No romance about the toil of self-sufficiency
TV gardener Monty Don has kicked up quite a storm by slagging off (as they say in our parts) iconic 1970s sitcom The Good Life, saying it promoted a lifestyle that can cause long-term ill health and ’13th-century malnutrition’.
Before anyone gets their pruning knives out to hurl them at Monty, it’s important to step back from his article in Gardeners’ World magazine.
Firstly, I’ve not always agreed with Monty’s views – I am not a dewy-eyed fan protecting my idol.
Secondly, his comments were voiced in a column – a COMMENT PIECE. The purpose of a columnist is to provoke debate, one way or another.
He is absolutely right about the impossibility of growing all your own food in a suburban garden and if our family had to rely on just the fruit and veg I could cram into my plot, we’d be on a fast track to an early demise.
The best we can do is supplement what we buy with home-grown produce – which he says is one of the most life-enhancing things a person can do.
The Good Life is surrounded with a golden, rosy glow in my memory and was my favourite show when I was a kid, but it didn’t take long to realise it was a comedy and, like most ideals, they weren’t really achieveable in a Gateshead back yard.
He lifted the romantic veil by revealing reality: “No one seriously wanted to know how to separate curds from whey or render fat to make candles, but millions wanted the idea of self-sufficiency.”
He added: “Self-sufficiency, I have to tell you, is a non-starter. At best, it consigns you to a life of dreary repetition and terrible food, at worst your teeth fall out, your breath stinks, you erupt in boils and you sink into 13th-century malnutrition – The Good Life indeed.”
As for his comment about Richard Briers and Felicity Kendalls’ characters: “I always thought Tom and Barbara were creepily pathetic,” well, this WAS the 70s – true-to-life characters weren’t thick on the ground.
I really wish people on a reasonably-sized patch of land, or a smallholding, the best of luck in self-sufficiency – but for the rest of us common sense has to rule – and Monty’s nailed it this time.