Tristan Hazell lives and works in the shadow of the Westway on Portobello Road. What follows is a collection of observations, reviews, social comment, fiction, poetry, art criticism and more. Much of it is fiction and some of it will offend someone somewhere, I hope.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why immigrants matter.





As a 10 year old in the 1960's we lived on a fruit and hop farm in Kent. The house was surrounded by hop gardens ( even now I can remember my awe at first standing in a hop garden among the serried majesty of it all), cherry orchards, strawberry and blackcurrant fields. In the farmyard were barns and working Oast houses.

In late summer working class London families would descend upon the farm for the hop picking. They stayed in a row of small brick and corrugated iron huts alongside the lane that led to the village. Often 3 generations of a family would be there to work in the fields and in the sorting sheds. It was their summer holiday and it was a tradition that went back years. The kids were obviously taken out of school because I remember them, armed with pen knives, ambushing us on our way to school with offers of 'You want a knife fight'.

A number of factors put paid to that tradition. Cheap air travel allowing for 'Spanish holidays' and child labour laws being two of them.

It was in a time before the influx of much needed European migrant workers to facilitate the harvest. It seems that it had become 'Infra Dig' to the English.

Now, having looked on Google Earth I see that the hop gardens have gone, the cherry trees have gone, the blackcurrant fields have gone, and with them no doubt the ubiquitous red birdshit that peppered everything. The farmyard has gone save two of the Oast houses which have been converted into a substantial home, The pickers huts have gone. My part of the 'Garden of England' has become arable farmland and grazing. Bland.

Two years later, on the edge of the fens in the shadow of Ely Cathedral, farmers arrived at  school prior to harvest (here it was sugar beet and other root vegetable country) to drum up a workforce for the fields. I have mixed feelings about those days spent in a beet field armed with a 12 inch machete, decapitating the earthy beasts before lobbing them into a slow moving trailer. I was 12. Later in the season, during the winter holiday, the task would be to cover winter carrots with straw to protect them from the frost. My testicles have never recovered.

At that time we lived on a pig farm where I learned to castrate piglets and shoot rats in the feed bins. Both skills will now serve me well in dealing with Farage and his mob.

Child labour laws ensure that all of that is a thing of the past.

It was in a time before the influx of much needed European migrant workers to facilitate the harvest.  which had become 'Infra Dig' to the English who continue to list 'Cider with Rosie' as a favourite book.

Much of our 'homegrown' food  is now brought in from the fields by these migrants, they are essential because no-one else will do it. Every-one demands cheap produce in the shops, even the racists clamouring for  said immigrants departure whilst they book their retirements in Benidorm.







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