The Fields of Gammon and Turkey

A group of middle-aged men, most of whom have permanently florid faces, stands huddled in the growing dawn of a deserted high street.

They are waiting for a coach. A coach that will take them on a trip to the countryside. That will make a change from sitting in front of a television watching the BBC.

Except that when it arrives the coach is an old ex-local authority minibus, sold off because it would cost too much to have seat belts fitted.

The doors open and a grim-faced woman in an old waxed cotton jacket, holding a clipboard, checks the names of the men off her list as they get on the bus and push each other in a rush to get the ‘best’ seats.

Gammon finds himself seated next to a bloke that he used to work with.  They exchange pleasantries and laugh about the fact they are on a mystery trip today. They also compare their financial and personal situations. Like Gammon, his friend Turkey is living alone because his wife and children have moved in with relatives who voted to remain in the EU and as a consequence have a more varied diet and lifestyle, unlimited by jingoistic prejudice.  Like all the men on the minibus, Gammon and Turkey have small suitcases, rucksacks or rarely used sports bags containing their essentials.

Towards the end of the journey the woman stops at each man and asks them whether they voted to leave the EU or to remain.  Brexiteers are given a yellow star badge to wear, remainers get a red one, those who refuse to say are given a yellow star badge anyway.

When the minibus arrives at its destination, the occupants trail out into a grey landscape barely brightened by the rising sun.  The fields surround them and seem to go on forever, the only interruption being three large storage containers.  Two have a yellow star on the door while the slightly smaller one has a red star.  The woman splits the men into two groups and indicates to the smaller group that they should go to the red starred container.  The others are pushed in the direction of the yellow star containers.

Gammon and Turkey are among the latter group and when the door creaks open they find themselves in a dark room largely taken up with bunk beds; a sign points to the end of the room and indicates the presence of a lavatory and bathroom.  Just the one lavatory and bathroom.  Belongings cover some of the beds and show that the bunks are already occupied, and the newcomers find out very quickly that they have been left the beds with thin, urine stained mattresses and skimpy blankets.

In the red star container, life is slightly better; there are two lavatory and shower rooms, the bunks are more stable with clean mattresses and blankets.  There are no signs of other occupants, just a chalk scrawled notice on the wall. “Please enjoy, we know that you were our friends and did not want to leave us.”  It is signed ‘EU’.

A hand bell is ringing, summoning the men outside where the farmer is waiting for them.

“Okay! These are my potato fields and I desperately need the crop to be gathered in, which is why you lot are here.  I usually have a reliable bunch of Eastern Europeans who do this work but thanks to Brexit, they can’t work here anymore so I have you lot instead.  You’ll have noticed that those of you who have red stars have got better accommodation, you will also get a better standard of food because we don’t need to get picky about where the food comes from.  My son will teach you how to harvest the potatoes.  I’ve assumed that you are more intelligent than the yellow star group and you will pick up what you need to do more quickly.  If you go off with him now he will kit you out with some gloves and boots.”

The red star group – all three of them – looked at each other, grinned and waved goodbye to their yellow star workmates as they followed the farmer’s son to the equipment shed.

Whilst they were being kitted out, the farmer turned to the yellow star group. “You are the reason that I have lost money and will probably lose even more as Brexit widens its grip.  Your accommodation is not particularly luxurious but that was your choice.  You’ll have seen that some of the bunks are already taken; like you, the occupants chose to leave the EU and have been working here for the past week.  They aren’t happy about it but they made their choice. My wife will take you to the shed once the other group are finished, and we will try to give you sufficient gloves and boots to do the job, but bear in mind that you will get the leftovers and some may not fit or be in good condition.  Before Brexit I could afford to buy new equipment for all my workers; now I get them second-hand. Any questions?”

Gammon raises his hand. “I’ve got back problems.  I shouldn’t be here. I’m on the sick.”

“Nor me!”

“And me!”

The cry rings round the group.  The farmer shakes his head and laughs. “According to DWP you are all fit to do manual labour and the fresh air will do you good.  Anyone found lying in bed and malingering on this farm, will get a bucket of cold water to freshen them up.  This is the real world here; we can’t go sick because it costs us too much money. Any other questions? No?  I bet you lot wish you’d asked more questions before the referendum now.”

The farmer’s wife gets a nod from her son, who is leading his little group to a smaller potato field over to one side.  They watch him and listen to his instructions, and as a consequence are soon at work filling up sacks with potatoes.

The yellow star group crowd into the shed and scrabble for boots and gloves that vaguely match.  Most of them are wearing clothes that are not best-suited to working in muddy fields; they follow the farmer to a large and very muddy field.  He gives them instructions on what to do and watches as they struggle with the cold, heavy mud.

Despite their small numbers, the red star group manage to fill all their potato sacks and are given a break during which the farmer’s son makes a pot of tea and distributes biscuits – plain but nutritional. They are quite a jolly bunch now, knowing that they have decent accommodation for five days, a lift back home and the reassurance of their Universal Credit payments.

The struggles of the yellow group continue; mired in mud and hampered by clothes that grow heavy and damp in the cutting wind, gloves and boots afford little protection and their only reward is a short break and tin mugs of cold water doled out by the farmer’s wife.

Lunch is soup and homemade bread; the red star group has beef broth but the yellow stars have vegetable soup made from the farm’s own produce.  There is no time for a long lunch break as the work has to be completed before dusk, when all the workers have a chance to clean up before their final meal of the day and bedtime. The farmer explains that early to bed and early to rise is the only way a farm can survive. He also adds that each worker has a quota of potatoes to meet and this will be recorded every day.  Workers who meet the quote will get their Universal Credit paid.  Those who don’t, in addition to cold water buckets, will have money deducted accordingly.

“That’s not fair!” says an already blistered and aching Gammon. “You’re treating us like slaves.”

The farmer shakes his head.  “These are the same rules that the Eastern European workers had – except that we had no yellow star containers then because we didn’t need them. They weren’t picky about their food, they didn’t care what country it came from as long as it tasted good.  They had no need for televisions because they made their own music and laughed a great deal.  We miss them, but you people think you know best so stop moaning and get on with it.”

 

The Gammon Meeting of Restoration 2020

In a smoke-stained, beer soaked room with rickety wooden tables, and battle-scarred velour covered chairs and stools,  a group of middle-aged men are having a bit of a meeting.

 

“Right then.  Let’s get this meeting underway shall we?”

“Hang on.  Where’s Bob?”

“Bob’s not coming.  He’s picked up some work.”

“Doing what?”

“Dunno.  He wouldn’t say.  In fact he was pretty cagey about it.  Says he’s having a meeting with this new boss this afternoon. First of all I want you all to look at the notice.”

“What is it and where did it come from?”

“It’s our list of demands now that we’ve left Europe.”

“The EU.”

“Same thing.”

“Nope.  Europe is all to do with geography.  We’ve left the EU but we’re still a part of Europe – geographically.  That’s what my boy says anyway.”

“Anyway.  I’ve been given this poster and asked if we can sign up to circulate it round our area. ”

“Can we read it first? I’m not signing up to anything without reading it first. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place.”

“It’s called the Restoration Bill and it’s list of demands from those of us who voted to leave Europe, I mean the EU.”

“Ta.”

“I’ll read the first bit – ‘We the Sovereign Citizens of the United Kingdom demand a redress of our God-Given right to Liberty, Free Speech, Assembly, Self-defence, National Self-determination and Christian Faith, all of which have been eroded’.”

“Do what?”

“Doesn’t the United Kingdom include Wales, Scotland and a bit of Ireland.  I thought we were trying to make Britain great again?”

“We are.  I think that bit might be a mistake.  Shall I go on?”

“Yeah, I mean unless anyone else has any objections about the first bit?”

“Well I do.  I’m an atheist now but before that I was a Jehovah’s Witness; so the bit about God-given and Christian doesn’t apply to me, does it?”

“I don’t go to church so it doesn’t apply to me either.”

“Will you just stop nit-picking and let me get on with it!”

“Sorry I spoke.”

“Number one on the list is restoring the freedom of speech eroded by hate speech laws.”

“What does that mean when it’s at home?”

“It means that we can say what we like, when we like and about who we like, and we can’t be stopped or get arrested for it anymore.”

“Hardly freedom of speech when you’re told to stop nit-picking is it?”

“I’ll ignore that comment.  Point two is restoring the right to self-defence and bear arms. Before you say anything, ‘bear arms’ means that you can carry weapons without getting arrested, nothing to do with wearing a vest.”

“Cool.  Knives and guns and such?  That first bit about self-defence; does that mean that if a foreigner has a go at me I can knife him and not get arrested?”

“Hmm, I’m not too sure about that.  Point three goes on about Common Law, the Magna Carta and Bill of Rights.”

“Flippin’ heck what’s all that about then?”

“I looked it up.  Common Law is law written by the courts and not the government, the Magna Carta is an important document that goes back to 1215, and King John signed up to it. The Bill of Rights isn’t that old, it only goes back to 1689 and it’s all about rights.”

“No shit Sherlock.”

“So this lot that drew up the poster want us to go back to the really old days then?  Why?”

“Point four; restoration of Double Jeopardy, jury trial and Legal Aid.”

“Double Jeopardy!  I saw that film.  Cracking!  What’s it mean for us though?”

“It means you can’t be tried for the same offence twice.  If I broke into the club and bashed the manager but they didn’t have enough evidence so I was found not guilty.  If a witness came forward after the trial and proved that it was me, I couldn’t be tried again.”

“Sounds good to me.I’n not sure about legal aid though.  They gave it to that bloke who was going to be deported and he won the case and was allowed to stay here because he had a cat.”

“You’ve been reading the Daily Mail again.”

“It was in the Sun.”

“Point five is about getting rid of the Commies so that they can’t infect our families, education system, law and public institutions with their nasty ideas.  I think we can all agree to that one.”

“I suppose so.  Can I go to the bog?  This is a bit boring and my bladder’s full.  Shall I get another round in when I get back?”

“Good idea.  All this thinking and talking is making me thirsty.”

“Hurry up then. I’ll carry on anyway; the next bit is about making sure that our kids are being taught British History, Geography, Constitution and Christian Faith in school.”

“What does constitution mean?”

“It’s like telling kids about laws and such. They have it in America.”

“But I thought  you said earlier that we’d be going back to really old laws from really old England?”

“Point seven is about British Fishing waters.  These blokes want us to have full fishing control of 200 miles.  I suppose that’s all around the United Kingdom because that’s where the sea is.”

“Doesn’t apply to rivers and such then?”

“I don’t think so.  Point eight is making sure that veterans get housing, benefits and services.”

“Does that include all veterans or just the British ones?  What about the gurkhas and such? That would mean that they got more stuff than people who weren’t in the forces.  That’s not really fair is it?”

“Better than giving it all away to immigrants.”

“Aren’t gurkhas immigrants if they decide to live here?”

“Point 9.  I can’t see any discussion on this one.  No EU flags to be flying on official buildings. Is that okay?”

“Yeah.  Stick the good old Union Jack up there instead.”

“The Union Flag you mean.  The flag that represents the United Kingdom rather than just Britain.”

“You mean that the Welsh, Irish and Scottish are allowed to fly our flag as well?  What about all that bunting and little paper flags that we bought cheap?”

“You can fly St George’s flag if you like, but bear in mind that he never visited England and he was born in what is now Turkey.  So he wasn’t even an immigrant.  Just a foreigner and the patron saint of people with the clap.”

“No! Where did you get all this from?”

“My nipper did a project on it for school.  They’re doing family trees now.  I had  to spit in a bottle so my lad could send off and find out what my DNA is.  Everyone in the class had to get samples; your girl is one of the ones who got their results back early, I’m still waiting for mine.  I might turn out to be royalty or something. What did yours say.”

“I’ll ask her when I get home.  Are you sure?  I haven’t spay in any bottles.”

“No, but you’re always gobbing in your back yard.  She probably snuck out there with a cotton wool bud  and scraped a bit off the floor.”

“Do you lot want to hear the last point or not?”

Ah, go on then.”

“It’s a bit long but basically it means that anyone convicted of crimes, and having responsibility for covering up grooming groups will have to give full disclosure.”

“Grooming?  What like combing and washing dogs and that?”

“No, you numpty! Like those blokes who were having sex with under age girls.  Those foreigners.”

“Most of whom were born in the country and were British citizens – or should I say sovereign citizens?”

“Are you sure you weren’t a remoaner mate?”

“Here’s your beer lads.  You’ll never guess what I’ve just heard at the bar!”

“Ta.  Okay, what have you heard?”

“The Club’s undergoing a refurb; new owner, new manager,  new name and new rules and regulations.”

“What! They can’t do that!It’s our club.”

“Not any more. It hasn’t been a club for working men for a long time.  None of us work.  Who’s bought the club? ”

“It’s a constitution – no – a consortium.  That means it’s a group of people have clubbed in together to buy it and run it.”

“Who is in the consortium?  Are they from round here?”

“Yeah.  The head of the consortium things owns the Polish supermarket, the Pizza Pan and the French bistro down the road. I don’t think he’s going to take too kindly to that poster of yours either.”

“We’ll have to fight this lads!  We know our rights!”

“What rights? You going to wave the Magna Carta at him?”

“The manager says we’ll have to pay our tabs and apply for membership before the end of the week.  It’s going to be known as The European Comradeship club.  I’ve already signed up.”

 

 

 

 

At Home with the Gammon

“Mum! What are we having for dinner?”

“We’ve had dinner.  Your Dad says that we have breakfast, dinner, tea and supper – like in the old days.”

“What old days?  Where’s the car Mum?”

“More to the point, where’s the dog?”

“Ah, well.  Dad’s gone out in the car with the dog.  He’s going to exchange the car for one that’s made in Great Britain, and he’s going back to the dog rescue centre to change the dog as well.”

“That’s our dog! All our friends have got French bulldogs!”

“Yes, well Dad’s going to see if they’ll change the dog for a Staffordshire bull terrier because that will be British too.”

“He obviously hasn’t heard that there is a thriving puppy farm trade for all breeds – based in Eastern Europe and Ireland as well as in the UK.”

“Your Dad says we have to say Britain now, Great Britain in fact, because people in Wales, Ireland and Scotland don’t agree with us Brits. Dad says that they are just jealous of us like all the people in Europe.”

“Dad needs his head examined. My teacher says that all this Brexit stuff is codswallop.  I didn’t dare tell he r that my Dad voted for it. I’m going up to get changed.”

“So what are we going to have for our TEA then Mum?”

“That’s been another problem.  Your Dad’s given me an initial list of things. We can’t have pizza or pasta because that comes from Italy. No crusty French, Champagne, omelettes or pancakes because they come from France…”

“Hang on Mum.  We have pancakes before Easter, on Pancake Day. The bread is baked on site at the supermarket.”

“Dad says they are French and they call them crepes.  No paella, tortillas or Sangria, none of that jambon ham on the bone stuff either because that all comes from Spain.  You aren’t to go to the little shop at the end of the road because it’s run by Polish people, and Dad says you can’t go to the other shop across the road because the people there come from India and that means they are British.”

“Sajid’s parents own that shop; the whole family were born in this country.  His grandparents came from India years ago.”

“MUUUUUMMM!  Where’s my duvet?  Why have I got these manky old blankets on my bed?”

“Dad told me to get rid of the duvets; he says they are really called continental quilts which means they came from Europe.”

“We bought them in IKEA!”

“Which is Swedish according to your Dad.”

“No more meatballs then? Or Dime bars?”

“Dad says we can buy from Morrison’s, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda but we have to read the labels of everything we buy to make sure it all comes from Great Britain.”

“No Aldi or Lidl either?”

“Not on my list of approved shops.  Dad says that this isn’t the final list but if we are going to get our country free from Europe we have to make sure that we stop buying any of their rubbish and support Great Britain instead.”

“So you and Dad are going to take this ridiculous idea even further then?  What’s next? No Chinese or Indian takeaways? Are we going to live on fish and chips?”

“Only if we get them from Morrison’s or from the chippie opposite.”

“What about our local chippie?  We’ve been going there for  years.”

“Owned by a Greek family. I know they’ve owned it for over twenty-five years.  I remember the celebrations but Dad says we only by from proper British people, not immigrants.”

“Oh, here’s Dad now.  No car though and no dog either.  Has he really gone out wearing that awful Union Flag tee-shirt?”

“You won’t believe what they said to me at the dog shelter! They’ve taken our dog but they won’t let me take another one because they don’t think my reasons for giving up the dog are ‘ethical’.  Do-gooders! This country has been ruined by EU political correctness!”

“What about the car Dad?”

“They took the old Citroen off my hands but I’ve had to go on a waiting list if I want a Vauxhall because they’re closing the plant down. I had a look at the list.  Not many British names on it either.  I told them, I wasn’t going to take second place to any immigrants.”

“I bet that went down well Dad.”

“The salesman looked Chinese, although he spoke with a proper British accent. You can’t tell with these people.”

“What people Dad? We’re doing an ancestry project at school, and so far it looks as if most of us have relatives who weren’t born in this country.”

“That’s enough of that commie claptrap.  I don’t know what rubbish they teach you at school.  I’m off to meet my mates for a Great Britain meeting down the Working Men’s club. Make sure you’ve put up something tasty for my supper when I get back.”

“Okay.  Dad’s gone now. What are we going to eat?”

“I’ve had to throw a lot of stuff out but there’s some Hovis bread,  Cheshire butter, Wensleydale cheese and Branston pickle.  You can make yourselves some sandwiches.  Dad says that is okay because sandwiches are named after a British earl or something. They are going to put a more definitive shopping list together at the meeting tonight.”

“A shopping list put together by a bunch of blokes who leave their wives to do all the shopping. That will be fascinating!”

“Why does Dad still go to the Working Men’s club when he lost his job three years ago?”

“Don’t you ever say that sort of thing in front of your Father!  He’s a very proud man; proud of his heritage and his country.  It wasn’t his fault that the company he worked for decided to shut the plant and move to France.”

“Because of Brexit?”

“No!  And don’t say that in front of your father either.  The company moved because they could get cheaper labour in France, nothing to do with the fact that they couldn’t get the people to do the work in this country.”

“My letter’s arrived.  Why didn’t you tell me Mum?”

“Oh, all this fuss about the car and the dog and what we can and can’t eat; it must have slipped my mind. What is it?”

“DNA results.  I used some of Dad’s spit for my school project because I’m not old enough.  Guess what?”

“Tell us! Tell us!”

“Are you ready for this – because I don’t think Dad will be.  Did we ever find out anything about his father?”

“Your Dad was brought up by your grandma.  We never knew who is Dad was and his Mum had run off long before I met him.  What does it say?”

“According to this he is 88% Southern European and 12% British but some of the British bit is Irish as well, and it describes the Southern European section as being 55% Iberian, which is like Spain and Portugal, but those areas also have cultures of Africa and the Mediterranean.  Don’t look at me like that Mum.  I’m just reading what it says in the report.”

“This will kill your father; his blood pressure is high enough as it is, and I haven’t been able to get his prescription from the chemists because it’s run by an Asian man and there was a big sign in the window with a list of popular medication saying that we’ve run out of in this country. Your Dad’s drugs were on the list; I can go to Boots apparently but I haven’t had a chance to get into town.”

“By the way Mum, we know what Dad voted for but what about you?”

“I voted the way I always have done.  I did what your Dad told me to. He knows what’s best for all of us.”