Volcano? What?

Shelves with free pianist.

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.

Sad, empty strawberry rows....

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.’

‘Aaaargh…..’

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.

How to keep your people happy. Barn dance.

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.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. JaneyV says:

    I worked in Germany for three summers in college canning cherries when the seasonal crop came in. We lived in factory accommodation and were paid well. I had some of the best times there (those I can remember)! It was mostly Turkish people and Irish students. If I was in Uni still I’d want to come work in your farm. And I’d turn up too. Every day.

    I hope the ash cloud lifts so that the long drive to and from Romania can magically turn into a single flight. And I also hope that the government rethinks scrapping the SAWS scheme which sound brilliant to me.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Thanks Janey – it is a brilliant scheme – properly managed migration, can not understand why they are scrapping it, crazy.

  2. Lucy Coats says:

    Still firmly saving you a place at the LBF lunch table and hoping…. I know what the picking season is like–I grew up on my parents’ strawberry farm. Fraises des bois, though–I still can’t bear them, or the smell of them, having spend years picking, packing and weighing the little blighters–and driving them to Covent Garden at 3am. Authoring is much more fun!

    Lucy @ http://scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      AM coming!!! Have delayed ferry journey for 2 days in the hope that a big wind will come and puff that bad old cloud away!

  3. bookwitch says:

    Well if it works that’s as good a reason as any to abolish it.

  4. Debra Morse says:

    Hope you are wrapped up in books.. and that all ash is dissipating away… you have volcanoes, we have earthquakes ( but not bad ones now; just aftershocks from Easter 7.2)….. and yet we each are running off to book fairs! ( LA Times Festival of Books). Now there’s a blog in itself. The Romanian connection is fascinating. Here it is people from Guatemala, but they are sneaking across the border in the wheel wells of large trucks, and dying in the desert to get here. I like the idea that there is a scheme for your area. It seems silly that the Gov is going to get rid of it.

  5. Sue Hyams says:

    Glad you made it to LBF in the end and I am so impressed with your seemingly endless sense of optimism. May all your strawberries be picked!

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