‘Dig for Brexit’, literally

Magic beans? Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In Britain, vegetable seeds are worth their weight in tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and avocadoes, the four things supermarkets are restricting right now. The Royal Horticultural Society has made known that demand for seeds rose 20 per cent this February compared to last year.

Suffolk firm Mr Fothergill’s Seeds is reporting one of its best online sales periods with transactions jumping nearly 50 per cent last month.

It’s not just seeds, of course. People are also buying pots to put them in. Soil. Propagators. Trays. The stuff of gardening, whether in the back yard, on a patio or anywhere else. Dorset and Somerset-based Gardens Group says garden paraphernalia is flying off the shelves, and Mike Burks, its managing director, has noted that people seem interested in growing potatoes, peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and peppers, along with ingredients for the typical salad – tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce.

Clearly, Britain’s salad crisis is perceived to be deeper and broader. It’s not that people who can afford to buy food in Britain are going hungry, but supermarkets are definitely restricting sales.

Restricting, in the sense of, you can have your tomato if it’s there, just don’t take too many. The other day, my local Lidl told an avocado-loving customer he could have eight and no more of the leathery-skinned oily fruit.

[Caveat for those who say they are finding everything they need in their local stores. Yes, quite. But it can be a lottery.]

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s communications director at 10 Downing Street, recently noted in his New European column that the paper was surely ahead of its time when it front-paged “a haggard-looking Theresa May five years ago, rake and shovel behind her, holding out a cabbage to the camera, beneath the headline: ‘Dig for Brexit’. The sub-heading, he added, was “Special issue. Power Cuts. Rationing: How you and your family can survive no-deal Britain.”

That’s very good, but perhaps the Brexit story is best understood through a very English fairy tale, Jack and the beanstalk. When Jack, the poor country boy, trades the family cow for a handful of magic beans, it grows into a beanstalk that reached up into the clouds. Imprudently, he climbs it, and finds himself in a castle with an unfriendly giant.

It’s a children’s story on the limits of ambition and magical thinking because trading a cow for magic beans was always going to be a tenuous venture.

So too Brexit. And perhaps also digging for Brexit, if you know little or nothing about gardening.

Also read: