Food Island

Clonmacnoise_castle_and_cattle

Ireland is a food island.  We have this fantastic mild climate, with a long spring and autumn and an incredible growing season.  Cattle and sheep thrive on fresh grass, and we have a very short wintering period.  This makes Ireland ideal for production of Beef, Dairy and Lamb.  The byproducts of the dairy industry supply inputs for pig and fowl rearing.

We also have a great climate for growing barley.  Ireland sits at the western end of the “beer belt” which stretches to Slovakia and includes the UK, north eastern France, the Benelux, Germany, southern Poland and the Czech republic.  In this belt you can grow good malting barley and make great beer, and whiskey.  Go south of the beer belt and the climate lends itself to grapes, so you get wine and brandy.  Go north of the beer belt and you are into grain alcohol country, where they produce various versions of Aquavit or Vodka in Scandinavia Poland, Russia and the Baltic Republics.

Given Ireland’s unique position on the Atlantic we SHOULD have the least polluted food production system in Western Europe.  At a political level this should be a number 1 priority.  It has not been!  We have seen scandal after scandal as standards have been allowed to slip.  We have adopted industrial food production short cuts from the USA, Britain and Central Europe.  This has to stop.  Irish food should be the purest food in the world.  We should concentrate on value add, not on mass production.  We should be the envy of food producers everywhere.  The badge of Ireland on food should be synonymous with purity, nature, traditional production, humane farming practices, free range, fed on grass watered by Atlantic rainfall.

Irish beef should command prices higher than Kobe beef.  We are nuclear free and we don’t house our cattle for most of the year and feed it on “unnatural” feed mix.

Irish lamb should be trademarked and should command a far higher cachet than New Zealand lamb which has circled the globe and accrued an enormous carbon debt.

Irish dairy should be seen for what it is – a pure conversion of unsullied Atlantic rains, through grass fed herds, into pristine milk, cream, butter and cheese.

Any farmer, producer or food manufacturer who threatens the image of the food island of Ireland should be dunked head first in a slurry pit.  It should be a form of public entertainment, designed to underline the importance of our reputation.

Inexpensive Progress; by John Betjeman

Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let’s say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor car is master
Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
‘Keep Left,’ ‘M4,’ ‘Keep Out!’
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small ‘amenity,’
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we’ll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
We’ll know that we are dead.

Late-flowering Lust

28th of May, the day when the Lydians made peace with the Medes during the battle of Halys because the sun stopped in the sky.  Well, it was a solar eclipse.  More importantly it was an eclipse that was predicted by the philosopher Thales, one of the seven sages of ancient Greece.

The fact that there was a battle on May 28th is what interests me today.  The end of May is right in the heart of the battle season.  Spring planting is well done.  The grass is growing well to feed the cavalry mounts, and harvest is a long way away.

Not in Ireland.  Non in 2013. Today we have lovely early April weather, at the end of May.  Everything is behind.  Apple blossoms are only flowering now.  Will there be time for a crop to ripen?  The plums haven’t bloomed yet.

Irish communities are taking to their knees, praying for some good weather.  If this goes on much longer they will backtrack through early Christianity and start to sacrifice virgins under oaks using bronze sickles.  Good luck finding those virgins!

Then, just to add insult to injury I have a stinking cold.  This is day 6 of viruswatch.  I have had enough.  I want to emigrate.  So I am looking for recommendations.  I want to move to a country where they speak English, with no biting insects, killer spiders, poisonous snakes or large predatory carnivores.  I want a first world income with third world cost of living.  I want a summer where temperatures don’t rise above 30C and winters where they seldom fall below freezing.  It should have a university in the world top 100, a decent and free healthcare system, the rule of law, a free market economy and a democratic government.  That can’t be too hard, can it?

Late-Flowering Lust by John Betjeman

My head is bald, my breath is bad,
Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
When I was young in sin.

I run my fingers down your dress
With brandy-certain aim
And you respond to my caress
And maybe feel the same.

But I’ve a picture of my own
On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shewn
To hold each other tight;

Dark sockets look on emptiness
Which once was loving-eyed,
The mouth that opens for a kiss
Has got no tongue inside.

I cling to you inflamed with fear
As now you cling to me,
I feel how frail you are my dear
And wonder what will be–

A week? or twenty years remain?
And then–what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
Or a gasping fight for breath?

Too long we let our bodies cling,
We cannot hide disgust
At all the thoughts that in us spring
From this late-flowering lust.