Heaven and Hell

This is short Article I have written for publication elsewhere in January.

Wherever I go, I cannot resist food markets, and so visited five or six in the South West of France while on holiday in October. As a customer of Northfield pointed out, buyers at Food Markets in France actually expect to pay more for their food than they do in Supermarkets. While I don’t advocate that as a principle, it is very noticeable to how great a degree the average food buyer in France demands, expects, and receives a tremendously high standard.

The countryside there is made up of a mosaic of smallholdings. Small herds of beautiful blonde Mirandaise cattle, graze contentedly behind single strands of electric wire, often in and next to vast fields of corn. The corn cobs hang like golden nuggets from the shrivelled stems and leaves of their host plants. They are harvested either entire or stripped of their golden ears. When taken whole, the cobs, complete with ears are loaded back at the farm into tall wood and wire cages where they are dried and stored ready for use to feed the cattle through the winter. Where stripped, the cobs are spat out onto the ground with the shredded stalks. Cattle or pigs or ducks or hens or turkeys might then be grazed on the mixed stubble prior to the remains of the harvest and the grazing being ploughed in ready to start again with a new crop rotation.

The autumn in the Gers was gentle warm and kind to man and beast. Not so back in England sadly.

When I came back, the contrast in pace of life hit home harder than ever before. In one drive from Northfield to Melton I saw more vehicles on the road than I had seen during the whole of the previous two weeks. The land looked less prepared here for the dark season ahead. I cannot compare the media between the two areas as I neither watched TV nor listened to the Radio. I only looked at a local newspaper once. This was a strange experience in itself as the two front page articles were firstly about the higher incidence of road deaths in the Gers compared with every other past of France (strange given the lack of traffic) and, secondly an article about a local well-known Grandfather who took his grandson with his tractor into the woods to show him how to cut logs for the winter. Sadly the old man’s tractor rolled back and killed him. This small sad article, a tribute to the old man, only served to remind me of my own lucky escape some three years ago. I wrote a great deal about my experience. The accident itself, and the extraordinary care which I received from the NHS and other public services, without which I would not be around to tell the tale.

This is a time of year when we all used to make New Year’s Resolutions. Mine must be to finish that writing and to put it to some productive use at last.

The single other greatest contrast, in my little exposure to the media when in France, was how little mention there was of War. As soon as I got back, and ever since, every sense has been bombarded with stories of death of young soldiers, lack of sufficient support and infrastructure. By the time this makes print, who knows what may have happened, but at the moment our government seems like some huge mythical animal, moving slowly towards an inevitable death yet refusing to acknowledge its fate. It chants the same mantra of self-justification, oblivious to life in the real world. The remembrances of Armistice Day had such poignancy this (last) year. Yet they seemed to take place in another world. A world of trenches and naïve anticipation of a short and glorious conflict where we, The Great Britain, would march forward and despatch our enemies quickly and neatly. We remember the sacrifices of those heroes of old. We remember those victims of misguided leaders who basked in glory while sending a generation to ‘The hell where youth and laughter go’. Lets hope against hope that our future leaders will remember the very real hell which week in and week out spews  our youth back at us like evil clockwork.

Jan McCourt




Author: janmccourt

Farmer, owner of Northfield Farm known for his & its pioneering role as a champion of local food, rare breeds, Borough & Broadway Markets.

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