‘The Good Life’ was a comedy programme set in suburbia in Southern England. A couple were trying to be self sufficient not on some remote hill farm in Wales, or in a Tuscan idyll, but right where they were, a tube ride away from central London and surrounded by thousands of other people who were trying to live their own version of ‘The Good Life’ i.e. one where the golf club, the right schools and expensive holidays were the norm. The comedy came from the contrast between the two.
Well no here has yet turned their front garden over to leeks and swedes, but in England vegetable seed sales now out strip those for flowers. Just a few yards away from my front door is the huge, triple tiered village planter. Last year it was full of salvias, petunias and begonias, but the council decided they couldn’t afford it this year. Instead the emphasis has been on beans, herbs, strawberries and salad greens, although there are still a few salvias sticking out of the very top tier, so that people don’t have to use a ladder to reach the vegetables they want. The plants come from volunteers, mostly spares from their own gardens, and they are free for anyone to take.
Many in this village have large and productive gardens. Perhaps they don’t need such bounty, but there are a few people who only have yards, and others who are no longer fit enough to garden. One friend is in a wheel chair, but that doesn’t stop her keeping an eye on the planter and there is a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she shows me two tiny strawberries she has harvested.
The local Baptist church also has two smaller planters and another large one outside the Catholic Presbytery as well as others in more out lying places. What is worrying is not the beans and herbs, but the cash cutting of which these initiatives are the evidence. The borough plans to close 12 of its libraries and the central one is to be moved to a much smaller building. Yet council members still drive big cars and presumably claim expenses.
The rest of us are all having to consider our finances. My daughter starts a new job next week, but her increase in funds will have to be used to pay back her student loan. We aren’t broke and have many things our grandparents could not have imagined, but steady jobs are not on that list. My future son–in–law has just received a very welcome pay rise, but it is only guaranteed for six months, so he will continue to live on the smaller amount, rather than splash out on a bigger property or a newer car.