The landowners of Devon and Cornwall are a feisty lot. They have acquired, in recent years, a serious interest in diversification. Of course, one must empathise with them, for to own hundreds of acres of our green and pleasant land is surely a great responsibility?
That well-known and much-loved image of the ruddy-faced, Barbour-clad, shot-gun toting, cow-milking, salt-of-the earth friend of us all, will be sadly missed. He is being replaced by a business entrepeneur, who is casting aside the rape-seed field for a new crop; solar panels. All neatly fenced in, 17 acres of these gaudy little solar plants will fuel at least 450 households with enough electricity to keep the Wii boards up and running. Of course, the wild life will have to get used to living in a rural enclosed ghetto, but as they can’t speak up or write to their MP‘s, they will have to put up with it.
Other farmers have taken to the role of developer as a duck takes to water, providing the actual homes that these consumers will need. Planning applications are being poured over by Parish Counsellors in many a village hall. The lights burn until well past eight o’clock, as the plans are scrutinised for approval.
And if the plans are rejected, the jolly landowners ask the saints for guidance and come up with super new plans to build homes for‘older people‘. This group know how to be grateful to their squire and will put up with any amount of misrepresentation. They will linger fitfully in the estate agent’s office, staring at the colourful brochures and planning applications that promise them everything from meals on wheels to gymnasia, from bistro cafes to ‘level’ walks by bubbling brooks to their nearest town, where they can pick up their frugal provisions, as befitting people of their ancient age.
The over-fifties can retire with impunity to these ‘gated’ communities. They can be reassured that although they will be promised everything but get nothing, the landowner turned developer will call on them regularly and ask them if they are ‘ all right?’ How thoughtful and kind is that?Here we see jolly old Farmer Jethro Giles in 1945, uninterested in anything but his turnips.
They also seek to promote a squire-like expression, hugely intimidating to their ‘over-fifties’ prospective house purchasers. Like the wild rabbits on their land, they are hard to engage in conversation and ever harder to understand. Their language is composed of strange sentences that always start with the words: ‘ I ‘ave a very hard life, y’know…’
And so, for those who do wish to communicate with this strange and changing breed of rural folk, a new code of etiquette must be established. It includes writing long letters to young planning officers, local MP’s, chair persons of all sorts of local organisations and, if push comes to shove, setting up resident’s associations. Indeed, some older people are taking the law into their own hands. In the twilight of their years they are studying for law degrees and learning to pass on secret information with others in their partisan groups, by special sign language:
Together, they feel they may be able to defeat the decadent land owners and their money-making schemes and persuade them to go back to the land and grow potatoes. Will they succeed?