Sunday, 21 October 2012

Robinson Crusoe? Pukha or Kutcha? And Parsley the Lion.

That's a photograph of the book that set me on the way to getting an allotment and eventually living on a smallholding.  It's the original 'Self Sufficiency' by John Seymour.  The man who inspired millions to become self reliant and to get back to the land.  I call the book my 'smallholding bible'.  I also have the NEW complete book of self sufficiency which is a fantastic book and the diagrams are superb.

How ever in the new version I don't see the first chapter:  What is it?  Why do it?  JS asks the question what does self supporting mean?  Should we be like Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe got his inspiration from the Scottish explorer: Alexander Selkirk).   JS says that he lived in African and Indian villages and he saw an high degree of self sufficiency in both, and also a very high degree of happiness and true contentment.  In one Indian village there's a man who goes into the countryside and cuts down a pipal tree.  He uses it to make a plough to sell to his neighbour in return for rice or wheat...There is a miller, a dhobi (washerman), a tonga-wallah (driver of a hackney cart), carpenter, blacksmith, potter and a weaver.   If somebody wants to build a house,  The neighbours help you.  Except at harvest time, nobody works very hard.

The Indians have 2 useful words: pukha and kutcha.  Pukha means to have a civilized finish on it.  Kutcha means rough - made in the village without outside help.  The man who has learnt to read, and been to town, comes back and wants a pukha house-one that makes use of cement and glass, mill sawn timber and other materials that aren't made in the village.  His old kutcha house is no longer good enough for him.  He also decides that he wants white sugar instead of gorr, tea instead of buttermilk, white flour instead of wholemeal. He - and eventually his whole village with him -are forced into a money economy, crops are grown for sale and not for use, the village becomes part of the great world-wide system of trade, finance...

Makes you think doesn't it?  Have we all become slaves to oil and the global system of trade and finance?

Any road.  Another one of my hobbies is looking back at great television programmes from the past.  Staying (kind of) with a agrarian theme.  Here's Parsley the Lion.  Remember when quarter to six was a special time just before the BBC six O'clock news?

Thanks to the kind person who uploaded it to You Tube.


  1. I think JS has a lot to answer for, he really made a lot of people stop and think about the way they lived, and the possible alternative ways.

    I wonder exactly how many of them who read his book were influenced to actually do this, I know a lot would have liked to try but lacked the starting capital that would have been needed even then, even if it's only a little, it's a lot if you have nothing.

    The annoying thing, as we've both noticed, is the number of derelict buildings scattered throughout the countryside which could easily be brought back to useful life with people prepared to take a small plot and make it very productive. I wonder how many awkward-shaped fields could be "squared up" by fencing off a small piece suitable for a small dwelling, hen run, pig sty and a big garden to be worked with hand tools.
    I suppose it's theoretically possible to live completely off-grid, but probably impossible to aceive other than for short periods. Of course, a little beck for drinking water and a small water-wheel could make all the difference, and access to firewood.
    But however hard we try, we are bound as slaves to oil and the system, some of us more than others.
    I don't think it's possible to become completely seperated from the modern monetary system, it's what makes the world go round now.

    I visited Dominican Republic twice, 6 years apart, and took the same excursion into the interior to visit a "stone-age" village. The difference in only 6 years was remarkable, it's heading (being dragged) towards the 21st century a mile a minute, from a culture only a generation ago when their food fell from the trees, stress and coronary disease were un-known, nobody did very much; to mobile phones, Toyota pick-ups, Honda 125cc motorbikes and selling trinkets to the visiting tourist excursions. But they still live in wood and tin sheeting huts and the pigs roam the dirt tracks that cless as roads.
    I don't think we're doing them any favours.

    Still keeping dry and sunny.
    Raggy cat still asleep curled up in front of fire.

  2. Thanks for that Cumbrian. I often see smallholdings for sale or to rent for kings ransoms. There must be thousands of people who would love to tend the land and keep livestock. I bet there's lots of farmers who need help and are sick of struggling on their own every day?

    Th great Welsh poet RS Thomas, wrote a poem called: The Poacher. Here's three of the lines:

    No smoke haunting the cold chimney
    Over your hearth betrays your dwelling
    In blue writing above the trees.

    I noticed the other evening the number of empty (holiday homes probably) with no light on. Telling the world that nobody is in residence.

    The biggest problem is everything is privately owned or the planners won't allow affordable property to be built in the rural landscape. It's a tragedy when there are so many homeless and people living in rented accommodation in the towns. Then again though there is no work or rural infrastructure, so why would anybody want to live there?

    I love your portrayal of the Dominican 'stone village'.


  3. Is it you who once told me that most of the guys who made the old children's programmes were on LSD, Dave?

    I remember that you used to give people all sorts of 'weird and wonderful information'.

  4. Although the outlook here in the sticks is fairly gloomy, planning wise, there are a few places where hope prevails, and surprisingly perhaps, Wales is one of them. Their One Planet Development planning code is designed to allow new land based development in the countryside, and the emphasis on low impact development means that homes can be put together for very little - we're talking less than 20 grand.
    For the huge numbers of people (like me) that no bank will ever lend to, and who perhaps don't want to get into debt, cooperative schemes are emerging that will make such homes available.
    Of course none of this is yet on the scale that is needed to solve the rural housing crisis, and our economy is still geared to an oil dependent, urban, long supply chain.
    Change is coming though - peak oil, with its resultant rising prices, and a plateau in crop yields, together with changing weather patterns are going to push us back to an altogether smaller scale agriculture, far less dependent on oil, and supplying a local market.
    Once that begins to become more apparent, I think we'll see more people making a return to rural areas, and that'll drive employment, local services and infrastructure. Until then the answer is to make your local area more attractive to like minded people. We're getting together with a few folk who are working along similar lines to us, and nudging some of the local farmers who own those run down cottages to allow them to be rented to off gridders, who in turn will bring ideas, and skills, and little home businesses into the area, and so on.
    Given that our regional government here is so utterly hopeless, and unlikely to adopt the sorts of policies that the Welsh Assembly have, the answer has to lie with us, rather than them, I think.

  5. I don't recall Parsley the Lion! Cheers

    PS a big thank you for following Carole's Chatter

  6. Hi Pat, you're on the right lines. What I did say was when you proof read my latest manuscript (anybody want a brilliant proof reader, pat's you're man), the people who wrote the scripts for the television programmes when we where growing up, must of been on drugs, because they had such amazing imagination. Oliver Postgate for example, was a genius.

    Do you think Parsley the Lion would be suitable in todays pc Britain Pat? A lion that's not brave. There's a saying here in Ireland:

    "I would fight a lion before I'd fight a rat."

    Don't think there is any creature braver than a lion.

    Thanks Pat.

  7. Never knew that about the Welsh Assembly Steve. It's wonderful to hear such positive news for a change.

    The Green Party in Ireland doesn't believe in one off housing in the countryside. Think they all want working class people to live in the towns.

    Totally agree with you about peak oil. Wish the organic movement got rid of their cars and set an example to us all instead of having double standards.

    Look forward to reading your blog.


  8. Hi Carole. I have lots more television characters from the past for future blog posts. Thanks for leaving a comment

  9. Dave, if Parsley the Lion was gay as well, of course, the PC crew would take him on board.

  10. Hi Pat,

    Michael Bond's other creation Paddington Bear would also suit the PC crew. A Peruvian bear adopted at a train station by a white middle class family? I am joking of course.

    The quarter to six programmes had no political or gender issues.. They were there simply to give the viewer light entertainment. Now a days everything got to be dissected and checked to see it fits the pc agenda. It's rather sad really.

    However I find it very difficult to get my books published these days. I would not recommend any budding humour writer to attempt to make a career writing in England today. Don't think the Monty Python team would be allowed on television today, do you?

  11. Very good points, Dave, if you don't salivate after (or pretend to salivate after) the PC agenda, you're going to struggle at whatever you do in Britain.

    When I left Britain 15 years ago, I literally felt what Blake called the "mind-forg'd manacles" lift from me. It's also amazing how much Orwell's '1984' predicted the oncoming of political 'correctness' with its hideous notions such as 'hate crime'.

    There was a brave organisation called Civitas that used to try to stand up against and speak out against political 'correctness'. Do you know if it still exists?

    I particularly can't stand how the PC mob are going after Eastern Europe now, using things like football matches to accuse countries that don't share their PC ideology, such as Serbia, of 'hate crime'.

    Sociological conditions are considerably different in Eastern Europe, as multiculturalist experimentation has never really been tried out or ideologically manufactured there, but the PC mob don't seem to realise this.

  12. Civitas is still on the Internet Pat. I am surprised it's described to be a 'right wing' organization. Think I will have to re-read: The Retreat of Reason: Anthony Browne. That's a Civitas publication that you gave me to read. He puts forward the very good argument:

    "How can you have a democracy when you have political correctness?"

    George Orwell is one of my favourite twentieth century writers, especially: The Road To Wigan Pier. Eric Blair (George) mellowed a lot after his experiences in Spain. Yet he could still see the ideologies being developed and used in Russia. 1984 predicted: thought crime, double think and newspeak, didn't he?

    My political stance is 'old Labour' like Orwell, and I believe in equality for people, but I don't believe in being told what to think or say or when to laugh or not to.

    Thanks Pat.

  13. Heartening post by Steve, I've heard rumours of this enlightened attitude by some Welsh planners, but didn't realise it had become fact. Although I argree it's not enough to have a meaningful impact on society, it's a good beginning, and from little acorns do mighty oaks grow, so there's hope it could blossom into a national trend.

    But it needs as well is for the huge land-owners and conglomerates to release their strangle-hold on much of the UK countryside, and this might be the hard part. I think it'll take government intervention to make it happen, and they won't do anything as long as the obscene profits from oil and energy are theirs for the taking.

  14. Hi Cumbrian, It is an heartening post by Steve. I think what he is trying to achieve is wonderful. Wish I lived near other like minded people.

    In England there's always been people trying to gain land for the common man. Just been reading a book about Gerrard Winstanley (he came from Wigan) he founded founded the Digger movement in 1649. They believed in a radical egalitarian society in which all men lived freely in communal villages. All property ownership, rent and wages would be abolished.

    People have been saying this since the 'Enclosures Act'. Yet still the majority of the land is owned by 3 percent or less of the country.

    The Land League in Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century allowed tenant farmers the right to purchase the land from loans from the land commission. Perhaps there could be a smallholders and allotment holders party?

    I even believe there was an Irish Socialist Farmers party. Can't say I have met many socialist farmers, have you?

    On a positive not the National Trust is providing hundreds of new allotments in Britain.


  15. Dave, the problem is that in Britain, there only seems to be Civitas and Roger Scruton standing up against political 'correctness'. Of course, the PC mob simply label/stereotype anybody who stands up to them as 'right wing'; 'racist'; 'sexist'; 'homophobic' etc. For example, they quite conveniently only focus on Roger Scruton's interest in fox hunting, when he is much more than this.

    In America, the situation is very different, as there are many university publications by writers such as Paul Edward Gottfried; Allan Bloom and Dinesh D'Souza which openly dissect and criticise political 'correctness'. Of course, the PC mob don't quite know what to think when ethnic minority academics such as Dinesh D'Souza criticise them.

  16. Roger Scruton owns a farm doesn't he Pat? I think his book : England: An Elegy is a masterpiece. People don't like him because he stands up for the establishment. Yet when you look at the pictures he paints of the Church of England for example, it's incredible. All different branches of Christianity all under one roof. Perhaps people don't like people trying to preserve the old order?

    Roger Scruton quotes George Orwell in the book when he defined England as a bundle of sensations:

    The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pintables in the Soho pubs, the old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning -

    Hows that for enchantment Pat? One of your recent blog topics.

  17. Wonderful, Dave, I love the parts in 'England: An Elegy' when Scruton talks about English enchantment being based on understanding Shakespeare; appreciating cricket; and experiencing Anglican churches in rural locations (I'm not Anglican, but having visited many of the latter, I can see what he's getting at).

    Also love his picture of pre-politically 'correct' working-class life in Manchester revolving around mutual cooperation and self-education. If I remember rightly, he eulogises about such things as brass bands; the setting up of the Co-op; racing pigeon clubs etc.

  18. Yes, 'England: An Elegy is' a wonderful understanding of what made England such a great nation.

    My favourite character in the book is Mr Dickson the self educated man who lived in Ancoats, Mancherster, next to Mr Scrutons grandparents I think? Mr Dickson subscribed to the Manchester Guardian and he read Ruskin and Morris.

    I would also eulogise about Heavy Rock music, canals, allotments, folk clubs, CAMRA, great English food and classic English literature with working class authors like DH Lawrence and Thomas Hardy. I think I will after read'England: An Elegy' again.

    Thanks Pat.

  19. The Diggers, the True Levellers, suppose they had the right idea, but they didn't last very long, the Establishment made sure of that.
    And I doubt if that sort of communal ownership type of system would work in practice, like Communism, very good in theory. Not everybody wants to live a rural existance.

    I don't beleive there's anything wrong with actual ownership, it's just huge the amount of land under the control of so few people. There must be a fairer way of apportioning it, and some form of system whereby peopl wanting to live in the country and provide whatever they can for themselves have the opportunity to do so. Provided, of course, that they actually did that; the French have a rule that if farmers don't use the land, and allow it to become derelict, the land is given to somebody who will make productive use of it. They also have a numerous allotments, there seems to be a standard size, all set out with precision, each with a nice fence and identical small hut, and all very well-tended, they must have a similar rule for allotment holders.

  20. Thanks Cumbrian.

    Britain had 1.4 million vegetable allotments in the 1940's. Today there are said to be only 300000, with a waiting list of 100000. Yet you can go into the countryside and see lots of derelict farmland. It doesn't make sense does it? There must be lots of people who would love to own or at least rent their own smallholding?

    Again the biggest problem is private ownership. Why don't governments offer incentives to landowners let other people use the land? A lot of ancestral stately homes get crippled with inheritance tax. Why couldn't the governments waive these taxes if the land had working tenants?

    I believe that the 1945 Labour government built local authority housing with big gardens for people to grown their own vegetables. People had to keep the gardens tidy and there was a noxious weed act. It sounds very similar to your French model Cumbrian.

  21. Dave, have you read 'Narrow Dog to Carcassone' by Terry Darlington? His dry sense of humour appeals to me, and I spent lots of time on the canals in my youth, so it was right up my street.

  22. You're spot on about Thomas Hardy, Dave, he raised common agricultural characters like Jude and Tess to full Shakespearean tragedy level.

    He was also a pioneer in focusing on male-female polarity as a theme, which DH Lawrence, of course, extended (under the influence of Freudian-type mysticism) and made his own. You'd love Lawrence's 'Study of Thomas Hardy', Dave.

  23. Thanks Steve. I have seen 'Narrow Dog to Carcassone' a few times on Amazon and thought about getting a copy. Now I will. I often spent many an hour or four, walking canal towpaths on my own, composing poems about moor hens, poor sunken coal barges and the demise of the cotton and coal industry. The canals used to be the veins and life lines to industrial Britain. I suppose I should thank Mrs Thatcher for giving me the leisure to pursue my dream of being a poet and a writer. Thanks Steve.

  24. Hi Pat, You make me want to start reading Jude and the other Hardy books again and for the first time. Think Hardy gives the reader a glimpse of a tractor free Wessex that portrays the beauty of the female and the physical strength of the male. It seemed such a more sedate rural life before the First World War. The humble peasant was noble and God fearing and he thanked God for the harvest and prayed for good weather.

    I also really admire DH Lawrence for his word pictures of urban and rural landcapes and his amazingly complexed characters. Also his realization that his god was mother nature and imagination. I will look for his study of Hardy. Thanks.

    Thanks for bringing your English literature knowledge to this blog Pat.

  25. When are you going to do a piece on the Donald Campbell book you've read recently, Dave?


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