Rosemary is for remembrance.
In France they cook it with roast lamb
A sprig tucked under the skin.
We drench ours in mint sauce,
Acid vinegar smothering the delicate flesh
But we are a nation of animal lovers
(So long as they are small and furry and don’t annoy us)
And we burnt those sheep and the lambs within
Their legs sticking stiffly from the flames.
The disease, you see, affected our agricultural economics.
The fells are cleared now of sheep
And I hear they are covered in flowers
Unseen since the sheep over-grazed their slopes
They evicted the crofters in favour of sheep
‘Woolly Gold’ the landowners called them
And the stone cottages have fallen down
Except where they have been refurbished
For human sheep, who love to flock
on holidays to places of natural beauty
Leaving them empty and dead out of season
The sons and daughters of village families
Have, perforce, to emigrate. The prices
Are too high for them to bear
What do we, the common herd
Expect of our land? To provide us
with food? Or sanitised entertainment?
Easy access to gentle walks?
A theme park carefully planted
With ancient implements, ancient folk in funny dress?
Carefully laid-out paths for wheelchairs?
And guided trails to avoid getting lost?
(Or to keep the herd together?)
All threatened by climate change
Global warming, a new ice age
Depending on where the Gulf Stream goes
Made by us, as we use our cars
To take our under-exercised kids to school
Or do a massive shop at Supermarkets
For whom producers slave for pitiful pay
To give us cheap food and special offers
Fair Trade gives hope to those who labour
Education for their children, access to health
But do we care? I doubt the majority do
Or even know. Their news comes in easy
Sexy bites with juicy gossip and simple words.
Oh God, what have we done to your creation?
© Gillian Peall
This was written in 2001 when the foot and mouth disease was rife in England and Wales. Burning pyres of cattle and sheep were seen throughout the land, footpaths were closed, tourism was checked, and it was a very sad time in the country.