We went for a really nice meal the other day at a local pub, which specialises in a "rustic" motif.
Rustic means the furniture is old church chairs, there's a stone-floor, a huge hearth with a log burner in it, and all the napkins are simple squares of cloth torn from the skirts of local washer-women.
Mostly though, rustic means bread. Lots of it. Huge great mounds of twirly crusted loaves with olives and seeds scattered both willy and, occasionally, nilly on them. I think this is possibly a well-to-do chef''s idea of what people think is rural and genuine, although I know lots of rustic people, and I don't recall them having home-baked loaves the size of VW Beetles on their Agas. They seem to buy Hovis Best of Both like everyone else. Only they make mouse sandwiches with theirs.
We weren't served by a rustic sort, which is probably for the best. An attentive and well groomed girl who actually knew the menu was our serving wench for the evening, although I suspect that employing an eighty-year old sheep-farmer wearing a sack and straw hat whilst chewing a barley stalk would, in all probability, be more genuinely rustic and might even encourage curious townies in to come in for a gawp.
"You's ready to ordurr? Oi recommendz the laaaaamb. Ver' fresh. Oi strangled 'er jus' this maaaaaarnin'"
He might shoot the dogs in the bar though.
Okay, enough with the stereotypical piss-taking. It's cheap and effortless blog-fodder and I will have none of it. Except for that last bit cos I've all gone and written it now and I'm lazy.
The food was good, and actually quite posh. I'm not sure how rustic salt and pepper squid is, but it was delicious.
Is there such a thing as a squid farmer? You'd need one well-trained dog.
One thing I did notice was that the pub prided itself on using local produce, which always seems to taste better than stuff that's traveled a few thousand miles. No idea why. Do vegetables get travel sick?
We've got a strange society where we have to pay extra for stuff grown nearby, and less for stuff from further away, even if it's another country. I suppose it must be a bit of a bind, travelling the local area looking for carrots or what-not, then making sure they're not riddled with root-blight, leprosy or rabbits. A lot more effort than simply Googling up a catering company and having them delivered in sealed plastic cases, bright orange and washed cleaner than a CBeebies dance routine.
But this pub had come up with a good solution, in the form of the following sign:
Clever. Make the supplier come to you, and offer them goods for goods instead of money. You get around all that pesky tax malarkey, and you both get something you want in exchange for getting rid of something you don't want.
Maybe we should all do it. Well, anyone who has things to exchange anyway. There must be scope to pay for goods with services and vice versa, as it's all very well swapping some sausages for a piece of furniture, but you wouldn't want to alienate dentists because they didn't have any chairs to exchange.
A bartering system would show us what we're really worth. People who make tables, people who grow and rear stuff, folk who know how to fix the plumbing or electrics, they'd all come out of this smelling like roses exchanged for pleasant herbs.
In general, if you're good with hands or your head, you're onto a winner. If you're a specialist in ergonomic nutrition or a TV presenter though, you're probably going to starve.
So everyone's a winner.
How far would bartering get you in this day and age though, if we gave up money. On the positive side, at least goods are a real thing, whereas money is imaginary. It would probably be quite agreeable for small, day-to-day things like, I don't know, bread, milk or sex, where you can offer your prize courgettes for some gold top or a happy ending. That kind of makes sense. It's the bigger things that might cause problems.
Is there a limit to the size or value of things you could barter?
A car? A house?
I'm off on holiday tomorrow, so I wonder how big an allotment I'd need to barter my way onto a plane, into a hotel, onto some boat trips, get a hire car and then get home again?
Might be a bit of a grind taking that much veg with you. For a start, I'd have to start growing some, which sort if delays the trip. Then think of the size your suitcase would have to be. And don't some countries frown on importing vegetables?
So that's a non-starter. I need an alternative system to represent bartering.
How about, instead of actually taking the produce, you took some sort of IOU. Perhaps a bit of paper with "I promise to pay the bearer of this note the sum of thirty-eight turnips" written on it.
Obviously, there would need to be some sort of standardised rate of exchange, and the IOUs would have to be difficult to copy because someone is bound to make one and then pretend it's real. Some people can be such cheaters. Perhaps a really difficult picture with hands on it (no-one can draw hands), or a serial number or something. That'd work.
So, my radical new idea for bartering is a sort of hard-to-fake, individualised, paper-like token with a value written on it, which can be exchanged for goods or services that have been previously agreed to be of that value.
I'm a genius.
I shall call these tokens "barterums" and they will ensure equity between all the peoples of the world, where ability and skill will be valued appropriately! Goodbye inequality! Fare thee well, corporate fat-cats! Adios recession! Cheerio global economic crisis!
We should throw away all our money and start with my new system straight away.
Right, where can I get my barterums printed?