Sunday, June 14, 2009

Order of the Barter

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?


  1. enjoy y'alls holiday, sugar, i really think y'all need one! ;~D xoxox

    (thanks for laughs - a very funny read!)

  2. Your intellect is truly dizzying...

    BTW - did the pub owner want ALL of the produce produced for just one pint. Bastard drives a hard bargain...

  3. Making up a new name for just might work!!

  4. I'm lovin' this Order of the Barter idea. Like you, I'll have to start the mini herb garden in my kitchen to get something useful to barter. (Unfortunately, I tend to kill everything I try to grow, which is why I don't garden in the first place.)

    But what if everyone brings the same vege on the same night to the pub? Will we all be stuck eating 87 varieties of parsley delicacies? At least we'll all have fresh breath that night.

    Cat Lady

  5. Savannah - Thank you Savvy. We do. We really do.

    Eric - It does seem a mean payment, although beer is quite pricey there. Also, I'm only dizzy when I think. So I don't do it too often.

    Thinkinfyou - What do you mean, A new name for mon . . ? oh bugger.

    Cat lady - That's a good point. You should grow somehting hardier for the new world order. How much do you think dandelions are worth?

  6. I don't buy this whole bartering concept. Not for a second.

  7. i used to tend bar in a dirthole (i mean rustic) pub and there was this old alcoholic who used to pay his tab with cases of zucchini and pickled tomatoes. he would tip me with fresh wildflowers. my favorite alky to this day.

  8. You may have something here. I shall suggest it to Mr. Darling this week. Such is my power. You rival Suralan in business acumen. I am truly humbled to witness it.

    Enjoy your holiday. We expect photos.

  9. I would gladly barter sex for whatever anybody else has to offer, but then people would complain all the time about getting the short end of the stick...

  10. Mr London Street - I reckon you'll change, but I'll make a note of your objection.

    Lana - Everyone should have a favourite alcoholic. Mine's my GP.

    Mdme DeF - Thank you kindly. And shouldn't that be Lordalan now?

    SkylersDad - Bartering sex is all very well and good, but if it was me offering the sex, I'd end up owing.

  11. My local village pub has been bartering pints in exchange for salmon for over 100 years. It's a system that works well, and is a constant source of fresh produce.

    I'm still waiting for someone to hump in a poached deer fresh of the Duke of Argyl's private land.

    It could be interesting...

  12. Jimmy - It does work then. I might see what I can get for my car's radiator grill. It's got rabbit, pheasant, pigeon and bugs on it.

  13. It would turn society downside up (I'm in Australia)..the poor manual workers would suddenly have something worth bartering and the high paid office workers would die of starvation... (I work in an office)
    "Spare a turnip for a destitute office worker guv?"

  14. Although I do not have any personal experience with vegetable getting "travel sickness," I do have lots of experience with peaches and watermelons. I used to sell them during the summer and early fall, and would travel roughly 60 - 75 miles south of my town to acquire them directly from the peach and watermelon farms. I had to make sure that they were carefully shaded from the sun, and that they were cushioned. Peaches could be firm and hard at the start of the return ride, and mushy and starting to decay one hour later upon our arrival to our selling location.

    One other bit of peach growing trivia: they ripen most during the full moon.

  15. I am enjoying the idea of barterums in exchange for items, but wasn't that the original intent of printed money?

    Of course it all breaks down on the metaphysical level, wherein the local ne'ever do wells ask you for your SPARE barterums. See? Right there your barterum has lost its value.

    This was all making a whole lot more sense a moment ago...


  16. You know if I could barter like that I'd take up growing veggies.

  17. Couldn't we just use Monopoly money? Or Poker chips?

    Have a great holiday, Smarty Pants

  18. Did you hear about the guy who started out with a red paper clip and bartered his way all the way up to a house in Canada? Yeah, bartering is cool like that.

  19. do the squid farmer's dogs keep drowning?

  20. I gave you an award on my blog - stop by and pick it up when you get a chance!
    Have a great day. :) (If you're still on vacation, have several great days :) Also, if you don't see this for a few days, here's the post link:



I'm going to risk taking comment moderation off for a bit, so if you're a web-bot, a robot, a bot-fly or a bottom-dwelling sediment-feeder, then please refrain from commenting.

Otherwise, have a go. S'fun.