Sunday, 26 June 2011

Wheat The Fuch?

Born and brought up in London I now find myself in a state of semi-retirement beside the seaside. (What does an anarchic ex-bookshop owner do for work? No, I'm asking you!) We live close enough to the sea to take a stroll there with the kids before bed when the days stretch beautifully as they did yesterday. But we also live on the doorstep of some gorgeous Kentish countryside.

In the city I obsessed over power cables and derelict buildings. The strange interaction of departing daylight and arriving electric illumination on the metropolis beguiled me - ever noticed those clingfilm shadows? Now I find there are a million tiny things to get excited about in the country too.

Such as wheat. I kept cycling past fields and wondering if that sturdy, stocky-looking stuff could be wheat. We have a Samuel Palmer print on the wall that depicts a harvest scene.

I have also been to several pubs named The Wheatsheaf the signs of which involved an illustration of, you guessed it, a sheaf of wheat. Tall, slender stalks bunched and gathered in the centre. Well it turns out the wheat in Kent these days is New Wheat. Since the 1950s farmers have grown wheat that was blended with a Japanese variety. The result is more wind-resistant and highly nutritious.

The Samuel Palmer wheat is no more. Like many old plants it has been bred out of existence.

(I should insert a caveat here. I am no farmer. If there are any farmers out there hurt, offended or outraged by the ignorance of these observations then I can only apologise.)

One of the writing projects I'm working on involves transferring Lermontov's A Hero Of Our Time from the 19thC Caucasus to 21stC Harlesden. I may have moved to the seaside but my imagination remains stained with Grime...

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