It’s easy to get carried along on a tide of populism, although it’s often dependent on what your view or definition of populism is. The dictionary defines it broadly as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups“. Corbyns’ Labour was possibly (until recently) the most politically populist movement of recent years, with Sturgeons’ SNP giving it a fair run for its money. Now there’s a new kid on the block, some of you may be aware that I’ve mentioned him once or twice in the past and, on occasion, been castigated for my view, but, if you want to view populism in the raw you need look no further than our current PM, Boris Johnson. I don’t intend to provide chapter and verse, BoJo is the Marmite of politicians and, whatever I say, those who are cult followers will continue to take his corner no matter how powerful the evidence of his dishonesty and duplicity. But I digress. An 80 seat majority was the result of two things; Boris promised to “Get Brexit Done” and to bring us a range of policies to “Level Up” the growing divide between a southern, primarily London based “Metropolitan Liberal Elite” and the rest of the nation. Disgruntled Labour voters, recognising Corbyn for the “Brexit” turncoat and Marxist ideologue that he is held their noses and voted Tory, but only in the absence, in many cases, of a viable alternative to the duopoly. Nigel Farage, for whatever reason, played as big a hand in the Tory landslide as Corbynism and here we now are.
Where populism falls down, and where Johnson now finds himself, no matter how many football & rugby shirts he parades around in, is when saying one thing becomes confused with doing something so radically different that even the most loyal of adherents start to question the narrative. Put aside, if you will, the “Pandemic” and the response to it from the UK governments, which has been at turns haphazard, contradictory, muddled and, to my mind at least, counter productive. If we are to believe, as I suppose we must, that this will all come to an end (although God alone knows when) and “The Great Reset” is a masturbatory fantasy of an elite cabal, then the judgment of Johnson’s tenure will be based not only on how poorly he’s handled this crisis but also on how much his playing up to the poverty causing “Green” agenda clashes with the needs and aspirations of the majority of British citizens. An agenda driven (ironically) by those very well established elitist groups that we somehow thought this government would rid us of. I’m nearly at the end of this weeks rant now, reading it back it comes across as a bit disjointed, for which I apologise (hoping it gets past the beady eye of Swiss). In conclusion I’ll say just this; Boris Johnson isn’t the “hail fellow well met”, “man of the people” many people think he is. He achieved his (or his fathers) long held ambition to become Prime Minister but I believe he shouldn’t even be in politics. He’s a con man, a fair weather friend, a dilettante, a libertine at heart, a blowhard and a liar. Is he corrupt? I don’t know. Is he corruptible? In my opinion, yes. Is he sexually incontinent? He certainly has been in the past. Do we really get the politicians we deserve, or are we all a little guilty in falling for the rhetoric, every time we hear it?
Blackbirds are amongst the most intelligent of our birds, they’re sociable, their song is a real pleasure to hear in a morning and, certainly where I live, there are a great many of them. Lovely, you may think, being surrounded by nature is a wonderful thing and I take each and every opportunity to immerse myself in it. Earlier this summer I’d made the mistake of not netting the strawberries early enough to dissuade birds, especially “Turdus Merula”, from seeing my lax behaviour as an invitation to feed long and well at my expense. The mistake was compounded when I realised, after several days of missing the signs, that belatedly protecting my soft fruits had led to what can only be described as a disaster.
What else, in a greenhouse, is red when it becomes ripe and relatively soft of skin? A tomato, or, to be more exact a great many tomatoes. Just about every one of the low hanging fruit on all 30 of my tomato plants has been tried out for taste by my new “friend”. I suppose I should have taken a little more notice but the cheeky sod was pecking them from the bottom. A more attendant gardener would have spotted the flakes of skin on the ground and put two and two together. A rougher gardener, like me, didn’t even notice before maybe as many as 70 or 80 individual fruits had been pecked at, to a greater or lesser extent, some of them even going mouldy as a result. As you might imagine, I was angry, a tomato pecked at and half eaten from the bottom is a tomato less for the pot and, possibly more importantly at this particular time, a tomato less to be chosen from when it comes to picking out 8 of the best specimens for judging at the village show. I’ve always, for the last few years at least, taken the lads a couple of tomatoes each on a Tuesday evening and did so this last week. I’d employed what mesh I had and used all my string to try and create some form of obstacle, but, as I’d already observed, this particular varmint is a smart cookie. As you might imagine, the air was a deep shade of blue as I told the story, but no one had any real idea of a solution. The greenhouse needs ventilating, which provides the access the birds need and short of standing guard during daylight hours I was stumped. I got round to the greenhouse early on Wednesday to water and was sat contemplating a trip into town to buy netting when one of the lads turned up with a bin bag full of the stuff, restoring, to some extent, my faith in human nature. I spent 4 hours wrapping the plants, but even this hasn’t been more than partially effective. I’m going to have to put a little more thought into it next year.
The village show is quite “old fashioned” in its own way. It hadn’t been held for many years until being resurrected by a determined resident in 2011. Consequently many of the classes hark back to simpler times. A pot of strawberry jam, a bacon and egg pie on a saucer, 4 tomatoes round/salad, the list goes on. As a result much of what I grow doesn’t feature in the judged categories, although I do enter some things just for the heck of it. Over recent years I’ve managed to corner the quiche section, so much so that entries have dwindled, this year seeing the fewest entries ever at just two. Just as well for me, my pastry was slightly too thick and I left it in the oven a couple of minutes too long, resulting in a more “rustic” bake. Some of the village elders, male and female, still view my entry with a little suspicion, a man, baking a savoury tart isn’t really on. Having said all that, it did eat well.
Entries were down across the board, some people still worried about Covid being a contributory factor, no doubt, but the turnout was thought to be better than most people hoped . As with the quiche, I’ve been consistently successful with my tomatoes, a section which usually draws a decent number of entries. For whatever reason this year entries were low, although I’d have fancied my chances in any case. The Greek tomatoes, grown from seed brought back from holiday took first, with the St. Pierre taking second. I picked the smallest that hadn’t been got at, but neither would be classed as strictly traditional English salad tomatoes.
Five entries in the red onion class meant competition was at a slightly stiffer level, I don’t normally grow white onions as a rule. I’d picked what I considered my best nine onions on the Saturday before the show and hung them for several days to dry out the stems, making them easier to bend and tie for showing purposes. I had to make a choice, as I’d only entered one set and decided on the three middle sized ones, based on both size and similarity of shape. I’d obviously made the right choice, another first prize, again for maybe the fourth time in this category. One recent innovation, category wise, has been the “Vegetable with Flower” (see featured image). I had high hopes, from not having any courgettes to speak of I’ve managed to grow several round yellow ones which I’ll use as natural soup thickeners. I let one grow on and quite fancied it, in combination with a simple pink flower, to at least get in amongst the prizes. How the mighty are fallen! I’d won the category in 2019 but I obviously didn’t catch the judges eye, a scabby new potato, albeit accompanied by a nice enough dahlia, beating me into 4th place (out of 4).
I took third in the “British Bird” photographic category for this picture of a gull nesting by the side of the tracks at Mallaig railway station. I’d also entered a picture of a kestrel, taken some years ago on Hampstead Heath. This is a new category this year, with a memorial trophy awarded to the winner, although I quite fancied the gull picture to do well (there were over 30 entries) I was testing the water to judge the competition. A Puffin picture is already earmarked for next year along with a close up of a Robin as back up, the competitor in me wants to win the trophy. All in all I had a good show, without winning an individual trophy. I picked up six firsts (tomatoes, onions, cactus, quiche, sunrise photograph & the chutney I’d made in 2019 for the cancelled 2020 show) three seconds and four thirds. More important than any individual performance was the fact that the show was held. In small rural communities there is little enough happening to bring people together, even in what we might call normal times. Village shows and fetes are an English tradition which we all need to cherish, as the increasingly bizarre modern world continues to encroach on our traditional, somewhat sedate way of life.
Next time; late beans, minestrone soup, a rant of some kind, a return to Smardale, hooptedoodle….
© Colin Cross 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file