Section: West Country Weekend

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Gaslit nation

Anthea Simmons

I decided to reissue this after seeing the advertorial being run by the government in Metro, presumably at the taxpayers’ expense. In this jolly reportage we are supposed to have our minds set at ease by the tales of businesses absolutely buzzing in the post-Brexit world, sailing through all the additional bureaucracy with no problems […]

Flag of convenience

Mike Zollo

“A poke in the eye! That’s what you’ll get, so I’ll take your sticks away before you hurt one another!” Imagine a little 6-year-old boy, so excited at holding his very own flag for the first time. As we lined up in the school yard ready to troop off to the venue at which hundreds […]

Out-Foxing the Reclaim Party’s ‘war on woke’

Vicky Rosier

West Country Bylines has previously reported on the government’s culture war against perceived left-wing or liberal bias in the arts, cultural heritage and higher education sectors. In October 2020, Virginia Button outlined government pressure on arts institutions and museums to toe the line on their involvement in contested reassessments of British colonial history, at the […]

Valuing the feminine: the ‘Virgin’s Promise’

Sadie Parker

One of the things that makes life worthwhile is the opportunity to keep learning something new. The first week of the London Screenwriters’ Festival online has been what I’d call a ‘chocolate mousse’ learning experience – intense, exquisite and deliciously inspirational. Every session has been brilliant, and some have been a revelation, like Tales of […]

From star to satellite – science in a post-Brexit world

David Love

In matters scientific, European nations do far better working together Our civilisation has advanced dramatically in the last few hundred years and we have only to look to the leaps made in science and technology to understand why. Yet how many people realise that a key element of science lies in cooperation between different nations?  […]

Is our democracy toast? Part 2 of the double-barrelled piece

Sadie Parker
Rees-Mogg standing in front of a burning forest with democracy fishing agriculture, food e-commerce and financial service all burning down

Fishers feel betrayed. Boats are in dry-dock, fish markets are bereft of trade, and five-generation businesses are facing bankruptcy. No Brexiter politicians are posing with them now. No Brexiter politicians are even listening to them now. Similarly, agri-food businesses, no matter how well prepared they were, are seeing the fruits of their labours spoiled, at […]

Has Brexit wrecked my life’s work?

Mike Zollo

“You may buy from us in English … but you must sell to us in my language!” This much-quoted maxim highlights the importance of language skills to international trade. What German Chancellor Willy Brandt actually said in the early 1970s was: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen […]

Iconic Somerset cider business hit by Johnson’s trade deal

Richard Wilkins

The first thing people ask when they find out you are from Somerset is “how much cider do you drink?”  The apple-based drink is synonymous with our county. It has imprinted itself on our culture, forming much of our history and traditions. For instance, wassailing is an ancient West Country cider festival which ensures a […]

Jackie Weaver for prime minister?

Sadie Parker

I first became aware of Jackie Weaver when Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times, put up a poll asking the public, “Who do you want as PM [prime minister]?”. The four choices were Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson, Ed Davey and Jackie Weaver. Keir Starmer was winning comfortably, but Jackie Weaver was in […]

After the flood…

Anna Andrews

On 22 January, after Storm Christoph hit the UK, George Eustice said on camera that 70 homes had been flooded. Given the pictures of inundated towns across England and Wales, this figure seemed something of an understatement, with the Daily Telegraph, amongst others, reporting a figure more than five times higher: Storm Christoph: Around 400 […]

Vaccine ‘wars’? What on earth is going on?

Sadie Parker
globe, syringes like missiles doing battle

“EU vaccine war explodes,” screamed the Daily Mail in its first edition. Then hours later its headline had changed to “EU Jabs Climbdown” as it accused the EU of performing a ‘screeching U-turn’. Wait. What? There had been a war and it was all over eight hours later? What on earth was going on? It […]

Bikes, beeswax and bloomers – all b*ll*xed by Brexit. Part 1 -bikes

Mike Zollo

Back in 2000, Totnes was absorbed with the romantic phenomenon of a ‘world-beating’ local product: the catamaran Team Philips, the largest yacht ever built, designed to break the record time for sailing around the world. Like many Totnes families, we helped to sponsor it, and our names were among thousands painted on the hull. As […]

Gardening for wildlife: get ready for Spring!

Anna Andrews

The hours of daylight are slowly beginning to increase again and nature is responding to the lengthening days: spring is not all that far off. In February while the trees may still be stark and leafless, look really closely at the branches and you will almost certainly see the buds, the promise of this year’s […]

The ballast of Swanage

Valery Collins
Wellington Clock Tower, Swanage. Deep blue sea, blue sky, cliffs in the background

To many, Swanage is a traditional, old-fashioned English seaside town, a place to wander along the sea front enjoying the murmur of the waves. Some may notice the old tram tracks embedded in the concrete and ponder their significance as they pause on the Stone Quay. Purbeck Stone Brings Prosperity to Swanage During the 1830s […]

The anti-democracy and not-so-Unionist party

Sadie Parker

As democracy has been trampled under a tsunami of lies, scams and evasion of scrutiny this month, perhaps the Conservative and Unionist Party needs a new name? I’ll go first: the Anti-Democracy and not-so-Unionist Party. Here’s why… Boris Johnson can’t stop lying. To dismiss that with an exclamation of, “oh, but all politicians lie,” is […]

Winter gardening for wildlife: part 1 – feed the birds!

Anna Andrews

Continuing her series on gardening for wildlife, Anna Andrews looks at how to attract birds to your garden Ok, I know it’s not really ‘gardening’, but probably the best and most immediate way to help wildlife is to feed the birds, and virtually any outdoor space can be used whether you have a garden, a […]

Long Covid kids

Sammie McFarland

A year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all become armchair experts. It’s hard to remember a time when it was new and we had so little information about what to expect if we were unlucky enough to catch it. A few key messages emerged early in the first lockdown in March. […]

Rewilding comes to a Devon valley

Simon Chater

Local environmental charities are working to increase Devon’s tree populations. Simon Chater was delighted to take part. For nearly 40 years I’ve lived in an old farmhouse in one of the loveliest spots in the South West – the valley of the Holy Brook, a tributary of the Dart. A livestock farmer sold me the […]

Bugs, bees and banned toxins

Milly James

There seems to be quite an upset brewing, understandably, over the government allowing the use of neonicotinoids in the UK after reports like “Government to let farmers use bee-killing pesticide banned by EU”  appeared in the press and across social media from environmentalists and the concerned public. The current reporting on the renewed use of […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 2. Birth of the human soul

Simon Chater

There’s no original sin in Dante! The soul is born of joy and seeks to return to a state of joy. In my first three tasting notes I’m going to skip about, dipping once only into each canticle – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. If that’s a success (that is, if enough people read me to […]

Fish – it used to be so easy…

Julian Andrews

Mention “Samways” to locals around the west Dorset town of Bridport and they’re most likely to tell you simply, “they’ve got that fish shop at West Bay”. They’re right about the fish shop, but Samways are a lot more than that. Clifford Samways started selling fish from a wooden barrow in West Bay in 1961 […]

The US has foiled a coup, but could we?

Mick Fletcher

Several writers, including West Country Bylines’s Tom Scott and Sadie Parker, have drawn attention to the disturbing parallels between the anti-democratic activities of Trump in the USA and Johnson here. Many, however, are reluctant to accept that Johnson is in effect Britain’s Trump, despite the fact that this dubious accolade was bestowed by none other […]

Something lost to find again

Catrina Davies

Catrina Davies discovered her true self in Europe. In September she left Cornwall for Portugal, from where she reflects on severance, belonging and betrayal. When I was ten my parents took me and my sisters to France for a week. We drove onto the ferry at Plymouth, all squashed into our Citroen AX, disembarked in […]

Dark Wednesday: Trumpism has also stained and frayed British democracy

Sadie Parker
montage of Johnson and Trump pictured together

Judging by the liveliness of social media platforms well into the night, as 6 January rolled into 7 January on the European side of the Atlantic, half the UK was glued to CNN – watching agog as insurrectionists invaded government offices in Washington D.C. They stormed the Capitol building, the heart of American democracy, equipped […]

Have your say! Letters to the editor

Anthea Simmons

Would you like to express a view on one of our articles? Add to the information? Give us a different perspective? Then, please, do email us! Tell us who you are and where you come from and if you have a particular expertise in the relevant field add that, too. We may publish your letter […]

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