Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Someone has to make my beer
In my latest attempt to read in bed without falling asleep within 30 seconds (wish me luck) I decided to go onto eBay last night and buy one of these little LED lights which clip yo you book - or Kindle, they tell me - just to give it one last go, and I don't need much excuse to buy any LED technology.
Not being too hopeful about the success of this experiment, I decided I would not spend too much money on something I would probably only use - or try to use - once, so trawled down the list of lights on offer, finding this one a few items down. So long as the spring springs and it gives off light, then anything would do.
The cost? 99p, including batteries and including Royal Mail 1st class postage, sent from Middlesex, England.
The price was so low that I kept going back to others costing five times as much, then returning to it to try and work out what the catch was. The warning, 'If it is too good to be true, then it probably isn't' kept coming back to me. I remembered a friend who thought he had bought a camera for £5 on British eBay a few years ago, only to have a photograph of a camera turn up on his doorstep which he was unable to get a refund on.
Was it a scam to get my Paypal details? It didn't seem so, as they had already sold over 5,500 of them and have a star-rating of over 18,000 positive feedbacks. My finger hovered over the 'Buy It You Fool' button and eventually descended.
I have just had an email alert from them to say it is now in the post and should be with me tomorrow.
Of course, it must have been made in China, but how much did the manufacturer charge for a bulk purchase that allows the British seller to be able to make a profit on 99p, including 62p in postage? I really cannot begin to guess.
Which brings us back to the European Union.
Yesterday, about 80% of all E.U. representatives and heads of government sat in Brussels in a state of shock, the message from their electorate regarding the esteem in which they are currently held having been finally and unmistakably passed over, and today they are all back in their own countries, promising the citizens that they will - from now on - be changed and chastened reformers.
It was the immigration issue which caused the biggest upset, and now they are trying to work out how to keep the borders of all European countries open at the same time as keeping whatever jobs their citizens want to do, open to them as well.
A Greek man living in Britain was on the radio this morning, saying that pretty much every British strawberry grown in this country was picked by an Eastern European casual labourer, and that the NHS would fall apart if it had to rely on British-born medical staff alone.
I thought about the British, seasonal soft-fruit market, and remembered how it used to be done before the E.U.
When at Art School in West Hampshire, Cro and me lived in a small town which specialised in two things - small-time pottery and hop-growing for the British brewing businesses.
The hops were picked every season by itinerate workers who travelled from West to East, finally ending up in Kent, the Garden of England, in time to start picking the soft fruit which is farmed there in abundance. It may have been the other way round, but the travelling was still the same.
The same, seasonal work was done by casual labour in the North as well, plus all the areas in between, such as Lincolnshire and the Midlands.
As far as possible, the growing season was timed to be staggered so that the same core work-force could be employed throughout the Summer, and the core work-force often included children on school holidays who worked alongside their parents. The school 'Tatty Holidays' in Scotland still exist.
Whole families from the East End of London would take this paid holiday every year, and all meet up on the circuit every season to work from dawn until dusk, enjoying every minute of it. Each evening they would sit around with a few mug-fulls of last year's harvest, having sing-songs before going - dog-tired but happy - to bed to prepare for the next day.
As far as I could tell, the approach of Autumn when the last hop or the last raspberry had been picked was a sad and melancholy time for them, when they would go back to the grime of the city to face the winter in their ordinary jobs, vowing to meet each other again the next year.
During the war, this evacuation from London was a most welcome excursion, and ordinary families rubbed shoulders with the Gypsies who spent their whole lives occupied by travelling from one place to another across the continent, tinkering about in the Winter months and gathering seasonal crops in the Summer. Many of these Gypsies had their roots in Eastern Europe, if they had any roots at all.
Those days of casual, child labour have long gone - mainly due to E.U. legislation - so now (if the government statistics are to be believed) children spend the Summer sitting in darkened rooms playing with their computers, and their parents would rather spend money on continental holidays than earn it by getting fit in the English Summer sun.
Who is left to pick the hops and fruit then? The same casual labourers from Eastern Europe who have been picking them for the last few hundred years.