Local – but it's got to be quality

I love where I live. I live in Teesdale, not far from Barnard Castle and I’m lucky that I’m just a few minutes from the A1 and a main rail station, yet I’m also in the depths of some of the best countryside in the UK. And I’m surrounded by it.

Then Teesdale’s in the North East. Not necessarily the most fashionably-regarded region in the country but that’s because most people, southerners mainly, just don’t realise what they’re missing. I made the decision to live here some 30 years ago which while it may not come as a shock to you, it certainly does to me seeming like only ten years. That means I’m older than I think. Or act.

But anyway, while I frequently wax lyrical to all those friends I left behind in the South, it doesn’t mean that the place is perfect.

I love the people but sometimes wish I could see more aspiration. I love the countryside but it is scarred by some pretty dreadful architecture; and some dodgy tractor driving. There’re some great pubs but, with my latent southern proclivities, I do like my beer slightly warmer than is common around here.

So while I couldn’t think of a better place in the UK to live, it’s not perfect. Especially the temperature of the beer.

So I have an issue when it comes to the “buy local” campaigns that I, and the Journal along with other influential bodies, are promoted to such effect. Oh yes, I’m a great fan of buying local, but only if it’s good enough.

I’m old enough, just, to recall the Buy British campaign back in the sixties. I think it was an initiative of Barbara Castle and it resulted in great use of the union jack. I remember images of carrier bags being swung by mini-skirted beauties with the flag on one side and the Buy British slogan on the other; the bags not the girls that is.

But I don’t remember it actually being a great success in its prime objective which was to get us to buy stuff made here. Why? Because you could get better stuff from elsewhere, that’s why.

And just because you have an enormous frozen food factory on your doorstep doesn’t mean that everything to come out of it is worthwhile, despite it benefitting the local economy by employing local people.

So I’ve trained myself to think “quality” if possible. And if I can buy it produced in our region, then great. But just to buy it because it’s local alone could be to encourage mediocrity and that doesn’t feel right to me.

However, when it comes to food, just knowing it comes from a local farm or someone’s kitchen down the road has a way of making it taste better anyway. Let’s just make sure that we encourage our producers to offer us the best they’ve got. They can send the rest of the stuff down south.

Originally posted April 2010

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