Tuesday, December 2, 2008

fens, fares and freedoms

I've finally managed to reload Windows, after a load of false starts that seemed personally tailored to get me as wound-up as possible.

I wouldn't mind, but I was late back, having been out with my brother Asinus and his family at their old fen's Advent fair, which always has an international flavour and shows how a village can touch the world in ways that the cosmopolitan life can only hint at.

For a start, one stall manned by a German lady sold paté made on-site at the Steinhart family farm near Heidelberg with the help of a local Steiner school, while another sold crib-figures made from wood in the Holy Land. Ugandan gifts were on offer from children from the villages set up by the Watoto movement that many churches through the world have reached out to and been enriched by the experience. Closer to home, I wasn't so sure about the chocolate wines, but others seemed to like them, and I picked up a book on birdwatching from XV, the local charity shop.

I wouldn't like you to think I'm seeing things through warm fuzzy glasses, for the old fens certainly have their problems - like parents who take the saying that it takes a village to bring up a child too far and deprive their offspring of parental input; or eejits who buy cheap booze from supermarkets then, out of sight sell them to said feral youths. Or plans to conform to governmental house-building targets by erecting estates on flood-plains, or else land that presently absorbs rainwater to mitigate the effect of precipitation on lower-lying houses in this low-lying area of England which at present needs to have the water pumped out of it.

But there's something valuable about communities, either those which exist in villages, or which still survive in parts of towns and cities. It sometimes seems that the government is determined to urbanise great swathes of the land, having already impoverished many rural communities socially by removing their post-offices and making things hard for communities to come together in, say, pubs.

Case in point: East Cambridgeshire District Council recently banned a poetry-group called Turning Point from hosting a popular reading-night in the Royal Standard Inn in Ely, because it doesn't have a spoken-word licence. Luckily, the reading-night was rescued by the town's Lamb Hotel - but what in the name of Sadie McGlumphur's pony is a "spoken word licence"? In these days when it is apparently an arrestable offence to function as an Opposition MP, do we now need licences to celebrate the glory of the English language, let alone speak out in defence of our communities?

Anyway, it's time for bed, and I've said my piece, so I'm just about grumpy enough to get a sleep now. Night-night.


  1. The floodplain problems sound very familiar - a longstanding problem here. Much of the city is on the 100-year floodplain. Recently those properties were devalued by laws making it impossible to re-build on the land. On much protest from the homeowners, the laws are being revised. Mixed feelings, on that, myself. While I can certainly see the point of those who could no longer afford to sell and buy elsewhere, insurance is high enough without guaranteed payouts for those who bought on properties where flooding is simply a matter of "how often?".

    Have wondered for some time whose idea it is that everyone ought to live in large cities. Not altogether sure it's the government's, tho' that's certainly a possibility. My husband speculates that the banking industry is bigger than the government, and hopes someday to be in charge of it all - internationally.

  2. I just attended a Lyceum of transportation where men and women discussed the issue of going back and forth to the city for work, and those who live in the city, and so forth. Much talk... anything settled? hhmmm...

    That said, I am tagging you Frugal Dougal. read my blog, then tell us six things that make you happy!

  3. Pam - I hear you about insurance. In some parts of England, insurers are simply refusing to provide more than the most basic cover for flooding, as it's happening so often. In the same way that Alexander the Conqueror and Ghengis Khan both looked at Afghanistan and thought "nah, better not", perhaps the fennies should look to the wisdom of the Romans, who saw how marshy this area was and only settled sparsely in East Anglia.

    Linda - thanks for tagging me. Is a Lyceum a sort of forum for discussion? - FD

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