Sausages grow on trees and cats graze in fields

An insider's guide to contemporary understanding of country 'terms'
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The Independent Online

Those of us privileged to serve on the Government's newest quango, NOSEY, the National Organisation for Schools, Education and Youth, have naturally been disappointed by a recent Country Life survey which suggests that our streetwise, modern children believe that sausages grow on trees, that herds of cats graze in fields and that bullocks are what teachers talk.

Those of us privileged to serve on the Government's newest quango, NOSEY, the National Organisation for Schools, Education and Youth, have naturally been disappointed by a recent Country Life survey which suggests that our streetwise, modern children believe that sausages grow on trees, that herds of cats graze in fields and that bullocks are what teachers talk.

Should Country Studies be part of the National Curriculum? Probably not. Instead, NOSEY will soon be launching a £60m publicity campaign to help kids understand the marvellous leisure facilities available in the new countryside.

Fields. Essential units for producing things, fields can come in all sizes. The big ones are like giant, rather flat factories which exist to produce the food you find on your supermarket shelves. The smaller ones are usually being kept for building development. These can be "greenfield sites" - basically grass and stuff, or "brownfield sites" after the farmer has ploughed them up to make them look different.

Seasons. As in the town, there are four basic seasons. Spring is when the young shoots of plants are growing, and country folk can enjoy the primroses, the baby birdies and frisky lambs. Summer is when ordinary people visit the countryside to enjoy rural pursuits like picnicking and rambling. Autumn's a busy time, with all sorts of cutting and picking going on, while in winter, when the robin redbreast sits atop the snow-laden mistletoe tree, it gets rather cold and nothing much happens.

Abattoirs. These are like big vet's surgeries, but with one-way traffic for the animals. They are a bit depressing, so the Government is looking for ways of closing down smaller ones, leaving just a few giant abattoirs in faraway places where no one has to think too much about them.

Country pastimes. Some of these are good and some are bad. There is nothing wrong, of course, with dancing around the Maypole, bobbing for apples or listening to a dodgy Sixties band in the village hall. But other country pastimes, which involve galloping about, shouting "Yoicks tally-ho!" and killing things, are no longer acceptable. The Government hopes to divert all that energy into more positive rural activities like morris-dancing.

Farmers. Once there were two kinds of farmers - leather-faced old codgers like something out of One Man and his Dog and pea-brained oafs who looked like Jeremy Clarkson and drove Range Rovers. All that has changed. In the new, rationalised countryside, smaller farmers are being offered new career options: either to sell out to bigger, more efficient businesses or to play a part in the new rural Britain, as wardens or leisure-pursuit guides.

Countryside Alliance. This is an organisation which arranges communal town visits during which country folk can shout and wave banners, often causing city-dwellers to crash their cars. We are currently looking for out-of-centre venues where this colourful ritual can take place without disrupting the lives of ordinary, hardworking people.

GM crops. These are plants which will arrive in supermarkets, bigger, rosier and, above all, cleaner than the mucky stuff produced in the unhygienic old countryside. A few extremists have argued that by removing nasty nature - weeds, bugs, slimy toads - we will also be removing the birds we all love so much. The Government has a simple answer to this problem: look at the riot of bird-life to be found in the average suburban garden. Surely to goodness, country folk have heard of bird-tables and nut bags.

Swine fever, BSE, foot-and-mouth, etc. Do not be alarmed by the scare stories you read in the press about these so-called "diseases". If you take sensible precautions, ramblers and visitors run no risk of infection.

* terblacker@aol.com

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