Our family has never been particularly handy or green fingered. In fact, I am pretty confident that I inherited my lack of skill and aptitude from my father, it is just one of those genetic flaws for which I am extremely grateful.

To give you an idea of just how poorly equipped we were in the plant growing stakes I can now safely reveal the tale of when Pa got banned from ever trying to grow tomatoes again – a ban he was quite happy with after his first attempt. It all started when, in a fit of horticultural madness, he came home with a couple of trays of tomato plants from a local  market.

“This summer,” he announced proudly. “We will have the finest and freshest tomatoes you have ever tasted!”

Mum looked on with one of those looks that later on we were able to interpret as her version of “Yeah…. RIIIIGHT!”

The seedlings were planted out with great care in trays and tended carefully over the next weeks. When they looked hardy enough they were planted out in the tiny cottage garden, were watered every night and protected from any late spring frosts with various bits of sheep’s wool. Clearly this was going to be a year for a bumper crop and we all looked forward to having fresh tomatoes whenever we fancied.

As part of the care and development plan Pa arrived home one evening with a large canister containing in his words “The miracle ingredient that all great tomato growers use!”

With that he set about filling a bucket with water before adding the magic ingredient. That was when we all left him to it. The kitchen echoed to the sounds of clanging buckets, taps being run at full blast and a lot of cursing.

Worse was to come, at first we noticed a strange odour seeping through the door, then we left the house and ran around the garden. Next thing we knew Pa was busily watering the tomato plants with the foulest smelling liquid ever known to mankind. It was as if a pig farm had suddenly deposited all the slurry on us.

Fortunately we had had our tea before Pa arrived home that evening or else we would have been starving by the morning. It was pretty clear that any thought of eating with that obnoxious smell around was far from anyone’s mind.

The special mix for the tomatoes was banned from the house and any future mixing was to take place at the far end of the garden, so declared the head of the household – Mum.

“The guy at the market swore that this was the very best thing for tomatoes” began Pa as he tried to justify the awful pong.

“Well then you and he can have a conversation about disease and medical emergencies,” retorted my mother.

“What medical emergencies?” asked my father before it dawned on him that it would be HIM on his way to Accident and Emergency if he ever mixed up anything in the kitchen again.

To be fair he did continue to water the tomatoes on a regular basis, but all was done well away from the house and quite often late at night so that entire evenings were not spent with every window shut tight to keep out the awful whiff that accompanied the Magic Mixture.

“What on earth is in that damned stuff to make it smell so awful?”

“I’m not exactly sure but he did mention fish fertiliser” said my father. “I think there is other stuff in it too, but I don’t know what!”

Now to be perfectly honest I don’t know how well the tomatoes turned out that year. I was too busy playing and generally enjoying life. I do know however that this was the first and last time that my father ever tried to be a vegetable gardener. After this if he ever did anything in the garden it involved pushing a lawn mower occasionally or going wild with some secateurs when my mother was out.It is clearly from him that I have inherited my version of green fingers – we call it Black Thumb. As everything I turn my hand to lasts a week or two and then dies, no matter what I do!