1st anniversary of the Beast from the East

One of the Habanero chillies for which we had 100% successful germination this year

It’s exactly a year since Anticyclone Hartmut scythed across the UK and earned itself the dodgy title ‘The Beast from the East’, a name I always loathed as it just fed into the usual nonsense about everything bad being the fault of the foreigners. It’s weather, get over it!


If there is a lesson to be learned from last year’s weather it’s that climate change is accelerating and unless the governments of the world get serious about it we’re all going to be in terrible trouble. What with climate change, ecological destruction, pollution and extractive farming, there’s enough trouble to tax the abilities of the most gifted politicians; but the problem here in the UK is that our politicians are not remotely gifted, our universities are deeply in hock to the principal environmental offenders and half the population still think that Dunkirk was an historic victory.  I loved this quote from the Irish President in today’s paper –

If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries

Unfortunately our own government seems to be entirely preoccupied with searching for unicorns and so almost no thought is being applied to what, in the long run, are the really important problems.  Last night on the TV news we heard from people who are already stockpiling food in case we crash out of Europe. I felt a bit bewildered by their choices of food to stockpile – mainly processed food like baked beans and so on. Then it occurred to me that we at the Potwell Inn are doing exactly the same but from a different angle.  If there’s been any urgency about getting the allotment in perfect condition for the coming season it’s got a large element of the same instinct to make provision for the future. My best friend’s mum always stockpiled flour and potatoes in the winter because she was a Scotswoman who knew from a lifetime’s experience that she could feed her family of five with those stores, plus the produce from the garden.  My mother, when her Altzheimers got bad, stockpiled spaghetti hoops – largely because of her memories of wartime shortages. And we fret about the allotment which, if things go badly wrong – will at least give us a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. So day after day we work just a bit too hard and we’re so nearly there. The hotbed is planted up and the greenhouse and coldframes are full. The civil engineering phase is nearly over and tonight we went to the pub for a couple of celebratory pints.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

5 thoughts on “1st anniversary of the Beast from the East”

  1. On our last visit to Ireland, our friend was complaining that being in the EU was causing lots of problems. For instance, the EU declared that Ireland should grow hay, not food crops because they were very good at growing hay that the rest of the EU needed, and other members were better at growing food. The Irish felt very vulnerable at that, and I would feel the same. Who doesn’t want to have local food?

    1. I completely agree that when EU agricultural policy becomes directive in that way it causes more harm than good. It happens that those of us who live in the West know that our high rainfall relative to the East favours grass production over arable crops, but you can’t separate the production of hay from the whole farming culture. It’s no accident that because we do well with grass, the dairy industry is larger here in the West. The nonsense comes in when we farm beef intensively and import high protein feed from all over the world instead of producing high value grass-fed beef, excellent milk and their associated products. I keep going back to Michael Pollan’s phrase “eat food, not too much, mostly veg”. The future, if there is going to be one, is local. So I’m not a doting fan of the EU, but UK farmers will be hammered if we leave our biggest free-trade area, and I don’t think consumers have really thought though the implications of tarriffs on imported food. Who wants to love on turnips for months? (Sheep do I suppose).

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