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The Yellow Peril of Lincolnshire

The Admirable Nelson, like all cats has a plethora of quirks. I have recently observed that he prefers to chill in his cat bed beneath the gear stick when I listen to podcasts. However, the minutes I opt to listen to music, blasting out via a six-inch thick speaker sitting on the passenger seat, he jumps up and settles down, smothering the stereo. It took me quite time before I realised the furry imbecile thinks the contraption is purring in response to his cuddling.

England’s most yellow county whizzing by had me warbling along to Miley Cyrus’ Flowers, Glances, further afield, the vista conjured up an even stranger notion to download a song by Coldplay. In my looming dotage, I have forgotten its name.

LIncolnshire’s air was already steeped in pollen, and Nelson’s eyes sprung leaks as we cruised past fluccose verges, already mottled with clusters of glowing dandelions and shimmering puffballs, as we skirted around the delectable Scunthorpe bound instead for the capital of Lincolnshire’s most awful-sounding places to live.

As far as the gaze permitted, Lincolnshire’s vast blankets of fields were swaddled in flowering oil seed rape, setting the land aflame as the first of glimpses of the beckoning summer splayed across the land. Between the dramatic illuminations, resting meadows sat sprinkled with huddles of yellow-belled cowslips.

I fell deeply in love with the aptly monikered yellow-bellied county of LIncolnshire, a place where even the locals are just as perplexed as to how they came to be referred to as ‘yeller bellies’. What is certain, however, is the phrase in the East of England has nothing to do with cowardice as it might in lands far beyond her waters. Indeed, how pusillanimity came to be associated with yellow remains a mystery all of its own. The delightful colour of sunshine has oft been used to persecute those who we revile, a paradox all of its own. It seems that tongues will always wag, but truths will not always out. Even the lichen is yellow.

Once upon a time, Lincolnshire’s heavily cultivated fenlands billowed with the autumn-flowering mustard plants. Interspersing weeds would be munched away by the field-fertilising Lincoln Longwools, their ever-growing fleeces brushing against the dark yellow pollen, ensuring the next season’s crop. Lincolnshire’s puffs of wool sported a distinct underside of yellow, spawning at one plausible ‘yeller-belly’ legacy before they were exited stage right in the name of progression.

Polyculture now has a limited role in the expansive agricultural practice that is modern farming. Nowadays, it is more akin to an industry dependent on sophisticated chemicals and generous grants, which combine to ensure England’s most prominent growers can supply Britons with two-thirds of their required vegetable consumption. The remainder we import from fields of foreign yonder. Lincolnshire’s flatlands are renowned for supplying the English dinner tables with their most cruciferous plants: Broccoli, turnip, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. The genus whose by-product is most politely referred to as flatulence. It is little wonder then that Lincolnshire is home to Rippingale,

It is claimed that as we age, we are inclined to become old farts. Although, one study of 16,000 participants, and the only one known to Google, refutes this. It turns out the young are more inclined to frequent parping but a broader caveat for this unexpected turn of events is that old people are more likely to under-report their bottom belches. It is a phenomenon known as ‘social desirability bias’: the worrying of what others might think of us if we told the truth, even when clearly it is of paramount national importance that the truth be told!

One can only imagine my reaction when an acquaintance of mine relayed the tale of her recent introduction to her son’s latest girlfriend. There are mutterings that she is probably “the one”. The scent of romance, like his pungent aftershave, lingers long in the air as he wafts dreamily from room to room in a heady bout of youthful romance. It is the stark reminder that he is the cusp of adulthood, and she is on the cusp of obsolescence.

“I said ‘hi’ and promptly old lady farted as I stood up to greet her,” she whimpered.

That was all it took for my eyes to stream with tears as rapidly as Nelson’s. Clearly, she is getting to an age where owning a dog for the purposes of having a useful alibi must be seriously contemplated.

Alternatively, the advice is to avoid foodstuffs that cause gas: which is pretty much any of the vegetables that Lincolnshire produces in abundance, the very stables of a vegetarian diet, or indeed a balanced one.

However, if one is serious about the business of avoiding obnoxious fumes, it is best if one avoids the entire county of Lincolnshire in January, because that is muck-spreading season.

The government did recently consider banning muck-spreading in favour of artificial fertilisers, most of which are sourced from Eastern Europe. Need I say any more? However, the government’s on-going battle with inflation has had them step away from the environmentally-driven initiative to abandon altogether the obnoxious smell of the countryside. Traditional muck-spreading, seemingly the obvious means of keeping our nation’s soil in nutrients, is now a commodity that is bought and sold between farms, rather than generated within itself.

Slurry-spreading is a practice that has fallen out of favour in recent times predominantly because of the harmful ammonia it releases into our atmosphere. It is hard to imagine now, but in the not too distant future, the pong and whiff of slurry will be nothing more than a distant memory. Just a tale to bore the next generation with. “I remember when these green fields smelt of old farts,” the old farts will reminisce.

One can practically hear their unborn grandchildren rolling their eyes already.

But it is change that is said to generate resilience: that mystical substance that has one successfully adapting to adversity, stress and life-altering experiences. I find this linkage odd - surely someone like me, one who has had a lifetime of instability, should sail through life with a mere shrug of near indifference no matter how severe the calamity.

On this occasion, the slowly farting tyre was all it took for me to have a mental breakdown. It was one of my pre-trip fears: I haven’t got a scooby doo on how to change a tyre, let alone change one on a 3.5 tonne van. It happened on the day I was feeling all “she-man” because I had finally, I hoped, sealed the roof of the van - having discovered it had not one, but three separate leaks. It was the combination of three April showers and the differing tilts of my parking that had them individually reveal themselves and sapping my personal intention to live a long and happy life.

To my embarrassment, I had not gotten around to repairing the previous tyre after it had spontaneously deflated. On that occasion, I’d not been able to make use of my already exhausted recovery services but with no spare, there was no point. My right front, the new one, was looking decidedly sluggish.

Turns out, it is surprisingly easy: you pay a garage to do it, having rang first to be sure that long-wheel vans are most definitely within their remit. Said garage took two days to determine both fronts needed replacing, then broke the mechanism that stores the spare under the van. They then recommended I go to another garage to do the actual fitting. Ineptitude at its finest, but I do now have two shiny new tyres and a repaired spare, as well as some more character to add to my personality-building juice.

Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to stop me getting to Grimsby.

“Grimsby named as one of the worst places to live in England, but it’s not as bad as it sounds” was this year’s tempered headline in its local rag: The Grimsby Telegraph. Apparently, from a low of twelfth place, the last few years saw it wriggle up the rankings, from sixteenth to eighteenth. This year the seaside town, and Lincolnshire’s most dangerous, was skimming around in thirtieth place - cause for celebration one would have thought, but perhaps it just implies that other places in England are faring worse.

With just a marathon-length of a motorway, Lincolnshire’s road network is dominated by single-carriageways and country lanes. Criss-crossing the sunken fenland was the helter-skelter of cupboard-discharging adventure. It had me both squealing and cursing in equal measure. As frequently as night follows day, I found myself re-stacking the contents of drawers and lockers, and supplying Britain’s verges with dried rice and pasta laced with cat-fluff.

One reality of Britain’s environmental policy is that electric cars are hammering the tarmac, all the while its owners are benefiting from tax-breaks worth up to £2,000 per annum for their supposedly green credentials. The poorest will always be those who have to buy the cheapest second-hand diesels, and yet perversely it is they who are charged with paying an excess of levies and tax to off-set the adverse contribution to the environment. The era of the Electric Vehicle is upon us, but there is still much

about the wholesale benefits of this motoring iteration. One would hope it won’t be long before those exacerbating the nation’s collection of potholes are coerced into paying for their repair. Politics may yet intervene, but until then, its residents might as well continue to mutter about the government and their ambitious austerity cuts.

And yet, there’s something about prolonged asceticism that seems to suit this particular region. That said, Lincolnshire’s leaders may just be better adapted for sustained impoverishment, having endured decades of painful economic retractions: dismantling steel works; mis-guided anti-English fishing policies, and Britain’s withdrawal from the EU restricting the supply of European pickers available to tend its farming enterprises. That’s a lot of change for any economic region to…

Thus, Lincolnshire is a non-stop parable of ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’; although in this county’s instance it might as well be, “when one’s fishing industries dry up, convert one’s coastlines into Britain’s premier seafood processing plants.”

Grimsby's more recent innovation is to turn one’s cabbages into protein shakes, which sounds to me like the cabbage diet all over again, except with fewer lumps.

Planning permission has been granted for LIncolnshire’s first super eco-farm on the grounds that traditional agriculture claims to be ‘sustainable’ overlook the fact that much of our processed food has travelled thousands of miles before reaching its destination. I’m tempted to suggest we’d be better off fueling our cars with cabbage juice…

The on-going government decade-long policy to starve councils of funds has introduced swinging cutbacks far and wide. Unlike other regions, England’s fourth-biggest county, despite being sparse of hedgerow, can now only afford to strim its curbs twice per year as opposed to the more typical thrice per annum. This has inadvertently created superhighways and havens for our many rural-dwelling mammals. Deep in the tangles that was once a gap between the farmland and the asphalt, our badgers, moles, hedgehogs and shrews can better reconnect with long-lost relatives. This will ultimately strengthen their gene pool and expand their life-expectancy. Albeit, those dependent on agricultural yields may be less than delighted by the pests’ regeneration.

The other loser of the grass-growing policy is the motorist, blind to drainage as they swerve off the main drag to permit the white woman van driver to cruise by. It is twice now, I have borne witness to a lower-slung car driver taking to tipping their vehicle on its side in their keenness to allow me through unhindered. In both instances, the motorists have claimed to have a friend with a tractor to come to their rescue. In Lincolnshire, one can readily believe it. It also makes me feel better, that so far in my escapades around the country, I have merely only had to replace two wing-mirrors and one rear light panel. Lincolnshire’s contribution to my vehicular health was to fractionally deflate all my tyres on each outing. The other benefit of taking a driving tour of Lincolnshire, the vegetation is slowly devouring the speed limit signs.

Not that was a problem, the potholes do wonders for keeping the right foot light.

After all it is worth remembering, that before one dies, life will always be a….

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