Saturday 7 May 2022

Wartime Farm by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman and Alex Langlands

 I picked up this fascinating book at the Book Nest in the Millgate Shopping Centre in Bury, the town in which I live. The Book Nest is a delightful installation; there are a couple of chairs on which you are invited to sit and engage in conversation with anyone else who drops by or where you can simply sit and read.  There are two bookshelves where you can drop off books you’ve finished with and where you can pick others you’ve not yet read. You may donate a few coins or a note for the privilege if you so wish.

I was dropping off a few books the other week and this one jumped out at me.

It is hefty volume and retails at £20.00.  It’s the book of the TV series, which provided 36 hours of viewing.

Although it couldn’t be called a scholarly work, it’s much more than a coffee table book.  It is attractive enough to grace any coffee table or book shelf. It is full of interesting and useful information and both it and the TV programme are based on the three writers / presenters working on a facsimile World War II farm. It was particularly interesting for me because the farm they used is opposite where I used to live in Hampshire.

There is information in here about farming, mobilising people, how people adapted their homes and gardens, wartime food, livestock, home defences, making do and mending and morale.

We are currently living in extraordinary times but still the austerity of that time is astounding. Clothing coupons only generally allowed for one new outfit per person per year. 70% of food was imported before the war so adjustments had to be made very quickly. Though we look back on this time with nostalgia, we might do well to remember that civilians lived in constant fear. Certainly towns were more likely to be bombed, but the countryside was likely to be invaded.

Modern methods were rapidly brought into farming. Livestock was reduced to allow for more arable land as this was a more efficient way of feeding people. Householders began to keep pigs and poultry as a way of supplementing the farms that could no longer produce so much meat. And recycling was very common.  Why did we stop doing it?

Sadly we’ve dropped many of the good habits we took up during World War II. We may have to take them up again now.      

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