Sunday, 2 March 2014

Bard & Tew (Part 1)

With Mike Sanderson

Tew had been thinking hard since the FSD skirmish on Oxhill Road. He had come across the Bard, out perambulating the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). “Good morning, Tew!” said the Bard, “I see you’re getting ready for the next harvest. What are you planting?” Tew responded, gazing towards his fields: “I’ve been persuaded to plant some of these GMO Ticky-Tacky seeds. They’re not what you’d call sustainable: but, give ’em time and there’ll be a whole estate of ’em – and they’ll all look just the same. Prime Minister is a big fan; and the high PanYan himself thinks they are as good as Hobnobs.”

Tew knew there had to be something in these so-called Neighbourhood Plans. They were brought in by the government back in ’10 to support their localism fad; but could actually confer a lot of power to the community. The problem was to get one before the ministry changed and it all started over again. The three strands of this localism gubbins were sustainable development; some climate change stuff; and a thing called social well-being (which reminded him how much he could do with a pint of Sewell’s Stout, right now). Tew and his colleague the Bard of Tysoe think it would be a good idea to get ruminating about these matters. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be taking a light-hearted look at them – especially as there are lots of code-words and capital letter abbreviations (CLAs) to cope with (for example, the accursed FSD).

So this month, we’ll begin with ‘sustainable economic development’ (or SED). Tew came upon the Bard just down from Old Lodge Farm. As they stared across the Stour Valley at the setting sun, the Bard said wistfully: “So, Tew, what passes for SED in this neck of the woods?” Tew answered: “Well, you can see it below you. The ridge-and-furrow: that’s sustainable. They calls ’em Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). That’s after they’ve grubbed ’em out and laid shingle tracks leading to ponds. Shows there ain’t nowt new.”

The Bard said – after a brief pause to watch a mewing buzzard fly by – “Well, that’s fine now; but what about in 10 or 50 years time: what would SED look like then, down below?”

“Um,” he said. “Me gran knew a thing or two. When she came here there were no gas, no inside loo, no pipes. There still ain’t no gas, and mebbee we’re still short of a few water pipes. So in my opinion, we need more houses to make things sustainable. But since there’s no gas, the new houses need more than one source of fuel. They need to re-use rainwater, too. ’Cos if they don’t have these things, then nobody young can afford to live here. There aren’t enough jobs either: so they need cars to go to work. What do you think?” “Well”, he replied, resting his chin on his gnarled stick, “if it ever stops raining and we see the sun again, some of those solar thingummies you have on your roof might work. And perhaps we could convert the windmill to generate some power or pump all this water away? Be good to have the bus come more often. But it doesn’t really need to be so big, does it?”

Tew said, “I read your piece on Seeger. Seems like Master Risktaker had it right, when he said: ‘the circumlocution officers quote the word ‘sustainable’ in their PDF documents, meaninglessly; but we need to give that word meaning’. We have to ask the rest of the villagers what they think. Light’s nearly gone; footpath’s a bit boggy down below. Mebbee that’s something else we should be doing for ourselves!”

– Originally published in the Tysoe & District Record (March 2014: no.742)

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