BY GARY MCGHEE
The 2nd series of this brilliant show aired recently. Like the first series it exposes the ridiculous bureaucracy that is blighting British farming, but with added insights into the appalling petty-minded jobsworthery and nimbyism of local West Oxfordshire officialdom. The bone of contention is a modest restaurant building plan concocted by Jeremy Clarkson on his land to provide a market for his new herd of cattle and provide an outlet to hard-pressed farmers in the area to sell their produce. The idea to create a farming Co-operative venture is a great one and met with enthusiasm from all involved. Road access and parking would be necessary for this to be viable and is clearly an easy fix. Overall, this is clearly a great idea that would also bring some more employment and life to the locale. Considering all this, you’d think that it would get the go-ahead from officials. Think again. Without providing detailed spoilers it transpires that every effort is made by West Oxfordshire to thwart the plan. De(spite) the efforts of Clarkson and Kaleb Cooper and their highly experienced advisor Charlie Ireland to come to compromises and accommodate environmental and other concerns, the goal posts just get moved again and again to the point where they are not even allowed to use simple access to the site. At one point a load of no parking or stopping road signs were deployed along an adjacent lane which meant that even the local bus couldn’t stop at a bus stop. The impression was that those responsible had taken leave of their senses.
It’s not hard to guess the outcome when the plan finally comes before the West Oxfordshire Planning Committee. Some of the arguments made against it by the lawyer employed by a local objector were risible, and included blatant mistruths about the plan’s impact. Clarkson makes a perfectly reasonable and cogent argument in justification for the plan and its benefits but was met with ludicrous objections, the most idiotic of which was a member who wanted to retain his enjoyment of the ‘dark night sky’.
The restaurant would have a minimal impact on that, given that it is modest in size and would cater for relatively small numbers of cars and people. Much less for instance, than the house-building that councils and developers are imposing on local villages and towns in the county. The lack of perspective and selfish self-regard of this is truly eye-opening.
However, Clarkson, never to be outdone by small-minded apparatchiks produces a plan involving the conversion of a ramshackle old barn on another part of his land. It was too small to house a kitchen and the roof was half-missing, but where there’s a will… another plan was put into action to link a kitchen to the barn restaurant via a newly laid track. Voila! The snag was that they had to get the whole thing up and running before officials and their snitches got wind of what was happening… this involved a clandestine operation under cover of darkness. The whole thing reminded me of those wonderful old Ealing studios films, like Passport to Pimlico, Whisky Galore and The Titfield Thunderbolt, whereby the ordinary folk get the better of the authorities. Of course, nowadays Sir Humphrey has become Big Brother/Sister, and the clipboard Mary’s wield even more power. We’ll have to see what the fallout from this will be in the 3rd series.
One of the striking upshots of this series is how it has exposed the fact that Class tensions are very much alive and well in England. The Repton-educated landowner, the mixed-class farmers and the upper-class adviser exposing the ghastly, destructive mentalities of middle-class local officials. They give every impression of resenting all three. No change there, then.
There are some wonderful nail-biting moments like when a heifer tries to give birth to a calf the size of a small horse, and this naturally requires all-hands-on-deck and the strenuous use of a large calf-puller. Kaleb does sterling work and is moved to tears. He loves his cows, (unlike his disdain for sheep), although not when they escape and go hot-hoofing it down a lane. The menace of TB is ever-present with the discovery of many badgers in the locale. This threatens the herd and provides another nail-biting scenario when all of them have to be tested. There is also the case of Jeremy’s favourite, Pepper the heifer, not getting pregnant and the services of a huge prize bull is required to do the deed…
All in all, Series 2 is just as funny and engaging as the 1st series. So, it is great news that it has been given the go-ahead for a 3rd series.
Gary McGhee is a semi-retired screenwriter, loving the outdoor life with his partner in the Norfolk countryside. Gary was ‘red-pilled’ before it became fashionable, and believes in liberty, freedom, modernism, and defying herd-mentalities.