It’s not been a particularly good week here in St. Mary on the Wold. The weather, which at one time looked as if it was going to give us a Mexican summer complete with temperatures at one time here of 30C, started to change with temperatures falling to 12C.
We wondered if the weather had decided that England at least should not have appropriated it, as we have, apparently according to the revisionist cultural Marxists done with most things, and had decided that together with Mexican sombreros it should be returned to Mexico, which it duly did, leaving us with high winds, thunderstorms and torrential rain.
In mainstream media comment sections there has been much discussion by people who presumably, having had nothing better to do with their paid furlough time, have followed the new thinking that you should grow your own vegetables. There has not, as far as I can see, as yet been any shortage of ‘greens’ in shops, farm shops or supermarkets, but that has not stopped many planting rows of carrots, potatoes, lettuce and beans along with tomatoes and cucumbers and anything else that could be brought ‘on-line’ in lovingly-designed brilliantly illustrated packages of seeds – many from China for some reason not clear to me or many others, but that apart, seeds arrived, usually at double the price that you could have purchased from your local garden centre had it not been closed and people got to work digging, hoeing and raking, expecting the same results that can be viewed on TV programmes when planted by the ‘perts’ in lovely rich soil and not heavy clay that is the reality for many gardeners.
The media played its part in this activity of course with stories back in early April that there would be problems with this year’s harvest as the emergency meant that land workers from Europe would not be available and hundreds of people offered to work on farms and collect the ‘harvest’, much as great grandmother had done when a member of the Land Army during world war two. In the inter-war years and for some years following, harvesting hops potatoes and peas attracted whole families who treated it as their holiday.
It seems that journalists, like their readers, had not noticed that in the ensuing 80 years, farming has become a very professional, mechanised, and in terms of production, industrial operation, and anyway, apart from the early crops the main ‘harvest’ is late summer, which is why ‘churches’ which some of us may remember at one time were a part of the community, used to hold Harvest Festival services in September, when the fruits of the harvest were taken and later distributed to the needy, an early example of food banks – again at the forefront of many communities these days.
Vegetable growing? Well, gardening in general is something that you either like and enjoy or not. It can be very enjoyable as the fruits of your labours, often planted in late winter/early spring start to appear from April onwards. It’s amazing what you can grow even in a small garden with a cold frame or greenhouse. It is not however ‘instant’ as many people assume, judging by what has been evident on social media. Planting carrots and potatoes in April is not in the main going to produce fine large carrots, potatoes, or anything else in a matter of a few weeks. This has disappointed many people who have stories of ‘hours’ of work tending seedlings and have been rather taken back by the lack of progress.
Others have been astonished to find that the weather, wildlife, insects and slugs have a propensity to damage or the ability to eat your lovingly-tended crops overnight which adds to the frustration. Just imagine then how the farmers feel when fighting the battle year on year, not only against nature but against bureaucracy and TV programme pundits who have all the answers while posing in front of camera in designer jeans and the latest Wellington boots. Landowners can perhaps be understood when they give up and sell their green fields to builders to develop a selection of fine country homes, particularly when country dwellers are told that the countryside and its inhabitants are somehow racist, comments that have not gone down too well in many areas where people have seen their values and culture attacked in many ways over the last 40 years and when cheap imported food has been the choice of the city dweller. Not surprising that children living in urban areas often have little idea of how or where their food is produced. Politicians of all hues would do well to remember the old country adage ‘you reap what you sow’.
According to Prime Minister Johnson, we are over the worst and lockdown is being eased. He may well have said – as did his hero Winston Churchill:
“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead.”
That generation did in the main buckle down, toil and make the effort, living through the depredations and destruction of a real war which went on for five years, not three phoney months during which, as is so often now, political point scoring has been the order of the day. Most people have not experienced anywhere near the stress and danger that the second world war wrought on the nation. There have been no food shortages, fuel has not been in short supply and neither has anything else, the hardship here has often been induced by the media and ‘experts’ hungry for their moment of fame, creating fear in the minds of many people. Only this week I’ve heard first-hand of elderly people who have not been outside even into their own gardens for three months, and others who, with underlying health problems, are terrified even to visit a health centre or doctors’ surgery. Who can blame them? Often isolated from friends and family they are fed a diet of contradictory scare stories by the mainstream broadcast media, stories of demonstrations and rioting and ineffective policing designed to fuel dissent dissatisfaction and fear across the racial, age, economic and gender divides of the country.
While all this is going on, central bureaucracy has been without the ‘scrutiny’ that we once heard so much about from the media. Our erstwhile elected representatives at both local and national level have imposed far-reaching restrictions (helpfully called guidelines) on long-held freedoms, all done, as Kenny Everett may well have said, ‘in the best possible taste’ using rather dubious Public Health legislation at that. Bear in mind that originally the Johnson government wanted these ‘new emergency’ powers to last for a period of two years. Local authorities (the clue is in the name), have been given buckets of money and powers to enable them to contain and deal with any future localised coronavirus outbreak. Good luck to residents and businesspeople if the unclear and unworkable restrictions placed on Leicester and elsewhere are any guide.
Part 2 of No work, no fear will be published here tomorrow.