Flindt on Friday: How Countryfile and farming reality differ

If you haven’t seen The Matrix, not only will you have missed Carrie-Anne Moss in quite unnecessarily tight PVC trousers, but you will also miss what the heck I’m on about later in this week’s column.

Farmers the length and breadth of the nation roll their eyes at the mention of Countryfile. Neighbour Robert and I do it all the time in the Jolly Flowerpots.

We’re sitting in the corner of the bar on our regular Tuesday night, like a couple of grumpy gnomes, but somehow – and I can’t imagine how – we get spotted as farmers, and we then get accosted on rural matters.

See also: Read more from Charlie Flindt

Of course, we’re genuinely pleased to chat about farming, just as everyone in a vocation is. But when the query starts with “I saw on Countryfile…”, we can be pretty sure we’re going to have our work cut out.

Countryfile conundrum

It’s hard to say exactly why, though. The programme covers country matters. It has “farmer” presenters. It ends with weather presenters labouring under the rather pathetic illusion that dressing casually somehow gives a rural authenticity to their work. Bless their little pink socks.

But the world of Countryfile is just not our world. It’s hard to say why. Step forward Ian, the drummer with the Thomas Lord Old Gits.

Every week, for rehearsal, he drives the length of the county to set up his kit in the corner of the shed. Once he’s done that, the rest of us turn our backs on him for a couple of hours. Most of the time, we ignore him – unless he fluffs the fill in Don’t Look Back in Anger.

Now, Ian is not of farming stock. He used to be something in human resources, but recently found his dream job in a well-known Guildford music store.

But he sits on his stool on a Monday night, polishing his snare, looking slightly bewildered as the rest of us go through our weekly catch up on illnesses and injuries (we’re not called the Old Gits for nothing), and then (because most of the rest of us are indeed of farming stock) the world of agriculture.

He tries to nod in agreement as we discuss everything from blackgrass resistance to thousand grain weights, from latest drilling dates for winter beans to using hedges for EFAs. But it all goes over his head. And then the rehearsal starts. But not last week.

Last week, just as we were about to kick off the evening with our unique version of Sweet Home Hinton Ampner, Ian decided that he had something he wanted to share with us.

Blue pill v red pill

“I’ve cracked it!” he said, with a look of triumph on his face.  We all instinctively assumed he meant the fill in Don’t Look Back in Anger.

“No,” he said, somewhat testily. “I bought a copy of Farmers Weekly the other day.” Now, this did come as a shock; we all knew he read Countryfile magazine – hence him not knowing his TGW from an ACCS.

It turned out that he’d bought a copy of FW to check out the drivel written by the man sitting on his right with a huge organ (me and my Roland VR-700).

And while reading FW, and comparing it to Countryfile, he’d had a bit of revelation. Countryfile is the rural world for those who have taken the blue pill. Farmers Weekly is for those who have taken the red pill.

There was a long approving pause in the rehearsal shed as this nugget of wisdom sunk in. Either that, or we were all remembering Carrie-Anne Moss in her PVC trousers.

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha in Hampshire with his wife, Hazel.