No, not that kind. I hate Porsches, and can’t afford one. And I’m apparently invisible to simpering, leggy blondes (for which my wife is at least sporadically grateful).
It’s more like a who-the-fuck-am-I-anyway sort of crisis.
It derives, I suspect, from my working life – where so much has changed and is changing. I’m quite good at change, and mostly enjoy it. But my job is unrecognisable from the one I started 20-odd years ago.
I’m like a man who’s just arrived in Shanghai, and can recall every minute of what he did during the journey… but can’t remember where he came from.
Of the things that animated, exercised, obsessed, worried and delighted me even 10 years ago – let alone 20 – not one now remains. I am an utter stranger to my younger self.
Such a stranger, in fact, that the professional disconnection has bled into my non-work life. I feel like Dr Who after a regeneration. How the fuck did that guy turn into me? Was I ever him, or did I dream it?
Allotmenteering is about the only thing that connects me to the past. Not that I would have dreamed of growing a carrot 20 years ago, of course. But it’s the only thing I do now that I know the young man would at least have understood.
Everything else would be a total fucking mystery to him. Plus he’d be appalled by the size of my arse.
I wish they wouldn’t. I loathe Christmas. It’s an ordeal that I rank up there with unblocking the lavatory, protracted root canal work and proctological examination (which last I have yet to endure, but visualising the procedure’s psychological effect demands minimal imaginative chutzpah).
There is one small glint of moonlight in the morgue, however: by some horticultural miracle, last year’s potted tree is still with us – just.
Granted, it’s lost half its foliage. But at least I can save £15 by re-using the bugger. Assuming I stand it against a wall.
It’s got me thinking about other things I could re-use. Hey, why not? If you’re hating it anyway, why not claw back a few quid on the deal?
I’m figuring a bit of glue and concentration could probably resurrect the Xmas crackers, if you remember to save the pieces. And the Christmas cake’s a dead cert. Nobody eats the fucking thing anyway, so they’ll never notice if I wheel out the same cake 10 years in a row.
Good points made by Matron in her “Food Security” post of Nov 12 (can’t link direct, but it’s a short scroll down her main page):
“There will come a time in the not too distant future when supplies of water and fuel become scarce that we will all need to grow our own food. Most people in the UK have no idea how to do that, and therefore it will be up to you and I – the food growing bloggers – to show them how, before they all starve to death!”
I wish this were melodramatic, but I don’t think it is. And it got me thinking: if I were suddenly required to help people grow food – en masse – would I be up to it?
Specifically, what could I do? What specific tips would I hand out to would-be vegetable growers in the post-oil era?
Reams of detailed, complex advice would be too much for a total beginner (remember how that felt?). But trite, obvious stuff is also clearly pointless.
After much thought, I reckon my initial, brief ‘Here’s what you need to know’ checklist would look like this:
Prepare to irrigate. You’ll need access to water and you’ll have to water crops MUCH more than you think
Get a horse, or befriend an equestrian. The only way to keep up soil fertility, when fertilisers have vanished or become too expensive (already happening), will be to add TONS of compost and manure year-round
KILL ALL CABBAGE WHITE BUTTERFLIES ON SIGHT
If you had to give three specific bits of help/advice to a total vegetable virgin – once the oil and fertilisers have gone – what would they be?
Another splendid example of His sense of humour: Took today off work to do some digging on the allotment, and was greeted with this.
It’s not just raining. It’s coming down in streams as thick as pencils. If I stood stark naked in the garden for five minutes wielding a loofah, I’d have a convincing shower (and my neighbour would have a convincing embolism).
So what to do? Well, I could rearrange my seed drawer. Or perhaps study the outside pebble-dash through the conservatory window.
But I won’t. Instead, I’ll flob on the sofa watching daytime TV, then burp and fart my way through an hour or two with YouTube. Then I’ll give up in despair and go back to work.
As I’ve pointed out before, the average age of UK farmers is 54. We’re clearly going in the same direction as the Japanese. Our imports-to-homegrown food ratio is in the same ballpark.
So where’s the grassroots movement towards sustainability and home-growing here? I’ll tell you: it’s not happening. Not in commercial agriculture, anyway.
In the UK, you’re either a grain baron farming 1,000 EU-subsidised acres with industrial pesticides and fertilisers. Or a mud-spattered smallholder drowning in red tape and struggling to pay the electricity bill.
And all created, ultimately, by urban morons who are happy to pay £15,000 for a new Astra but won’t pay more than £2.50 for a chicken.
Some gardening and veg growing types got together in Oxford on Saturday, arranged by the indefatigable Patrick. As ever, I was on the way to somewhere else and had no time. Apologies to all for slinking off in a hurry – this is my life nowadays.
Couldn’t bring the videocamera proper, but shot this brief video with the iPhone; it’s the redoubtable Emma (of AKG Podcast fame) answering questions about keeping chickens. Thanks to Patrick for long hours he must have put into organising everything, and apologies again for my fleeting semi-presence.