Uncle Jim gets carried away with sewage

Share
Related Topics
Continuing our Christmas nature story, in whch Uncle Jim takes Sally and Peter for a walk on Boxing Day and tries to persuade them he knows more about nature than they do.

"So, why is it called a sewage farm?" said Peter, wrinkling his nose as the acrid rural smell drifted slowly across the field. "I mean, it's not really a farm, is it? It doesn't produce anything, does it? It doesn't produce sewage, does it, even though it's called a sewage farm? It's not like a beef farm, which produces beef, or a dairy farm, which produces dairy produce ... OK, a sewage farm takes sewage in but it doesn't send sewage out. It sends clean recycled water out, I think, but it doesn't call itself a water farm. So why ...?"

"So why don't you just stop talking for a minute and let me have a little word in edgeways?" said Uncle Jim, a small vein beginning to throb in his forehead, which both the children noticed with a glow of achievement. It sometimes took a lot to wind Uncle Jim up, but he was reacting nicely today.

Uncle Jim breathed slowly and deeply to relax himself. He felt better.

"The word farm is often used in a jocular and inaccurate way to denote a workplace," he said. "Think of the expression 'funny farm'..."

"What's a funny farm, Uncle Jim?" said Sally.

"The phrase 'funny farm' was introduced to replace the phrase 'loony bin'," said Uncle Jim. "There was a long time when the nature of mental illness was not understood, only slightly feared, so people shortened 'lunatic asylum' to 'loony bin' to defuse their fears. Then 'loony bin' came to seem rather a cruel phrase, so it was replaced by 'funny farm'. 'Funny farm' in its turn fell foul of political correctness, so that has also been phased out."

"And what has it been replaced by?"

"Well, the Tories couldn't think of a new name for 'funny farm', so they decided to turn all mentally ill people out into the streets. This is called 'returning them to the community'." There was a pause.

"And why is it called a sewage farm?"

"Well, you have to remember that what we think of as a farm - a jolly place full of chickens in the yard and rabbits in the field - has been replaced by something much more bleak, and much less like the place depicted in children's books. Pesticides, modern genetic crop experiments, EEC directives, mechanisation - all these have transformed the old-style country farm into an outdoors factory. When people use the term 'factory farming', they usually refer to the indoors totalitarian chicken battery or intensive pig breeding unit, but in truth all farming today, except on some free range or rare breed farms, is factory farming. A farm is a large outdoor green factory. 'Farm' has become another word for 'factory'."

"So 'sewage farm' just means 'sewage factory'?" said Peter slowly.

"That's it," said Uncle Jim happily, never loath to depress the children. "Any other questions?"

"Yes," said Sally. "Is this the start of winter or the end of the autumn?"

"Well," said Uncle Jim, "theoretically winter begins on 21 December with the solstice, but nature is never quite that neat. If you look in the hedgerow, you will see that there are many red berries still on the hawthorn tree and a lot of old man's beard still hanging on the bushes. Now, those are both autumn sights, as they are all part of the great fruit and seed scene. But if you look carefully at the hedge again, you will see that there are already catkins hanging on the twigs. Catkins are a springtime sight, yet here they are already."

"I thought catkins never came till the new year," said Sally.

"That's only because we have been taught not to see them till the new year," said Uncle Jim. "Everyone is taught that catkins and sticky buds come after Christmas. This is rubbish. They've been around for weeks. It's just that we don't notice them till after Christmas. Look at the chestnut tree. It's stiff with sticky buds!"

"When I look at the hedge," said Peter, "all I can see is nasty broken branches."

"That's because the farmer has been flailing the hedge," said Uncle Jim. "Of all the nasty, destructive, ugly, useless methods developed by modern farming, this is undoubtedly ..."

Miles Kington writes: I'm sorry - I thought Uncle Jim was going to be a cheery old soul. He's turned out a right misery. I think we'll pull the plug on him right there.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world