Wednesday 20 February 2002

I look back to my diary entry of exactly one year ago. Charles Trenet had just died. My Citroen had just been repaired and I was feeling - after a bout of groaning self pity the day before - as though I might survive after all.

There's a lot I could say about the year in between. This journal is not the place to write about the foot and mouth horror any more. All I shall say here - a year on - is this:

I had no idea that a tragedy was about to overtake millions of animals and hundreds of kindly people, hurtling them into a misery we would never have believed could possibly happen in Britain - and of which most people, even now - have no inkling.

I had no idea that I would be idiot enough deliberately to put myself in the thick of it instead of sensibly turning away, no idea that I would be spending months back in Britain, no conception of having the bare faced cheek to organise a meeting of vets, lawyers and MPs, chairing it with schoolmarmly firmness inside the very House of Commons, and no idea of the fine people, the vets, the lawyers and the scientists but most of all the brave, kindly, saddened people I was to meet through the internet or, even better, face to face.

Far too many people swallow the party line about millionaire farmers and a government that, although initially overwhelmed, did what it could.. It is increasingly hard to bear or to contemplate their ignorance and the collusion of the press. Margaret Beckett called MAFF/DEFRA's handling of the epidemic "something of a small triumph" - and in that staggering phrase lies the gulf between what really happened and what the incompetent scientists, the government and and all their obsequious followers would like people to believe. I, who have followed the progress of the disease and of its crazy gang of modellers and handlers for several hours every day since the beginning of May, know that it was a triumph only of propaganda. I simply can't put into words the sadness I now feel for England and - since the mad politicisation of food production by the big conglomerates and their ambitious poodles now stretches throughout the globe - that I feel for the natural world. Like Candide, I shall cultivate my garden, grow my cabbages and write my french journal - but it is with a very much sadder heart.

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