here that becoming smartphone dependent disconnects us from nature, and causes anxiety. Scientists have done a study.”

“Rhubarb,” said husband Ollie, not looking up from his phone’s screen. “And compost.”

“Well, thanks for your insight and opinion about the work of some very clever people, Professor,” she chided him. “This is serious stuff; a dependency bordering on addiction, and they probably know better than you, with your ‘finger in the air’ assessment of something that could have implications for all of us.”

Ollie looked up, wearing a particular expression his wife knew well. “You have that look on your face, Banks. What’s going on?”

“I read that magazine only this morning, and far from rubbishing the work of the scientists, I have taken it on board and done something that will break the link between us and our smartphones, and connect us to nature – in a better way than when we caught Jack eating that slug the other day.” He shuddered, and pointed to the phone’s screen. “We’re going to grow vegetables. I’ve signed us up for an allotment. Rhubarb is a great crop, and it’s easy to grow, and we’ll need plenty of compost.”

For a moment, Lizzie didn’t know what to say. “It’s a great idea in principle, but we don’t know the first thing about growing vegetables,” she protested.

“Well, I know that rhubarb likes compost, and that’s a start,” said her husband. “And Grandad Ron must a thing or two about vegetables. He had an allotment when I was little. I used to help him to grow stuff; years ago. We had heaps of produce, and Grandma Lorna used to freeze it all. I’d bet the other allotment holders would give us advice as well.”

“I’m growing to like the idea,” said Lizzie. “Where is this ‘estate’?”

Ollie held out his phone again, showing her a map. “Here, at the other side of the playing field. No distance at all, really. We should go and look at our plot. There are probably weeds on it, and there will be some digging to do to make it fit for planting crops, but isn’t that what we need? A connection to nature; exercise in the open air; and something worthwhile at the end of it.” He slipped into a reverie; “I do like new potatoes, especially with mint; and broad beans; and think of the things we could grow that are expensive in the shops. We’ll all be fit and healthy! What’s not to like?”

“Digging,” said Lizzie. “And weeding. That’s what’s not to like.”

“I’ll do that – and perhaps Grandad Ron will help. You can come down later in a floppy hat with a big brim, and float about picking things, against a background of birdsong and the buzzing of bees.”

“Bees. That’s another thing not to like, in your Victorian idyll,” she said. “And I’m not wearing any floppy hat, not even for you. But I do think an allotment is a good plan, and I’m glad you’ve done something about it. We must invite Grandad Ron to come round and give us the benefit of his experience. I wonder if he has any tools?”