Audiobooks, Rioting and Organic Lawn Mowers

by Kit Munro

The farm/vineyard I work on is probably the last place in the world to hear news, and certainly the last place in the world that would ever make news. It truly is the middle of nowhere. The sort of place where mail comes so irregularly the post is actually quite exciting. The sort of place that relies on organic lawn mowers because they are cheaper –and easier to get hold of– than petrol lawn mowers.


These mowers at work in the vineyard:


Not only do these organic lawn mowers require no petrol they also convert the grass clippings into fertiliser and wool. Not a bad arrangement.

Despite being isolated and rural, news does reach the farm from the outside world. Particularly this week of riots. Riots in the Middle East, in China, North Africa and elsewhere. The causes of these riots –ostensible and otherwise– are beyond me. I do not know anything about the right or wrong of them. Nor do I know what it would be like to be involved in these riots. I have almost no first-hand experience of rioting. Only once have I seen a riot and that was only a few hundred drunken, spoilt brats throwing a combined tantrum.

In Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty Charles Dickens devotes much of the book to describing rioting. Barnaby Rudge is set during the Gordon Riots of 1780. Riots in all their horror, excess, bedlam (Bedlam actually features in the novel), madness, chaos and unforgiving organic nastiness are described. Mobs in their irrationality, senselessness and unstoppable force take on a horrific power, although very occasionally in the novel a mob (or is a good mob only a crowd?) warms the heart.

In these riots bravery features alongside suffering. Sacrifice alongside selfishness. Cowardice with selflessness.

Unexpectedly comedy also made an appearance. In the following rapid exchange, between a vintner and the Lord-Mayor I was actually laughing aloud among the vines. The vintner is asking the Lord Mayor for protection. The vintner is making this petition after the riots had begun but before they reached their peak;

“Disrespectful, my Lord” returned the old gentleman. “I was respectful five times yesterday. I can’t be respectful for ever. Men can’t stand on being respectful when their houses are going to be burnt over their heads, with them in ’em. What am I to do, my lord? Am I to have any protection?”

I told you yesterday, sir,” said the Lord Mayor, “that you might have an alderman in your house, if you could get one to come”.

What the devil’s the good of an alderman? returned the choleric old gentleman.

“– To awe the crowd, sir” said the Lord Mayor.

“Oh Lord ha’ mercy!” whimpered the old gentleman , as he wiped his forehead in a state of ludicrous distress, “to think of sending an alderman to awe a crowd! Why, my lord, if they were even so many babies fed on mother’s milk, what do you think they’d care or an alderman? Will you come?”

“I!” said the Lord Mayor emphatically. “Certainly not.”

“Then what,” returned the old gentleman, “what am I to do” Am I a citizen of England? Am I to have the benefit of the laws? Am I to have any return for the King’s taxes?”

I don’t know, I am sure,” said the Lord Mayor. “What a pity it is you’re a Catholic! Why couldn’t you be a Protestant, and then you wouldn’t have got yourself in such a mess? I’m sure I don’t know what’s to be done. –There are great people at the bottom of these riots. –Oh dear me, what a thing it is to be a public character! –You must look in again in the course of the day. –Would a javelin-man do?– Or there’s Phillips the constable –he’s disengaged– he’s not very old for a man at his time of life, except in his legs, and if you put him up at a window he’d look quite young by candle-light, and might frighten ’em very much”

I found my copy of Charles Dickens’  Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty here. If anyone knows of another place this audiobook is availible please let me know in the comments below.