Another week, and another howl of horticultural indignation – but this time, though the source was not unexpected, the occasion was.
I took a freezing bike ride down to Regent’s Park today to be “screened”, inducted and enrolled for my part-time garden design course – a 90-minute process, a fair amount of which I spent sizing up my fellow students. A mixed bag? I would say so.
The screening process was revealing enough in its way. It amounted to two 24-question quizzes to check for very basic literacy and numeracy skills (I have to ’fess up to the embarrassing admission that I got only 23 out of 24 on both counts – but I never got the chance to find out where the foul-ups happened, which at least would have given me the opportunity of indulging in my typically middle-class habit of arguing the toss about the question and/or the answer).
The revealing bit was ear-wigging on the subsequent, far from discreet conversations between tutor and those fellow students who had clearly ballsed up the questionnaires completely. The fact that English was not their first language no doubt had something to do with it in at least one instance.
The next revealing bit was where the ruck broke out – and guess what it concerned? Quite right – our old friend, money, again. And who was kicking up the fuss? Err, unsurprisingly enough, a white, middle class lady of a certain age.
The revelation concerned the extent to which these courses are subsidised by the government. You see, they’re not really meant for well-heeled types such as me who have decided to chuck in their rather comfy, well-paid office jobs and eek out the final 10 years or so of their working lives on extended gardening leave before cashing in 25 years’ worth of company pension. They are actually meant for (and I am at risk of being roundly contradicted here) those who maybe didn’t do terribly well at school and need to get themselves set up in some sort of useful trade so that they can make some sort of useful contribution to the economy (and there were examples of that there today as well).
And the ruck? Well, the moderately posh lady was deeply underwhelmed when she found out that from next year, all subsidy will be cut for the advanced course that she intends to do when this one finishes. Me and the other poshies were obliged to stump up a little over £500 for our one-day a week, one-year study, while those enrolling today for the advanced course would be charged something in excess of £600. But next year? Oh no. How much for the advanced course? Something on the wrong side of £3,000. Ouch.
“Had I known that, I would never have done de-blah-de-blah-de-blah,” my posh-ish fellow protested. Indeed. Quite so. Well, she might well be in luck. As readers of last week’s missive will be aware, petitions are about to be signed, m’learned friends instructed, barricades erected, and so on and so forth.
More on the revolution, horny-handed sons of toil and bourgeois colonisation in next week’s post, comrades.