As he drove his super electric powered two seater Land Rover through the spine of Sussex, he recalled the gentle sloping hills of the South Downs speckled with sheep grazing the grassy banks, of years gone by. Also the winterised pastures with neatly trimmed hedges, defining the boundaries between fields of winter sown cereal crops and others just resting and ready to be planted in the spring.
He allowed his mind to wander as he rested his hands on his knees as his automated self-drive truck made its way along the road.
He remembered taking this same route many summers ago when the fields were full of cattle grazing with the sun on their backs. And the memory of ripening fields of wheat and barley gently swaying in the breeze, not long before the combines would have harvested the golden grain, brought a smile to his lips.
Now the arrow straight highway was edged by thick overgrown dense woodland, and where fields of corn and pastures had once been, was now covered by impenetrable thickets of overgrown blackthorn and gorse. Today all grain was imported from mega farms in the USA, the extended Russian territories and South America.
He could see over this canopy the summit of the Downs above Firle, now totally enveloped in a tangle of woodland, brambles and blackthorn. Long gone was the open chalk grassland, so treasured in the past, for its prized habitat with rare butterflies, hares and orchids.
Giles, being a little peckish, decided to sample one of the pies he had carefully packed as a Christmas gift for his cousins Frank and Freda. This was quite a tradition which he enjoyed as each year they would have to guess what he had filled his pies with. As he munched away, he remembered the flavours of the past with a pang of nostalgia.
As he approached the Kent border, now the EU Control check-point, a dark eyed evil looking official approached ordering him to get out of his car. Giles being a typical stubborn old farmer, decided to sit tight but he did open his window, and asked what he could do for this troublesome official. The man said, “You were observed by our surveillance cameras eating a suspicious looking substance. Hand it over we need to check its contents.”
“You must be joking”, said Giles, “This pie and those in the box I made myself. They are not great but neither are they bad enough for you to get excited about.”
The guy snatched the remains of the pie from Giles’s hand and lifted it to his nose and sniffed. “It seems that this pie is acceptable.” He said, “We must have the super sensitive X-ray road side cameras checked out, there must be a malfunction.” With that he checked his identity card and waved Giles on.
Giles, unfazed by this encounter journeyed on, but now fully alert. The traffic increased and vehicles moved slowly nose to tail. The woodland gave way to mile upon mile of temporary housing units, with people of all colours and nationalities milling around looking miserable and unkempt.
Here there was not a tree to be seen, the landscape was covered with these dwellings, factories, open highways and the super-fast railway lines.
As Giles arrived at his destination, he was warmly welcomed by Frank and Freda, both of whom looked a little frailer than they had last year. Soon Frank and Giles were sat with a glass in hand waiting for Freda to bring in the Christmas Lunch. Not in front of a roaring fire as they had done in the past; as Giles noted, it was decidedly chilly.
Just then they heard a cry from the kitchen where Freda was lifting her Christmas speciality out of the oven, only to find it uncooked. The power had gone off, the cooker was cold, and Freda was in tears.
As they sat in the living room, huddled around a few candles they reminisced about days gone by. Giles told them about his journey through the countryside bereft of farm livestock, now over grown with dense woodland, immigrant campsites, houses, factories, roads and the railways. He also told them about the border guard checking his pies contained no meat.
Freda spoke about the days when wood burners kept them warm, cookers were fuelled by gas or oil instead of wind turbines which rarely worked, and solar panels which needed the sun. This winter they had been precious little of that.
“Where did it all go wrong”, said Frank.
“I think it was that Paris Climate Change summit in 2015 what set the rot in”, said Giles. “That nutter Arnold Schwarzenegger should have stuck to acting, instead of telling witless politicians that ‘people should stop eating meat, and become all-out vegans’. And those dodgy statistics now proven to be groundless regarding emissions from farm livestock. Just look what has happened to the countryside, and now we are treated like criminals at the very suggestion we have cooked the odd rabbit, or hidden a dairy cow in our back bedroom!”
Patch jumped onto farmer Giles’s lap and barked in his ear, waking him from his slumbers. His heart raced as he recalled his dream, but he slowly calmed down as he put a log in the wood burner, and then took a bite from his roast beef sandwich.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy New Year.