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.

27 comments:

  1. Hello Tom:

    We have our doubts about the efficacy of the LED light but trust to be proved wrong. And, if we read you correctly, this includes the cost of postage. The last time we posted a simple letter in Britain it seemed that we were charged the National Debt so this is incredible.

    As far as the EU is concerned, we should wish to see it extend from Calais to Vladivostok with freedom of movement and work for all. What we should like to disappear are, in our view, the ridiculous rules which govern so much of our daily lives and certainly the lives of those whose single purpose is no more than to earn an honest penny, euro or whatever and live out a decent life wherever.

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    1. I am with you on both points, I fear.

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  2. Paperwhite Kindle. I love mine. you can turn the light up or down (up for day, down for night). It has really changed my reading pattern and sleep.

    We still have the school holidays that follow this seasonal work. although the weather seems to be changing, so who knows what fruit and veg we will have to grow in the future. I think it will be huge green houses like the ones in Holland. Temperature and climate controlled. Neither too much water nor too little. Maybe even aquaponics...for each house, who knows.

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  3. I like my new Paperwhite Kindle very much. My older Kindle had a special cover with little metal nodes that the Kindle fitted into and which lit the light which extended from the corner of the cover. It worked very well and was powered by the Kindle. Your purchase will most likely work, but not be satisfactory because I expect it will slip about and annoy you into going to sleep...

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  4. I was one of those people who said that I would always read a proper book and loved holding a book in my hands and would never get a Kindle. Since getting an iPad, I have downloaded lots of books and it is so much better reading from an iPad or Kindle than fiddling about with a book. If your 99p light doesn't work { and I think that Broad is right…. I bet it will slip about and you will probably drool on it !!!! } I'd invest in a Kindle or iPad …. they really are good. XXXX

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  5. I have a nook. Like Jacqueline, I also said I would never succumb to an e-reader , but I did - the best thing about them is the dictionary function.

    Good luck w/the migrant worker fiasco. Same here in the US - people I know who run farms and orchards always complain about the lack of Americans who will work for them and if they do work, they quit because it's too hard or they do a crappy job and are let go - the only people who will work and do a great job are Hispanic workers. And we don't even have the 'welfare' system you all have.

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  6. I find a bed in the West Wing has lights I can put on for midnight reading so no need for a miners lamp.

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    1. Does Pascale put them off for you when you have finished reading, or do you get out of bed and turn them off yourself?

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    2. I ring a bell and my Polish servant boy comes and does it.

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    3. Naked and with a hard-on, I hope.

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    4. He works in the fields all day and for me all night then he sends the money home to Warsaw plus the family allowance.

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    5. Then we're all happy aren't we.

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  7. Your thread from Chinese lights to English strawberries is not tenuous. The economy is global and on the mass level the lowest price wins. On the elite level the average US CEO makes ten M per year, sourcing the lowest price. I guess the European CEO makes more, as I've been told we're slipping behind. So, for the non CEO's, here's to Charlie Mops. And books.

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    1. I am going to take my time to diagnose your figures, Joanne.

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  8. Reading in bed is the world's most soporific activity; other than listening to Farage. Maybe he should write a bedtime story book.... it could become the end of insomnia.

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    1. Insomnia is not my problem. Reading in bed is. I spend enough time thinking about Farage and his like when trying to sleep. What I want is blessed release.

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  9. Over the last year both the farmer and I have had to pay very frequent visits to hospitals in the region for a variety of stupid, petty little ailments which have needed investigation. In each case it has been necessary to see a specialist. Throughout the time we have only seen one English consultant - all the rest have been from overseas. Their English has been good, their expertise has been exemplary - we cannot fault the service we have received. What would we have done without them?

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  10. Why did I mention - in passing - Kindles? It's only one word, but - Christ - what a subject from one word.

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  11. Is that why you didn't bother to answer any of us who mentioned the word Kindle in our comment ? XXXX

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    1. Fair enough !!!!!!!!! haha XXXX

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    2. Don't get me wrong - you can carry on talking about Kindles amongst yourselves as much as you want to, it's just that I never intended getting involved in a discussion about them just because I happened to mention the bloody brand name once, in passing.

      Now if I was getting paid to talk about Kindles, then I would be contractually obliged to encourage a group discussion about them, but since this whole post was to do with the soft-fruit market, maybe I should have mentioned Blackberries instead? They could do with a bit of a lift right now.

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  12. But you quite like to talk about Polish servant boys with hard-on's ? …. say no more !!!! XXXX

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  13. I have a bedside light plugged into the mains, but I still have to take the library book back before it goes overdue at six weeks. If I haven't read it by that time it was so boring it was sending me to sleep so I didn't really want to read it at all.

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    1. I've tried the bedside light technique, but I always wake up around 3 with it still on. LEDs are cheaper.

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