I often wonder how other people view ‘time’ in their minds. Mine shapes like a loop in a rollercoaster, blurred at the bottom, but specific dates (my birthday for one) always acting as an anchored point of reference. Rather like a compass needle, I ‘roll’ around the corkscrew to find my position in the year, but due to the fact that this calendar formed before I was fully aware of time, it still plays the odd trick on me.
Summer, in my head, is actually the summer holiday that I would have enjoyed while at school, rather than the season itself. It is orange, with a very distinct beginning (breaking up day) that then rolls on far, far longer than the six weeks that it would have actually lasted. Christmas is a similar distortion (in dark blue), while Easter and the ‘top of the year’ are bright and airy compared to the drear of back to school and the autumn that followed.
It’s normally fairly sharp, and as I consider a future date, it rolls a short way back and forth before settling and showing me where that event is in relation to the present. Summer can be annoyingly deceptive, as my absurdly long ‘holiday’ (that never actually comes) takes a few moments to shrink back into a vaguely sensible size. But by and large it still works.
Or did work.
This year has been so utterly tumultuous that my mind calendar thinks it should be long over. It’s been fairly steady on a personal level, aside from a few health issues, but outside my own walls, the world seems to have been rent in two. The intense upheaval of the EU Referendum, where one of the most complex political, sociological, financial and environmental tangles was reduced to choice of two boxes, has left a nation divided, confused and angry.
As we have all become more politically aware so we see just how much our Politicians are basically blagging it. We see just how much we have all been lied to and are still being lied to. And we are faced with the reality that no-one who voted on June 23rd will be getting what they actually voted for – as instead, our Government desperately try to water down a public decision that they didn’t expect and certainly didn’t want.
And all the while every conversation seems to have an underlying edge. The proverbial elephant is in every room we step in, and the slightest word out of place might see an outpouring of anger and emotion that had only been re-bottled days or hours since. And the newspapers and fringe players seem happy to fan the flames ever higher – with sensationalist headlines and apparent calls to arms.
Normally at such times, I will simply step out into the world and breathe and everything sinks back into its place. I might go fishing or poke around the leaf litter looking for mushrooms. I might try and sneak a glimpse of a late season adder or stroll along Chesil and listen for the zing of bearded tits in the reedbeds.
But everywhere are reminders of what might be. Some aspects will endure but changes will occur – they have too. As an economy we are over reliant on the banks and the City traders, and as a result our destiny is in the hands of very few. And though this could be an opportunity for us to take greater care of our Environment, as a nation, in short term need, people come first. We will require more from our land than ever before, to either feed ourselves or sell abroad to others.
What is most tragic is the polarization by which every argument now forms. So little is discussed from a point anywhere near centre, even if both sides will be happy to end the debate somewhere near that very place. Instead, we sit at extremes, like those two boxes on the ballot paper, and scrap and spend to reach a conclusion that might have been found in (relative) moments.
The Driven Grouse Shooting debate is a case in point. The persecution of birds of prey is illegal. It should not happen, but it does happen, only in order to have a voice heard above the hubbub, an extreme stance had to be taken. The only time anyone would listen was when 120,000 people demanded that Driven Grouse Shooting be banned. And an issue that should be remarkably straightforward to solve tumbled into a mire of physical threats, name calling and character assassination.
The problem facing many traditional country pursuits is a growing dislike from the general public. And it isn’t all just a case of ‘townies’ whinging about a countryside idyll they don’t understand, but considered opinion from people saying, ‘hey, just because this is something that has always been done, does not make it right.’
There are, of course, those who seem set on hijacking a dislike and creating a hatred. Feeding a sense of anti-snobbery and taking that extreme view just to create an opportunity to sling some mud for the sake of it. Then there are those with valid, considered opinion, who can see the pleasure in hunting, shooting or fishing, but want to smooth over some of the rougher edges. And often, those rough edges are incredibly easy to smooth.
But too often people react with indignation. Perhaps due to a threat of their beliefs or livelihood, or perhaps due to a sense of entitlement that borders on arrogance. After all money talks, doesn’t it?
Yes it does. And there sits the bigger picture.
If, or likely when, the wealth and personnel begin to leave the City, it will take only a short shift for the ripples to begin. As pressure increases upon farmers to increase yield, those precious areas set aside for game rearing and cover will come under threat. And if there are fewer corporate bodies willing to pay the money to shoot pheasant or rise a Test trout, then the landowners will feel less inclined to maintain them. And in a world where such pursuits are so marginalised within public opinion, then tough choices become considerably easier.
No-one knows what the long term will bring. There might well be greater opportunity and greater wealth. Except, as we are increasingly seeing, people don’t like playing the long game and our Government simply cannot afford to. The short term threats to our Environment are very real, and if people wish to maintain tradition, then they may have to take a step or two forward to do so.
It’s going to be a tough time, but there is plenty of hope to hang on to.