By Michael Carson
Catholic Times, August 3, 1997
A sinner's murmurings...
"Killing fields - the result of a harmless
day's country sport; the sort of thing 'townies' don't understand and
are ignorant to try and curtail"
When all those thousands of country folk arrived in London on the
July 10 to appeal to the better nature of 'townies', they honestly
seemed to think that the nation held them in some esteem. Forget BSE,
growth hormones, the destruction of hedgerows, the vast prairies of
chemical soup they choose to call soil, the subsidies . . . in Hyde Park
that day they all saw themselves as The Best of British.
"Banning fox-hunting will cause the deaths of thousands of dogs and take
away the livelihood of tens of thousands! This is the end of the
countryside as we have known and loved it for hundreds of years!" one
To tell you the truth, I yawned.
towards honest toilers in the countryside is a concept that died around
the time Grace Archer was buried. They're 'in the country' for
themselves. These comparatively few people own most of the land in the
UK, and a great deal of the wealth. They have not treated the
countryside with respect, but have plundered it for vast profits, for
higher yields, for the production of cheap and suspect food. 'Country'
itself is now no more than a sentimental harking-back to dear dead days
before set-aside and growth hormones and 'battery' pigs. The chemical
rich run-offs from Britain's fields pollute rivers, kill fish . . .
and probably people too.
And what does 'Townie' get when he goes
off to sample the countryside? At best, a less-than-fulsome welcome,
footpaths wired shut, 'Keep Out' signs, and all the manifestations of
Fox-hunting should be banned for many reasons,
most of them well explained already. In my book, however, hunting
typifies a group of privileged people running wild and free while the
rest of us are corralled into cities and 'country parks'. It is, on the
whole, a snobbish pursuit, a doffing-caps practice, a hang-over from a
more deferential age. A hunt is a powerful metaphor for 'the survival of
the fittest' and all those evolutionary 'facts' which, although they may
be true, certainly do not help human society to function.
wonder how many people were converted by the gathering in London.
Precious few, I'd say. Farmers have always moaned. Never have they had
it so good. Never has their reputation for 'caring' for either the
countryside or for us, their customers, been at a lower ebb.
I'd been at the meeting in Hyde Park I'd have said, "Go back where you
came from! You don't understand what we want! After all, country folk
say that to 'townies' all the time.
Perhaps I am somewhat
liverish this week because I have been badly let down. Faithful
reader(s?) will recall that a month ago I murmured the virtues of
gravel. It was wonderful stuff, I said.
Well, I am here to tell
you that gravel has let me down. Returning to Ireland after a month
away, I found that my trusty gravel had let through any weed that gave
the merest hint of wanting to grow.
"Fancy a place in the sun,
Thistle? Just hold on a tick while I clear myself out of the way to
allow your free passage through me" said Perfidious Gravel.
can feel you pushing! I know who you are; you're one of The Sinner's
potatoes from last year's crop. You've been dying to grow up through the
artful Japanese arrangement of stones for ages, haven't you?" said
Gravel, I have decided, craves companions,
preferably green and weedy. Were I a proper countryman I would saturate
the area with weed-killer. The lesson I am learning is that I do not
really love my land. I want it to behave itself so that I can carry on
with my country pursuits: sitting on plastic chairs, listening to my
Perhaps I should add another six inches of
Reproduced with thanks.
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