Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Diversity of Human Living

Opportunities to learn by experience are part of the lot of being human. Every so often  having the privilige of experiencing anothers way of life adds a little to the insight of one's own. Living in SW20 provides   virtually no experience of a rural way of life although Wimbledon Common itself acts as green oasis-like  refuge from the surrounding   suburbs.

This last week brought me into contact for the first time for years, with farms and farmers. I was amazed to learn  that despite living only about 60 miles from  SW1 a farmer had only travelled to Town once in the past 40 years. He and his wife made plain that their attachments to their land (about 2000 acres I'd guess) were very real so much so that holidays of the kind that all the members of the maytrees' family are accustomed to take most years, to secure a change to the rituals of everyday life, are not on the farmers' pages at all. That and the wish for their faimily to carry on farming where they leave off are not part of  normal  urban life's rich tapestry. Their sensitivity to the human condition  though was clear - she insisted  that I'd catch my death of cold stompimg over the land in shirtsleeves  and went to the trouble of finding a lightweight jacket to shield off the strong winds blowing that morning. Are we town dwellers instnictively as thoughtful?

 Driving round the agricultural landscape was  however familiar enough as such landscapes abound in England and abroad;  in that context I  well recall French gite-type holidays with our then young children  but trudging around the fields  with farmers for day job purposes is somewhat different.

The fields were really well tended with wheat etc growing well despite the strange British weather  so far this year; hardly a weed to be seen. Real dedication akin to love seems to be the principal motive as by all accounts wheat farmers are hardly currently  making much  money.

 I am agin the EU and going through some of the myid financial EU schemes for farmers tended to  support my negative views. Nonetheless one kind of EU financial support  encouraging the maintenance of hedgrows and fallow strips of land between crop growing areas where spraying takes place and  neigbours' tree saplings which would be harmed by the crop sprays, seems excelllent. The fact that such spraying takes place at all may worryingly have been the reason for local lack of enthusiasm for tap water drinking but that's another issue.

The experience left me to appreciate  that working on the land becomes  much more  part of the farmer's  life and that of his/her  family than usually does an urban dweller's work in an office.  And it's not just the land but also the  associated works required to make a living from the land . For examle the huge barns for the storage of grain seemed almost biblical -they must be expensive enough to build/maintain - and the  huge grain trucks required as part of the process to enable us to buy our daily loaf at Sainsbury's, require sweat and  hard work  to load , clean and  drive. In many English cities there is a tendency perhaps encouraged by political parties, to regard country folk as  comprising either the lazy landed gentry with hunting shooting and fishing pursuits or local yokals. Such stereotyping  mindset  is obviously ill founded and risks breeding intolerance. Intolerance is then doubtless increased by outlawing such country pursuits as fox hunting without  first taking into account farmers' viewpoints.

 A farmer  spending nearly all  his waking hours working on or concerned with  land and    its produce, might well need to let rip even if with a shotgun at a fox occasionally. The importance to the rest of us of receiving  our daily loaf of bread is such that  the farmer's need to recharge his batteries  near the crop is somehat different to the needs of the mass of town dwellers for time out. Passing laws based on the latters needs without regard to the formers or should I say farmers',  is bound to create resentment.

The more  experiences there are of each others ways of life, the more in my view,  the opportunities for tolerance  between us all to flourish.

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