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Green, yellow, and the Countryside - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Green, yellow, and the Countryside


I don’t believe I’ve hitherto had occasion to mention my near neighbour ‘Patrick’ – for so I shall call him here, not because of any Irishry pertaining to him, but in tribute to his obsessive hobby, photography.  Patrick is the otherwise blameless scion of a local brewing family, who has been decidedly, and ‘by mutual agreement’ (are not all agreements necessarily mutual?), left to his own devices (or Devizes) and resolutely not called upon to take part in the family business.  He is a smallish chap, no taller than am I, in his fifties or early sixties, and permanently befogged and befuddled in consequence of the ’70s.  A reasonably gentle if dim and erratic soul, so bearded, barbered, and coiffed as to resemble the current Archdruid of Canterbury, he divides his time between long walks, quite excellent and well-acknowledged nature photography, and serial adultery in the country ’round.  (One is tempted to wonder if there is somewhere in his family a wrong-side-the-blanket Thynne.)


Patrick has lately bought a new motorcar: a Mini, to be precise.  Now, I don’t particularly care for any voiture I can conceivably stumble over, and me a smallish pink chap.  And the colour is filthy, a sort of LibDem yaller.  It’s like a Colman’s Mustard tin on wheels.  Naturally, the very next time the Environmental Agency issue a flood warning, I shall look forward to seeing Patrick’s snap of his Mini bobbing gently downstream towards the confluence at Wilton House.


Of course, there’s a reason Patrick drives a Mini – and in LibDem colours.  He really does extraordinarily resemble Rowan Williams, save that in place of Cantuar’s mephitic eyebrows, Patrick’s are set in an attitude of perpetual, gentle worry.  He is a conscientious, bien-pensant Flamen of Gaia, a muesli-munching Grauniadista, the sort of bloke any selector would cap to Fret for England.  I am quite certain that his mustard tin on wheels was chosen to minimise his carbon footprint and All That.


The problem is, This is a false economy. 


In the countryside, the purpose of a motor is to provide motive power, full stop.  One can be, say, a Governor of the Royal Agricultural Society, an enthusiast for draught animals, a member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and a member of the Suffolk Horse Society, and yet recognise that there is a place in the countryside for the combustion engine.


The fact of the matter is, something like a Mini is simply a rather showy indulgence, a parade of piety.  If one wants local transport and one wishes also to leave the lightest of footprints, one ought rather to leave ­hoof-prints.  Or walk, damn it all.  Similarly, where haulage or the crossing of country terrain on wheels is necessarily undertaken, a Mini is simply not up to the job.  This is why God created everything from tractors to shooting brakes in their several stations.  For longer journeys, a Mini is no less selfish than a Bristol or an ancient Humber Snipe: the democratic intimacy of the Wigglybus is more truly Green.  In the towns, and when one goes (protesting) up to town, the private auto is still more a selfish gesture, in the face of public transportation.  And although Dr Beeching has much to answer for, and First Great Western, still more, the fact remains that there are Greener ways than a Mini to relieve the congestion and pollution of the M4 when forced to go up to the Great Wen.


In fact, Patrick, our local Suffragan Druid, ought to know this.  I should imagine that, on some level, he does; he must do.  Yet so long as people take their ideas from urban leader-writers, the data of their senses will remain secondary at best in forming their judgements.  Statisticians and analysts can insist in ringing tones that the NFU, anglers, shooting parties, the Countryside Alliance, preservers of pheasants, hunts, and the BASC, do more for conservation than the whole of the parliamentary Labour Party and the entire readership of the Independent, but their voices will fall on deaf ears so long as even award-winning wildlife photographers, like so many Watsons, ‘see, but do not observe’.


For my own part, I should like to have the greater part of the Labour Party, most LibDems, and not a few Tories, ‘re-educated’ by their being forced to spend great swathes of February and March next, in lambing season, standing in muck as a cold rain pisses down, dealing with prolapse in ewes or with their arms halfway up sheeps’ twats feeling for the foreleg of a lamb struggling to be born.  They, and the country, and the countryside, would be remarkably the better for it.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
blamebrampton From: blamebrampton Date: October 17th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
with their arms halfway up sheeps’ twats feeling for the foreleg of a lamb struggling to be born

That took me back to being a young woman at my grandparents' stud, where slender, long, strong arms made me a great favourite with the vets.

I think that there is a strange confusion of the motor car and freedom. People believe that driving sets them free, when it really ties them into set times and routes and end points.

The simple joy of sitting in a saddle, whether above legs or wheels, has been lost to so many people that it seems something out of time. But there is no other way to smell and hear your journey as more than the whine of engines and stench of petrochemicals. I live in hope that the age of oil is finally winding down, but I suspect it is forlorn.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 17th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Betjeman anticipated us.

blamebrampton From: blamebrampton Date: October 17th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Betjeman anticipated us.

I am smiling now. There is a railway line outside my house here and steam trains run up and down it on weekends. I have lost track of the number of grown men who have heard the puff of an engine and, in response to my 'Oh yes, that's the steam engine leaving on a run,' leapt to their feet, dashed out my front gate, and stood grinning on the bridge as the engine chugs beneath them. I have seen bankers wave at engineers. Like horses, they speak a deeper language to us than a car ever could.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 19th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

We're all anoraks at heart.

And 'grown men' is an oxymoron.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: October 17th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Betjeman anticipated us.

Enough to make one feel quite reconciled to peak oil, that does. Though I loathe cars, in any case.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 19th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oxonian to the core, m'dear.

You're well on your way to College Worthy status. Another glass of port, my dear?
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: October 17th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)


I believe I'll start using that to express disbelief in the tones people in books use to snort "Balderdash!"

In New York, on the main island at least, we are of a country mindset when it comes to transportation. We walk, and knock on the hoods of cars stuck in traffic as we gleefully jaywalk away while the driver fumes.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 19th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Humbersnipe!

Quite right, too.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: October 18th, 2008 10:30 am (UTC) (Link)
What really annoys me is the yummy mummies (and it's usually them) driving huge 4 x 4 or Land Rovers and they've never been near the proper countryside or near mud. They live in a sanitised countryside where there's proper roads which don't flood or in a town and they drive their children to school and really clog up the roads for us bus users. *quietly seethes*
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 19th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Quite so.

I blame the fact that there are no suitable intermediate choices that carry sprogs in quantity and have the feel of being protected in a collision.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: October 19th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)


There's a perfectly good bus or they could walk.
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