When will those who announce all these panic-inducing results of ‘scientific medical studies’ realise that familiarity eventually breeds consumer lethargy?
I suspect that such constant and often conflicting announcements serve only to generate growing disinterest amongst us masses - and thus detract from the value of truly important discoveries when they are made.
One minute product or material X is good for us and we’re told it’s the best thing since Mr Hovis found a new use for bacon slicers. The next, we’re warned that it’s more toxic than a Roundup and Mercury cocktail which has been chilled by an injection of CFC’s.
Whilst there is of course a happy medium, I generally feel the same about red meat and the occasional grog intake as did Omar Sharif when told that each cigar he smoked would knock ten minutes off his life. He replied that he’d rather have a shorter life doing things he enjoyed, than a boring longer life dedicated to rigidly following only that which is good for him.
When will those who announce all these panic-inducing results of ‘scientific medical studies’ realise that familiarity eventually breeds consumer lethargy?
I understand that a Suffolk butcher was recently persuaded to remove his traditional village butcher’s shop window display of both complete and incomplete animals and birds.
It seems that neat formations of dead meat sources hanging upside-down from hooks on bright steel rails in front of a butcher’s shop offered great offence to some people - and they feared lest accidental sight of them should traumatise their children into neurotic wrecks as they innocently walked with averted eyes to the adjoining sweet shop.
One has to wonder of course, whether such people demonstrate the same sensitivities as they walk their children past the supermarket wet fish counter, where whole and gutted fish glare accusingly at the passer by. Is that so very different?
Now I’m what’s known as country-raised and I long ago accepted (as Diana Rigg so amusingly put it in a TV 1920’s detective series) that the country is full of un-cooked wildlife.
Furthermore, and throughout a youth largely spent in the wilds of Scottish islands and highlands, virtually every meal we ate involved careful initial chewing, lest we inadvertently swallow the little balls of Eley Kynoch number 5 lead which always peppered the meat that our father had shot. Even the fish from the loch or river would occasionally yield a fly hook, or a number 5 ‘wormer’ from its innards (the latter usually being my own, less skillful contribution).
In all instances, it was a learning role for me as the oldest child to gut, skin, and prepare most of what we ate - and although there may have been subsequent doubts of my sanity in the minds of close friends over other matters across the years, I do not remember ever being turned into a traumatised neurotic wreck at sight of a carcass.
It’s true that I did once throw a massive three year-old wobble when making the correlation between a skipping delight of fluffy lambs and that delicious pink meat which often appeared on the Sunday lunch table …. but greed for the accompaniment to mint sauce and redcurrant jelly soon crushed sentiment and I moved on, emotionally undamaged.
I’m sorry but I hold little patience for the over-sensitivities of a certain type of ‘incomer’ to the country. I hasten to say that I by no means tarnish all incomers with the same lack-lustre, for most are worthy and valued additions to our way of life. There is however, a particular type which intensely irritates my fellow countrymen and me to the extent that we can become deeply annoyed when they arrive in our midst.
On the one hand, they have a perfectly understandable and laudable wish to escape the impersonal pressures of the town; but on the other, they seem intent on changing to their wishes, a culture and way of life which has successfully provided them with a larder of wondrous foodstuffs for many centuries.
I hear whinges from them about the smell of cow shit. How very inconvenient …. but do you see, animals don’t have lavatories. Furthermore, we’ve re-learnt now that it’s much better to dress the land with their organic matter, than it is to pump out chemicals which leech into the water supplies. And of course, organic matter does tend to whiff more than somewhat until it’s absorbed by the soil.
I see corn being flattened as people assert ‘their right’ to march across our fields. Just because many old footpaths still exist, people forget that they are the now redundant direct routes which were originally trodden by the walking country folk of yesteryear, who had no vehicles and often no horses to transport them. It really is so easy to walk around field perimeters nowadays, rather than rigidly stick to old routes - and most times one may enjoy the views so much better over a fence, than from the middle of a forty acre corn field.
Then there are dogs. I become nothing short of incensed when I see un-controlled dogs roaming amongst lambing ewes as if they have a right to charge around off-lead wherever they like. I’ve had to shoot many sheep which have been ‘worried’ by loose dogs out of control. When sheep guts have been ripped out, or their legs are half torn off, they do not present a pretty sight. Not only that but the farmer loses many thousands of very hard-earned income.
Oops …. I sense I’m beginning to rant, so I shall return to the subject ….
In my view, it would be a good thing indeed if the average family food-buyer (I hesitate to use the sexist expression ‘housewife’) were lucky enough to experience what most country folk and people of my age generally have experienced. Not for us the anaemic and limp looking slices of pre-packed supermarket meat with a label stuck on it to say what it was …..
We know what it was.
We also know which part of a carcass provides what we need for whichever dish - and we know what ‘condition’ to look for. Dark red beef for instance, which has been hung on the bone for between three and four weeks and is surrounded by deep yellow fat, is normally so much better than the scarlet plastic-packed apology found in supermarkets.
Yes, evidence of it all used to be seen in virtually every butcher’s shop throughout the country and none of us were traumatised by sight of the carcasses, for we knew them for what they were - food.
Returning to our Suffolk butcher, I am told that after a poll revealed a 30:1 majority in favour, the window display has been re-instituted and all those fervent believers in a clean, pink and fluffy country myth have thus been routed … . for now at least.
What a wonderful victory for an un-squeamish common sense and a valued tradition.
How perfectly wonderful for a politician of any hue to bravely risk putting his head above the parapet by quoting the safe obvious.
Speaker of the HOC, John Bercow, has seemingly written to the three main party leaders exhorting the Dave, Ed and Nick Show to suggest how Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ’s) may be improved in the face of a growing public concern that the weekly Wednesday circus comes across as being: -
“Culturally very male, very testosterone-fuelled and in the worst cases, redolent of yobbery and public school twittishness.”
He went on to infer that women may soon be grabbing their hats and hand-bags at the door and quietly leaving the HOC in droves,
“…. some very good female members of Parliament on both sides are leaving the Commons at the next election ….. women are less inclined to screech and shout!”
I set aside the questionable inference that there may actually be culture within the Chamber during PMQ’s (or indeed at any other time), in favour of saying, ‘Oh thank you Mr Bercow, we should never have realised any of this unless you’d been brave enough to mention it during your interview with the Independent.
The performance within the HOC is so frequently infantile that I guess we as the British Public must have become inured to it, for we do little by way of effective complaint.
Then again, there always has had to be a situation of truly cataclysmic proportions before us stoic members of the UK will actually stir ourselves into do something other than pass mild comment on the antics of our leaders or use work-time to invent jokes about them. We prefer resorting to amusing caricature, rather than actually recalling the diverse performances and voting out the offenders at Election time.
Quite simply, the behaviour of many members in the HOC is fully beyond the Pale. It verges on criminal irresponsibility in that it wastes vast tranches of expensive time which is paid for by us, the general earning public who are its employers. Its shenanigans belittle the public image of leaders who should know better and it thus devalues their occasional more measured statements.
Basically, and although it appears that most of us disapprove, we really don’t seem able en masse, to seriously create waves against the cosy atmosphere of Parliamentary Privilege, political tantrums and the publicly subsidised scoff/grog in the various Palace of Westminster eateries and bars.
It really is time we did ….
Setting aside all that, but sticking to the subject of our diverse leaders, I find that in the minds of the majority of fellows within my own particular ken, there appear to be three specific concerns which currently need to be addressed by various of those in charge: –
Locally, to halt the irresponsibly reckless expenditure of public funds on a wholly unnecessary and largely unpopular WW1 Memorial arch on the Leas in Folkestone.
Nationally, to encourage listening, maturity and responsible behaviour on the part of our Parliamentary leaders.
Internationally, to stop thinking we’re still responsible for curing the ills of a world which is in dire need of a Police force that we are patently under-resourced to provide.
I begin to chuckle at the futility of hope in any of my three listings and will not hold my breath …..
As I see it, there are some interesting developments ahead …..
With just over 40 Scottish HOC seats, Labour must be viewing this autumn’s Scottish referendum with considerable anxiety – for unless something truly dramatic happens, it must surely become a force-not-to-be-reckoned-with at the next General Election if it permanently loses a 41 seat presence at Westminster because the Jocks vote Yes.
The Tories also must consider the divorce which will almost certainly take place from the Lib/Dems if the current marital rumblings continue. And that could result in a Westminster shortfall of the LD’s nominal 57 and thus reduce Dave’s chances of continuing as headmaster.
However, on current running, the Lib/Dem’s themselves may have significant cause to worry. Their spouse is still not popular enough and their internal whingeing about sexism et al offers a certain tarnish to their public image. Until they can demonstrate the unlikely event of being able to stand on their own two feet, they’re not really a threat – well, certainly not during the next election.
UKIP is a party which appeals to a great many – in my view for the wrong reason. I suspect that any popularity for UKIP is primarily based upon the bellowings of one man (as did the popularity of the National Socialist Party in Germany’s 20’s and 30’s). But as Farage’s posturings are seen by many as the only alternative to feed our electorate’s total disenchantment with the two main parties, he could well succeed.
Add to all this the fact that a growingly intelligent electorate is at last beginning to identify the grasping, teen-like behaviour of most of their representatives in the Commons and we may all be ‘floating’ right back to square one.
The next few months, as they always are during the lead up to a General Election, will be veeerrry interesting.
Amongst the many thousands of other war memorials throughout Britain and Ireland, Folkestone possesses in the Road Of Remembrance, what is perhaps the largest, most poignantly connected and fitting war memorial in these Islands of ours.
For was it not down this steeply sloping road, bordered on each side by wooded cliffs, that many tens of thousands of our first world war troops marched innocently down to the boats which would take them to the Somme, to Paschendale and to all the other indescribable horrors of northern France and Belgium?
Was it not down this road that many took their last meaningful steps on the ground of their home country?
Were not those who did manage to return after marching down that hill, ever the same afterwards?
Did not many thousands of those who marched down that hill, die in rows to machine gun fire as they WALKED towards enemy trenches?
Were not many thousands of those ‘Pals’ who marched down that hill maimed for life at a time when medics still had much to learn about blast and other injuries?
Does not a glittering 21st century stainless steel and costly arch seem to almost glamourise that dreadful time when an entire generation travelled willingly but innocently to their deaths - led as lions by donkeys to the slaughter after marching down what has been their true and most fitting memorial for nearly a century?
And is it right to spend public money on an unrelated and unnecessary new memorial when so many genuine local folk are quite literally calling out for help - and many even for food?
I THINK NOT.
Let this Town’s memorial to Britain’s innocent forebears be that which it has been for nearly a hundred years - Let the tablet on the hill, and the hill itself, quietly tell the dreadful tale of their bravery and appalling destruction.
Should not those who like me, feel need for a focal point at which to remember their sacrifice once a year on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, do so at perfectly adequate existing memorials in the Town or surrounding villages?
I have no wish to remember the fallen of that war in front of some massively expensive edifice erected at the cost of so many others, just to satisfy what appears to be the shameful vanity of a few.
I’m all for preserving ancient woodland and agree that it would be wasteful for random development to erode its remaining acres, unless absolutely necessary.
However, and having worked for some time in the Forestry Commission, and therefore having a degree of knowledge about trees, I would suggest that there could be better approaches than the dogmatic blanket protection of all woodland irrespective.
There are many thousands of now unnecessary evergreen acres where coniferous timber has been planted since 1919 - when the Forestry Commission was formed to replace all the timber wasted in WW1. Much of this woodland is now superfluous to requirements and where it’s within reasonable reach of urban centres, could actually present ideal areas to be clear-felled in order to provide land for re-development – even perhaps to create new towns in beautiful surroundings which are hidden within our hills. And yes, I do believe that new towns should not always be shoved away in polluted or brownfield sites - urban dwellers also have a right to enjoy beauty.
I know from personal experience that although it may look pretty in a holistic view of the countryside, coniferous woodland actually offers little by way of acceptable wildlife habitat. Song bird presence is greatly reduced and even underground-dwelling animals tend only to utilise its woodland edges.
Anyone who has ever worked within it will tell you that the forest floor is generally dead, except for the small areas where trees have either fallen or been felled and light has been able to penetrate to allow growth of life-sustaining ground cover.
Add to that the fact that most coniferous woodland in this country is entirely man-planted (Kielder Forest in Northumberland for instance, is the largest man-made forest in UK at some 250 square miles) and you will begin perhaps to see what I mean.
However unacceptable it may be for some to recognise this, the moment that any moves are made to clear or re-develop woodland of any description, the area in question usually becomes the target of protesters against its loss - ropes are erected at tree-top level and the protesters occupy until either they or the bull-dozers have their way.
At one time my then wife and I actually owned 125 acres of land as a result of an unexpected inheritance. 27 acres of it was arable. 38.5 acres of it was scrub land which had been cleared of valuable chestnut and hornbeam by our predecessor and left to random broom, sycamore and birch. The remainder was ancient hornbeam and chestnut underwood, with perhaps fifty or sixty oak standards. The chestnut and hornbeam had been coppiced for centuries and as such, provided a rotational ‘cropping’ of its growth.
But guess what happened when we wanted to clear out the broom and tree weeds in order to re-plant the cleared areas with the original sustainable species like chestnut oak and hornbeam? Yes, an array of protesters arrived with very little knowledge of what were and what were not the right species with which we were to re-create the original woodland. So far as they were concerned, trees of some kind were going to be cut down and that had to be stopped. As a result, we were issued with a blanket TPO which took three years to get lifted – by which time we’d run out of money, so the woodland never was re-planted – a loss to both sides.
Thus I suggest also that blanket protection of woodland is not always conducive to the needs of today. There is a desperate need for land on which to build homes and although there are tracts of land being with-held by speculators and there are ‘brown field’ sites, we shall still have to find more if folk are to have somewhere to live.
I strongly support many worthwhile protests but am dubious of those who protest for protest’s sake - often armed with insufficient knowledge of their subject.
I fear that the time is fast approaching when a little more rationality and tolerance will have to prevail on both sides, or we shall be in even deeper housing trouble. Quite simply put, we cannot have it all ways and in my view, never should have been able to do so.
The whole matter of public poverty and deprivation of the needy in this country is a disgrace far worse than any I’ve witnessed during my quite long life.
Whilst I consider the Coalition’s current reactions, behaviour and attitudes to be reprehensible in the extreme, I also consider the current appalling financial plight of many worthy folk in this country is the direct result of a lack of appropriate action on the part of successive governments - respectively Tory, Labour and Coalition. Instead of controlling excesses as they became evident, they appear to have been in thrall to large elements of the financial sector - banks in particular.
Yet with remarkably few exceptions, those responsible for creating the mess appear to continue in their jobs and receive bonuses, enormous salaries and little official condemnation, let alone prosecution … .
I would that all foxes behaved like this one in the photographs; but the sad truth is regrettably otherwise.
This is one of the rare exceptions and it is not natural for a fox to be delightfully ‘fluffy’ and relate in such friendship with dogs. The reality in nature is more likely to be a violently fought ‘pack’ rivalry which could end in the death of one or the other.
I have lived in the countryside for most of my life. I know that for every fox cub which is adopted before its eyes open (thus almost invariably ‘imprinting’ on the first living thing it sees - be it human or another animal), there are many hundreds of others which grow up naturally in the wild to devastate chickens and many other small domesticated and farmed animals - as well as the natural small rodent populations which are the natural prey of their territory. A wild fox’s roaming extends to nightly travel proven to be in excess of five miles beyond its ‘earth’.
Foxes are exceeding clever - perhaps ‘cunning’ might be the better word and they remind me of back-street wheeler-dealers who know their territory and know all the tricks.
I do not blame them, because although I’ve occasionally had cause to curse them, I’m an informed country dweller and fully understand that they are actually doing what comes naturally - they’re one of nature’s predators and scavengers. Although they are very pretty, they’re a bit like Cruella DeVille and are not to be trusted.
Contrary to the frequent views of city dwellers and newcomers to the country, nature is not soft slippers, Rupert Bear and gentle anthromorphised animals. It is far more often vicious and cruel - but the realities are usually hidden from us by the night and although we may hear the occasional terrified squealing of a rabbit in the darkness, it’s only when we see the aftermath in daylight, that we realise just how cruel it really can be.
In reality, there is little difference between the jungles of Africa and those of the Home Counties. It is just their size - both of the animals themselves and of the environment which they inhabit.
Domestic cats behave in a miniature fashion to say, hunting lions. But with one major exception - the wild lion usually tries to kill quickly. The domestic cat often likes to ‘play’ with its terrorised prey before killing it at leisure.
And remember when leaving small children with household dogs - however loving they may be, dogs are but one step away from wolves and it’s not fair to put them in situations where the ‘pulling and pushing’ by very young children may test their patience.
Going back to where I started, for every dog which is fiercely protective of children there are many others which may suddenly snap out and inflict damage - just like a fox.
I watched the Chancellor speak in the House of Commons the other day.
Not for the first time, I found the experience shocking and was appalled.
In the pre-amplified days of Parliament, it may have been necessary for Members to shout in order to be heard but in today’s world of broadcast proceedings, it is certainly not necessary.
It is not and never has been necessary to scream, jeer, shout-down and generally behave in a manner which young children would not either dare, or be permitted to indulge.
This behaviour appears to be practiced by many Members of all Parties.
The House of Lords does not find it necessary to act in such a manner.
At General Elections and By-elections Members of the HoC are given a mandate to (responsibly) represent the best interests of the electorate which voted them in and are paid by the tax-payer to exercise that mandate in (an inferred) responsible fashion.
Such a mandate is not being treated with the respect it is due when elected members behave like ill-mannered, uneducated louts and present an appearance of a mob of spoiled screaming children.
It is a matter of extreme urgency that members of the HoC examine their performance in the Chamber and regulate both their behaviour and attitudes.
Members of the HoC should recognise that the modern electorate is no longer the un-informed mass of yesteryear. It is relatively well-educated and reasonably well-informed. It does not comprise idiots who will tolerate excesses of expenses, cover-ups, lies or appalling and time-wasting of taxpayers money.
Members of all Parties in the HoC would do well to remember that a General Election is not far in the future and many of us are beginning to recall and deeply resent the behavioural and financial excesses of many HoC members.