I was going to write lovely blog post about my new book shelves . Now full of treasures I’d almost forgotten, plays by Bond and Brecht and Brenton. Shelves where Pam Ayres is cosying up to Aeschylus and Mark Haddon is getting into A Spot of Bother with Jude the Obscure. Where my collection of signed books awaits pension time all on a shelf of their own. But I can’t, because strange events have happened and all I can think about is ash.
It’s a whole new way to have a farm crisis.
Our pickers can’t get here. Despite popular myth, local people are not hammering down our door desperate for picking jobs and we rely, for the most part, on foreign workers to pick our crop. Not because they are cheaper but because they turn up. In the days when we could find local pickers, turning up seemed to be optional for quite a lot of them, as if we could put strawberry ripening on hold until it was convenient …..I shudder remembering afternoons ringing around potential pickers:
‘Are you coming in tomorrow?’,
‘Oh, I don’t know, I’m a bit tired.’
From a list of 100 we might get 10; a different 10 every day. And that was in the old days, before the 4 hour (compulsory) farm induction, the hour to complete all necessary paperwork, and the 2 days to get a picker trained to the standard expected by our customers. You can’t put that effort into someone who might do a couple of days here and there or only stay a week or two.
We’d be bankrupt and insane before the season was out.
So Beloved is planning on driving to Romania to pick up our flightless SAWS people.
SAWS, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker’s Scheme. Only open now to Bulgarians and Romanians, they come to the UK for a maximum of 6 months to a designated farm approved by the scheme and audited for ethical trading practices. They earn plenty, have a lot of parties and learn a bit of English. It pretty much works for everyone and the government are bringing it to an end in 2012.
Still, that’s a whole different blog post and 2012 is two years away. With any luck I’ll have a book deal by then and the farm and I can subsidise each other. For now, a decision must be made about a ridiculously long drive across Europe. I don’t want him to go. Mostly because it will be a hideous drive, I’ll miss him and the farm can’t afford for him to spend 5 days away but, also, because I want him to stay here and take care of small boy so that I can go to London Book Fair .
Not that I’m selfish or anything (ahem). I know, if I don’t get to go it doesn’t matter.
It’s not like the huge and potentially damaging disappointment agents and publishers have suffered; carefully planned meetings and opportunities tipped down the neck of Eyjafjallajokull. I am just going along for the ride. Meeting up with writer friends, attending seminars and soaking up the atmosphere. I suppose though, if the 16 people who were supposed get here this weekend had arrived, I would, instead, be completing 16 hours of paperwork.
Every ash cloud has a silver lining.