I find it a real delight when my various passions combine into one enormous ‘passion fest’. It occasionally happens with fishing and cooking – subject to the tides, time of year and having the right equipment I might find myself cooking what I have caught. This week three of my passions have collided into one – I am an avid reader, a keen student of military history and of course I love horticulture.
What better than to have spent some lazy moments this week reading ‘The Spade as Mighty as the Sword’. Written by Daniel Smith this well-crafted book tells the story of World War Two’s Dig for Victory campaign. Smith refers to the UK’s great Achilles heel as an over-reliance on food imports with over 55 million tons of food, equivalent to three-quarters of the national total, coming from overseas in 1939. An interesting statistic and perhaps a pertinent reminder that with Brexit on the horizon perhaps we might need to consider increasing our production of food? Just a thought.
Smith’s book is a fascinating reading and apart from prompting me to consider current UK food production it shows how governments are integral to changing behaviour. In this instance, of course, the government through 2 different ministerial departments encouraged thousands of ordinary folk to take up their spade and grow vegetables. This encouragement was supported by helpful leaflets and practical advice all of which I’m sure helped to develop the gardening ability of the nation. In addition to government support, back yard growers also had other resources – it’s staggering to think that the famous gardener of the time, quaintly referred to as ‘Mr Middleton’ had a circulation approaching seven million for his weekly gardening column in the Express. A fascinating statistic – imagine how large the UK gardening industry would be today then if we could encourage more folks to grow their own vegetables. Of course, I wonder if the grow your own movement would ever be as large as that in the 1940s and if not, understandably so, after all we are not facing such a national crisis. Yet imagine how healthy we would become as a nation – eating fresh veg and exercise, what a great combination to contributing to our health. Anyway, reading this book has set my mind thinking about developing another interest – given time and some available land I would love to create a World War two allotment garden, and of course it would be equipped with an Anderson Shelter.