As Michelangelo said, the statue already existed in the marble—he simply cut away everything else. If we like this idea, it would follow that a story doesn’t exist because somebody made it up; it already exists, in the landscape, and someone found it. This story is called
If you should find yourself in Glastonbury … the town rather than the festival … you can still visit “Greenlands,” otherwise known as “Maidencroft Farm”, where the story of compost soup originates.
Walk up the High Street, past the “George and Pilgrim” (where David Bowie has been known to enjoy a beer) and “The Blue Note Café” (where I have eaten felafels on occasions) and straight across the main road at the top into Bove Town. On you go, up the hill, until you reach Maidencroft Lane. The path here has been trodden by many a traveler and the air echoes with tales of quests and uprisings, for Glastonbury is a place where myths are made.
And now we continue along Maidencroft Lane, bordered by ageing apple orchards. We pass over a cattle grid. We pass the home of the erstwhile mayor of Glastonbury with his boat yard and his swimming pool. And we go beyond …
Welcome to Greenlands, owned by The Paddington Farm Trust and run by the Trust as an organic farm for inner city communities. Here is the farm house and residential centre. Behind the farmhouse you will see the old cow byre and the milking bails. The cows are milked twice a day, every day.
“Yes,” in answer to the child from the Harrow Road Drop -in Centre, “the milk coming from cows udders is the kind of milk you drink.”
“Yes, the milk you buy in supermarkets.”
“Yes, real cows.”
It is autumn 1985. The leaves are falling and we are bringing in the last of the cider apple harvest, assisted by a group of 15 or so assorted members from the Harrow Road Drop-in Centre. We are also joined by our neighbour the mayor, a horse and cart, and a sort of vacuum-cleaner thing that picks up apples. Perhaps I should also mention that we are watched by Cordelia the cat from her favourite vantage point upon a fencing post; and photographed by a guy from the local paper.
By lunch time the second cartload of apples is trundling its way back to the farmstead and most of the teenage contingent has slipped away, ostensibly to write postcards home.
After lunch, Simon, the farm manager decides to reduce the afternoon apple-picking team down to four: two young adults from the drop-in centre, himself and the horse. Meanwhile the rest of us will start preparing a harvest feast for the evening; except for the mayor, who has returned home because of an incident involving the Harrow Road teenagers, a boat, and the mayor’s private swimming pool.
In the kitchens at Greenlands all is going well. A grizzled mechanic called Carl supervises bread making and several younger volunteers head for the shops to buy crisps and drinks. I take Rosa and Violet, two older Jamaican ladies, out into the vegetable gardens to find ingredients for a Caribbean soup recipe.
I guide Rosa toward the courgette beds, pointing out the laden rows of runner beans, winter onions, cabbages and butternut squash as we pass, but Violet has taken her own route and is now rummaging in the compost heap where we throw the pea haulms, carrot tops and misshapen veggies that nobody will buy.
“Over here Rosa,” Violet orders in her sing song voice “we don’t need dem ex-pen-sivv veg-et-ab-les …” (I love the way she pronounces every syllable of every word). Violet begins to pull things from the compost heap and pop them in Rosa’s basket. I try to explain the concept of a compost heap.
“Girl,” Violet says a little impatiently, “we knows how to make good soup.” Rosa nods with a delightful smile and the two begin to examine some old onion tops.
We return to the kitchens laden with pea haulms and other compostables.
Gathered around a fire later that night I sip local mead as Violet and Rosa approach bearing steaming bowls of soup and hunks of homemade corn bread.
“This soup is fantastic” declares Simon.
“You must let us have the recipe” enthuses the mayor’s wife.
“Yes, what do you call this soup?” enquires the mayor. The photographer catches a front page photo of town mayor discussing Caribbean cuisine with Jamaican visitor.
“Well it does have a Jamaican name,” Violet is bright faced with success “But around ‘ere we calls it compost soup. It’s a deeffrent way of lookin’ at tings.“