Socialist Hayfever

“”The natural compass for Americans is republicanism,” said Ruth. “Sure, over here in Europe you have stable democrat governments, to the point you can say socialism and not wince, but not in the States. We were forged by the pioneer spirit, where you stood on your own two feet, where central government was a distant threat and capitalism was the new religion, after religion, of course. We may get the occasional Democrat in office, but it always swings back to a Republican administration. You want to know why? Because the States is a republic, not a democracy. Excuse me.” Her face contorted into a horror mask, then she sneezed violently.

“Bless you,” said John. “I apologise on behalf of all my fellow commies for affronting you with our national health service and our subsidised universities.”

“I accept,” said Ruth, magnanimously. “Still, I’ll give you Brits this. It sure is a pretty place.”

They sat at the picnic table in the beer garden of the Man Of Kent. Below them lay the Weald, miles of rolling farm and woodland stretching to the horizon.

“I guess,” said John. “I think there are prettier places in England, though.”

“You think? I’m an Arizona girl. Trust me, this is as close to heaven as it gets.” She sneezed again. “And it’s so warm, too. I was expecting fog and rain.”

“Gesundheit. And Cockney chimney sweeps dancing down the cobblestones?”

Ruth laughed. “Something like that.”

“Look, if the hayfever is bothering you, we can go back inside.”

“What, and waste a lovely day like this? Besides, I don’t have hayfever.” She searched in her purse and retrieved a handkerchief. “Maybe it’s a summer cold. I’m used to a dry heat.” She blew her nose. “Rats. I think another one’s coming.” She took a series of jerky breaths in, her head bobbing back. Then she paused. “No, false alarm, I guess.”

“Of course, you know it’s all your own fault, your hayfever,” said John. “If you hadn’t elected Reagan, you’d not be sneezing now. That sneeze is we socialists striking back.”

Ruth laughed. “Excuse me? How on Earth do you make that out?”

“See the field? How many of them are yellow, do you think? Two-thirds?”

“I was going to ask you about that. What is that? Tulips?”

“Rape.”

“Excuse me?”

“The yellow plants. They’re called rape.”

“Seriously? Why on Earth would you call it a name like that?”

“I don’t know. Everything’s got to be called something.”

“Yeah, but rape? Why not something less offensive. What, was ‘genocide’ too long a word?”

“Anyway, that’s what’s causing your hayfever. Excuse me, your ‘summer cold’. It’s insidious. Its pollen floats for miles, I mean miles and miles. It’s one of the principle causes of the increase of hayfever in the UK. And it’s all President Reagan’s fault.”

“Why’s that?”

“Back when I was a lad – God, that makes me sound old, doesn’t it? – anyway, back then, we’d never heard of it. All these fields would have been green, or maybe straw-coloured as the autumn came in. Everything in Europe was rosy. The European Union was growing, with the friendly internal squabbles a sign of how well we were all getting along. Even the iron curtain countries were beginning to wonder if Lenin and Marx were quite the heroes they’d been led to think. Trade was unfettered between Union countries, European citizens had the right to move and work anywhere within its boundaries. It was a socialist dream.”

“The United States of Europe, huh?”

“Did you know it was Churchill coined that phrase? And it was something he wanted, too. Isn’t it funny how political sides change? So anyway, as things grew and progressed, so we needed more energy and resources. West Germany needed more fuel, more gas, and just a little way away there was a neighbour who had more than he could use. Step forward the Russian bear. So Germany decided to build a gas pipeline through East Germany and on into Russia.

” ‘Half a mo!,’ said President Reagan.”

“Half a mo?” said Ruth, laughing. “Who says that? What does it even mean? He might not have had a full deck towards the end, but President Reagan would never have said that.”

“Well, okay, but he said whatever the Hollywood equivalent was. ‘Get off your horse and drink your milk’, or whatever. ‘You can’t just engage in free trade. You can’t just build an energy infrastructure that meets your needs, not without asking me.’ Although, I admit, he might have said it with an American accent. And probably with that winning little chuckle of his. ‘That’s the evil empire you’re trading with, and America won’t allow it. We refuse you permission to build that pipeline.’ Or words to that effect, anyway.”

“Really?”

“Really. Well, if it was down to us plucky Brits, we may have come to some sort of arrangement, what with our special relationship and everything, but not Johnny Foreigner. Oh no. ‘Ve vill build our pipeline, und nuts to you.’ said Hans. So Mr Reagan embargoed certain goods going to Germany, just to show them who was the real dictator of the free world.”

Ruth sneezed again. “And that’s why I have hayfever?”

“Well, no, not yet. The trouble is, that would be like the UK embargoing oh, let’s say, the sale of British umbrellas to Arizona. You’d just go buy them from, um, North Dakota, or whatever state is next door.”

“No, we wouldn’t care. Not much call for umbrellas in Arizona.”

“Anyway, the States, they couldn’t just impose a trade embargo on Germany, because it’s part of the European community. Free passage of goods and all that. So they slapped a trade embargo on the whole of Europe, including us, your oldest and dearest friends.” John looked hurt, his bottom lip protruding and quivering.

Ruth shrugged her shoulders. “You have to be cruel to be kind sometimes. Tough Love. What’s that got to do with my hayfever?”

“Well, one of the goods that was banned by the states was corn oil.”

“Corn oil?”

“Yes. Oh the horror, the humanity. You know how much we Brits like our fish and chips, and then there’s the Germans and their sausages, the French and their… well okay, their pretty much anything. The thought that we might not have enough vegetable oil to fry our dinner caused panic. There were riots in the streets.”

“Riots?”

“Well, okay, in England I think someone wrote a letter to the Times, but that’s a street riot in any other country. So the European Commissioners leapt into action. Meetings were minuted,, memos written, and eventually edicts issued. Europe had to be self-reliant on vegetable oil. Unfortunately for the more northern climes, growing sunflowers and olives just wasn’t feasible. But there was an alternative: rape seed oil.”

“It’s really called that?”

“Really, as true as I’m riding this elephant. So the European Parliament authorised a subsidy for farmers who would switch their arable land to the growing of rape. Well, you show me a farmer that will give up a chance of making a bob or two, especially if it’s government money. So overnight our green and pleasant land became a yellow and nasal one. Our rural idyll ruined forever. Our farmland made to look like Ronald McDonald’s trousers. The birdsong drowned out by sniffles and sneezes. That’s what your republicanism did for us. You, my dear Ruth, are merely reaping the backlash.” He offered her a tissue as her nose wrinkled in preparation of another sneeze. “You’re suffering from socialist hayfever.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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