Bad Idea Behind Tom's Good Life

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), July 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

Bad Idea Behind Tom's Good Life


Byline: James Delingpole

Brave old World by Tom Hodgkinson Hamish Hamilton [pounds sterling]16.99 ? [pounds sterling]13.99 inc p&p HHHHH We've all fantasised about quitting the rat race. Tom Hodgkinson, however, never joined it in the first place. A professional 'Idler', who edits the magazine of that name, he lives with his wife Victoria and children in an idyllic North Devon farmhouse.

He rears hens, bakes bread, chops wood and even, for such are the rewards when you spurn TV and the internet, has time to compose Latin epigrams.

His latest book is a celebration of all the near-forgotten traditional husbandry skills he has learned - or tried to learn - en route: keeping bees, drying hay, seasoning wood, brewing beer, sowing seeds, rearing pigs. Our forebears, he assures us, knew so much better how to live and how to make merry.

There is a very healthy market for this kind of horny-handed agrarian nostalgia, as reflected by the success of reality TV series such as Edwardian Farm. How much better, healthier and happier we would be if only we lived on smallholdings and slaughtered our own pigs. Or better still, argues Hodgkinson, if we tried to opt out of the capitalist system altogether.

He writes: 'As a rule of thumb, any company that trades its shares on the Stock Exchange should be avoided. This is because its legal priority is the share price, and that will always be more important than product quality, staff welfare, customer satisfaction or any ethical concerns.' And later: 'A pack of cards, for example, is a lot more fun than a Nintendo Wii and is a tiny fraction of the price.' At this point he almost lost me. Many of us, I'm sure, would prefer bridge to a Nintendo Wii. But this hardly demonstrates that the pleasures of bygone ages were so much more innocent and healthy than they are now. What it actually means is that, unlike in our Merrie England past, we have something called freedom of choice.

Five hundred years ago, and much more recently in places such as Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China, almost everyone lived in the wholesome way Hodgkinson eulogises, for they had no other option.

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