A month in the country

The sun is shining. The news is disease and death, imminent starvation and economic ruin. Farmers are warning that a massive shortfall of seasonal workers will leave food rotting in the fields while supermarkets stand empty. Hundreds of thousands of students have suddenly been told that the countless hours of study and stress they have put in so far to try and scrape themselves a place in this world are not, overnight, as vital as they had been led to believe.

If young people are really less likely to get seriously sick (which so far the data supports); if there is a way to ensure as far as possible that they are safe from everything but their own bad choices, wouldn’t it be good if they could be out picking fruit in the sun, instead of staring out of windows wondering what happened to the world they thought they knew?

Ideally, with some effort and thought, the vibe could be slightly more festival than internment camp: workdays but with barbecues and bands in the evening; not 15-hour shifts, pervy managers and sleeping eight to a caravan on mattresses that reek of other people’s piss. If the farmers can’t house them, there are plenty of vacant holiday spots; if cash to pay them properly can’t be found, chunks of student debt could be forgiven in return for their work. As long as they weren’t there against their will, parents might have to stifle some envy but could be proud of their help (and on the receiving end of the odd box of strawberries.) Given the summer they are likely to have otherwise, isn’t it worth a try?

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