You’ll Be Worryin’ My Bentley

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, City buyers were behind a 20% surge in farmland prices last year as the high-rollers moved to buy up a chunk of the countryside, often surrounding a weekend retreat.

Christ, that’s all the countryside needs: a shower of filthy rich ponces trying to grow turnips while reading Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Not that the countryside is all it’s cracked up to be: these days it’s full of hikers from urban areas out to savour the fresh air and get shot of the sound of burglar alarms for a bit. And they’re armed to the gills with hiking equipment, flasks, telescopic staffs and compasses, even though they’re only walking across a few fields with cows. Sure I crossed worse in me first communion suit.

We were out for a spin in the countryside around Collegelands in Armagh the other day. It looks as though the taste for middle-of-the-road chicken that has been in vogue in the Republic for a while now is starting to become quite the rage north of the border too. By middle-of-the-road chicken I don’t mean a bird in chasseur sauce: I mean where one driver refuses to lie over on his side of the road, and the other must either hold his nerve and keep his line, or swerve in the direction of the sheugh.

There is a variation of this played with runners too: the driver will try and force the runner off the road into the ditch by holding his line until the very last minute. I am getting very good at this game: if you stare the other driver in the eye, they usually pull away. And if they don’t, and force me to step into the ditch, well, I carry a trusty stone in my pocket. I fancy my chances against any car in a dash across hedge-lined fields. It hasn’t happened yet, though.

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August 2007

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