Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Complete Country Bizarre

We spent Sunday selling the many items we'd cleared out from our kitchen (mainly), having had a long think and deciding which pieces had become merely habits of a lifetime. There were a great many . . . One or two things we had 2nd thoughts on, but in the main, the clear out was quite therapeutic and certainly helped our income! We didn't spend any money until we had packed up and then we indulged ourselves with a wander round the stalls. We (well, strictly speaking, I) blew £7 then on three books, one of which was The Complete Country Bizarre - a magazine I remembered from the 1970s - and the craft items of which are in a book I have called Country Bizarre's Country Bazaar. Anyway, this book is a compilation of the original magazines (1 - 11), and I was delighted to bring it home with me and begin dipping into it.

It's a delightful mixture of various articles with a strong emphasis on returning to old values and leaving the city for the country. I picked up on a strong hippy Left-wing feel to the writing from many of the contributors. The first magazine began:

'(In) 1750 saw the beginning of the industrial revolution. A vast uncontrollable upheaval which in its time changed the life, character and destiny of most of the English people. . . . . . . . .No one is going to throw this mighty industrial hen off her nest too easy; she is well bedded down. Our only way is to deprive her of her meal, which can only come about by rejecting the paraphernalia of her goods and reviving the pre-industrial agricultural climate. The signs are already here - kids are moving out to the farms and communes, urban agriculture is hitting towns and cities. A whole new culture is with us, together with a new zestful interest in customs and traditions of olden days. This is what 'The Country Bizarre' is all about. We are trying to put over to you, gently, all those lovely things that once enriched folks lives in the past. Their simple leisure and customs, their love and understanding of the countryside and its harvests, crafts and arts. We are also putting over your ideas and all that's good of the new culture, in a sort of contemporary seasonal almanac. Apart from the nature side of things and its vast panorama, we will be covering such items as folklore, weaving, tapestry, thatching, spinning, forestry, local art and poetry, fairs, patterans and a great assortment of other goodies."

Some pieces were better than others. They were inundated with poetry, and tried to help budding poets but some were, ahem, worse than others. This one needs some pondering upon, I believe:

The crude beauty of waving stones
The humbleness of mud
The honesty of country homes
And clear unpoisoned blood.

You lonely city vacume people
To wonder what they are
Too dark behind a floodlit steeple
A waste electric star.

The moon is cream upon a plate
Of rougher, cracked tenderness
The rattle-chill of a house slate
The rasp of water-cress.

Your head is cold, your eyes are old
Your bodies going grey
And still the dew upon bread's mould
Is new with every day.

Where will you find some happiness
From an electric cable?
Far better, near to something bless'd
A simple rotting stable.

(Well, bits of it rhyme . . .)

There was an excellent article: The Complete Guide to Wild Eating in a later edition. Lots of detail on what you could find growing in the wild, although I think some of the advice was a little dodgy: "First of all please note that man can live quite easily for a number of weeks without any food what-so-ever, only water. In fact many people fast voluntarily for up to 40 days as a beneficial action on the body. This has to be pointed out because a lot of people will panic if they think that they will not be getting any food for even a day or two." I think you can definitely count me as one of those!!! Fasting for FORTY DAYS?!

Elsewhere there was sound advice on how to find abandoned cottages to squat in, how to make them habitable, how to get on with the neighbours etc., and a recurring theme was how to become a Hunt Sabateur.

Articles about growing Herbs, Romany lifestyles and remedies, old beliefs (including an article on the Cottingley Fairies), keeping chickens, goats etc.

I can certainly say that this "return to the land" theme was certainly an inspiration to me. I have tried to illustrate this blog entry with some of the interests and skills I have acquired.

If you are interested in reading more about this, here is a link to what one of the authors is up to today. Copies of the book are fairly easily obtainable on-line.


  1. All that produce - all that hard work - hardly anyone does these things these days and it is such a shame.

  2. It sounds very familiar, very 1970s with shades of The Good Life and John Seymour! We still have a collection of the old Practical Self Sufficiency magazines from days when we dreamed of doing just what you and your family did BB. We had to wait a long time for our turn......
    You will enjoy browsing through and looking for inspiration.

    As for the poem.... :-) He/she is right though. I`m much happier in a "simple rotting stable" these days!
    Your seeds are doing well.

  3. Drum roll…. You have a won an award!! I’m passing the LIEBSTER award on to you, if you’d like to take a wee look on my page hope you don’t mind!
    Sorry there's no real prize but have some love!