21 Nov 2016

I See You Reaping What You Sow

The time machine has whimsical ways to whizz you down tracks unchartered. How about take you down to rural Cambridgeshire, England, in the height of Summer 1938 just in time for the harvest? Put your straw hat on and follow me!

Farm Crops in Britain, illustrated by S.R. Badmin (1955)

In my personal quest for cultural heritage, national identity and the kinder ways to nature, I came across a short documentary (cf. end of post) currently listed on the homepage of Common Ground, a British charity established 33 years ago, and whose founders 'seek imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment.' An interesting mission statement which I am trying to apply here in my own modest way and out there, in the real world. Common Ground's England in Particular on-going campaign describes itself as 'a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England.' How charming, I'm in!

I was kindly referred to Common Ground by Philip Wilkinson, after I left a comment a couple of weeks ago on his award-winning architectural blog, English Buildings. In his informative blog, Mr. Wilkinson - an advocate of heritage preservation - partakes of anecdotes and photographic evidence of architectural gems from his locale that stand tall and proud as exquisite pieces of British quintessence.

ibid.

Buildings are inanimate objects, yet would it feel out of place to claim that they grace our lives with their presence? Their presence because they exude grace and charm and sobriety - or eccentricity - and other facets of interest that confer the weight, the presence, the personalisation that gets them noticed. They hold memories and figuratively have a soul. This presence you get from those older structures you simply won't get from the new. Such buildings are still part of our landscapes, whether thanks to a heritage preservation act, or the loving care of their owners, or out of sheer lucky fluke! Whatever the circumstance, they each challenge the uniformisation agenda that globalisation is promulgating under its worldwide takeover of our geographical, architectural and cultural landscapes.

The founders of Common Ground refer to national and local particularisms as local distinctiveness, which embraces both material/ physical heritage (architecture, design, infrastructures, materials) and intangible cultural heritage (processes, craftsmanship, techniques, way of life, celebrations, folklore, customs, oral traditions, dialects).
Here in Corsica, I witness first hand how the local distinctiveness in terms of architecture, crafts and design is fragile and endangered to the point of no return. Coveted, despised, uncared for or downright neglected, it falls foul of good intention. It ends up plundered, reinterpreted or altogether destroyed



For a ravishing recording of a way of life (on the wane), I invite you to view the English Harvest documentary (brought to us by BFI). It showcases a delightful visual treat of a portrayal of idyllic country life set in bucolic rural Cambridgeshire, and features harvesting and cultivation methods past. A bygone era that was laborious, ordained, organised, well-dressed and prim and proper. A time of rural thrift and hardship nonetheless, with WWII looming on the horizon to crash it all down. Yet this was a time when man and nature were still close, standing in communion and in unison.

Today our farmers have all the chemical warfare under the sun at their disposal, the machinery and the technology, not to mention the long stretches of uniform land for ease of manoeuvring. And yet their lives still teeter on the edge of poverty, crushed by the long working hours to scrap a living, the relentless bank loans that keep them artificially afloat in the moment and the burdensome bureaucracy of rules and regulations, notwithstanding from our non-elected EU Babel Tower over in Brussels.

ibid.

Add to this a malaise that is running deep, exacerbated by unrelenting mass consumerism that operates on low production cost demands and high corporate profits for the multinationals, and life as a farmer slides down an ever-shrinking - almost elusive - bottom line.

The modern farmer's life is short of servitude. The irony of it all is that his family land feeds the world while leaving him and his kids in the lurch, on the thrift side of a good hearty meal, and worked out to an early grave.  The farmer will be crying in his barn - out of sight out of mind - like his cattle taken to slaughter after they gave it all for no or little recognition.

The land still beats to the tune of his elders' heart, but the song is adrift with the mortal whiff of weedkiller and fertilisers, his mortal coil to be. Under this current relentless paradigm, the land is dying and is killing the farmer, when all he wanted was to live off the land he loves.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Nathalie, Thank you for this time machine experience. I am having this nostalgia because I am a girl who love the laidback life in the country side. It is heart warming that people protect this heritage.

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    1. Hey Daisy, I am so glad you enjoyed my article! The countryside is so important indeed: human life is rooted right there. Modern life may have taken most of us into the city but let's not forget that the country feeds the city. Its endangered heritage (material and intangible) is for us all to preserve in any way we can.

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    2. You nailed it Nathalie. Most of the time people in the city forgot that the country side people or best known as farmers feeds the city people. Good thing there are people who have a passion to promote, preserve and protect this heritage, I am hoping it will lead as an eye opener to many in the city so that they will learn to love and appreciate it. Best, Daisy

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