I’m not good at picking up hitch-hikers. But I make an exception for the large numbers of young people from Eastern Europe – mainly Czech Republic – who are here for the fruitpicking. I’ve picked up four couples in the last fortnight – all students – all obviously highly educated and well spoken. The tally is as follows. One content – ‘more you work the more you earn’ One visibly distressed by the working conditions and heading into Perth to find a job – ‘could earn same money in Prague’. One averagely unhappy and going to As-da to shop. One going to book a flight home and never coming back – could earn as much in Prague – not just the money but the way they were spoken to.
All sorts of issues here to disturb the Blogstead idyll. Without cheap labour, how will the crop be harvested? Unless the strawberries are cheap, they will unaffordable for the Blogstead table. And there is no doubt that economic progress in Eastern Europe has eroded the economic differences. But my over-riding feeling is that of a parent. My own children have been treated well in all sorts of foreign places. I do not like to see other people’s children far from home and distressed in this way.
Meanwhile the reaper and binder is at work in the field outside my study window. There may yet be biodiesel in Frankfurt to make the drivers of large Mercedes feel virtuous.