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Town and country

It’s funny how townie and country-dwellers have different perspectives on life as it is or ought to be lived. An example of what I mean is the story I heard or read somewhere about the formerly all-round hero film-maker (now somewhat discredited because of rumours or worse about his relationship with his once adopted step-daughter) Woody Allen, who once went to stay with friends in upstate New York. He complained that he had huge difficulty getting a good night’s sleep there because of the lack of noise, i.e. compared to the 24/7 lifestyle – and constant din – of his home city.

Putting my hands up here, I’ve lived the vast bulk of my life in surburbia or cities. And yet I’m a big fan of the BBC Sunday night mainstay Countryfile. Granted, it’s not exactly ground-breaking television but – for me and I suspect for the majority of its healthy audience – it represents a pleasant and worthwhile weekly ‘window’ upon countryside and farming matters, plus because it makes a point of featuring a different part of rural countryside each week so we get to see the wonders of picturesque UK views that otherwise we’d never have come across. Unless perhaps we’re ramblers, enjoy visiting friends in all parts or indeed own a caravan.

Of course, as a townie, I joke to those who will listen that Countryfile‘s weekly hour-long bite of rural Britain – with its wholesome presenters, cute lambs, cattle, ruddy-faced vets shoving their plastic-covered arms up cows’ nether regions to check their calves are okay, sweeping hills and combine harvesters thundering through huge meadows of corn, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes (or whatever else) – is just about all the exposure to the countryside I need!

To be fair to the programme’s editors, sometimes Countryfile covers ‘difficult’ stories such as Brexit and the prospect of farmers losing EU subsidies, should we be gassing or shooting badgers in order to prevent ‘mad cow disease’ spreading through our cattle, and the ‘balance’ between factory farming and the free-range variety – the latter, of course, being what we townies notionally prefer as we pay premium prices for our organic, free-range eggs and breakfast bacon.

For years I had assumed that those who farm or live in the country loved Countryfile as much as I did, having assumed they approved of it because it represented their lifestyle and issues to the rest of the nation.

That was until I was staying for a weekend in the Midlands on the farm of a relative and I made the faux pas of mentioning the programme with reference to a particular story that I’d seen in which one of its presenters – Adam Henson, the eternally hardy, hearty and positive red-headed chap who regularly illustrates the various types of ‘country issue’ that can arise as he works upon his idyllic farm populated by herds of rare breed sheep, cattle and other animals along with his working (and other) dogs – discussed some ‘farming topic of the moment’.

In bringing it up, I thought I’d be getting brownie points for at least showing interest in farms and farming. Not a bit of it. No sooner had I given Henson a name-check that my host interjected with a stream of ‘expletive deleted’s dismissing the presenter and everything he stood for. Effectively the speaker’s viewpoint was that Henson was a lightweight who knew bugger-all about real farming who – far from giving townies a balanced insight into what farming was all about (as I must confess I thought was the case) – was, week-by-week, giving the viewing public a sanitised, sugary-sweet and wholly misleading impression of what farming was really all about.

Somewhat chastened and puzzled, I felt that I had been put in my place and, as the saying goes, with bells on.

I thought I’d mention that before providing Rusters with a link to an item that appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL





About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts