AS A child, I used to sit up front in my grandfather’s battered Land Rover, nestled between him and my uncle, surveying the land that he farmed. We would drive along pot-holed roads as I was thrown across laps and even into the footwell; my grandfather singing ‘Danny Boy’ and my uncle loading and reloading his gun, ready to shoot any passing pigeon.
It was when once thrown into this footwell, filled with spent cartridges and half eaten Mars Bars, that I first came across a lump of metal; a twisted pipe with some writing etched into it, and a whole lot of soil attached to it. As I made my way back up to my part of the front seat (carefully avoiding the loaded rifle swaying over my head) I held this heavy little object up to Grandad’s eyeline. He smiled and said, ‘Ah, you found my latest Grizzysnozzle.’
According to my grandad, a Grizzysnozzle was any little bit of (generally industrial) something that still had a magical capability to be a particularly fabulous, functioning something. My next few years of childhood were spent on that farm, and every now and then I found a Grizzysnozzle. They were generally old springs from trailers, bolts from a plough, or bridle pieces from when shire horses roamed the land. I kept them safe in a treasured box. They comforted me enormously when Grandad died.
One day, when I was 16 years old, I was given the honour of being told to roll ‘The Great Field’. Tractor and rollers were joined together, but there was a part missing – a part that had been lost at some point and that was now needed before the rollers would run. My dad remembered that box of bits in the garage and found that one of my metal ‘mementos’ would fit the little space in the rollers. Suddenly one of my Grizzysnozzles had a second chance. Off I drove, and I can still remember the joy of that day. Abba’s Dancing Queen was on a loop on a home-made cassette as I rolled around in circles for hours. No straight lines for me. Pure exhilaration at being out on my own in the countryside. My Grizzysnozzle, and my lovely memories of my grandfather, made it all the sweeter.
Of course, as magical as the day was (particularly with a whole packet of KitKats for company), the rollers eventually broke again, and I made my way home. A brand-new set of rollers was reluctantly bought, and set to task the next week.
It occurred to me recently that I now regard Boris Johnson as our political Grizzysnozzle. After a political lifetime of both achievement and fallow, he was placed in a box of loveable mementos. But then, brilliantly, he was used again when he was urgently required, fitting the piece of government machinery that was needed at that exact time: Brexit was delivered. Johnson had his second-chance moment – his ‘Abbaesque’ dance on the disco floor – and a huge majority of MPs was delivered at the election. But then a virus came knocking, dislodging the Grizzysnozzle, and Parliament has now ground to a halt, despite any protestations otherwise. Boris Johnson has played his part – Brexit is done (or so we hope). But you cannot roll a field in circles indefinitely; there comes a point where it must be rolled in straight lines, to be able to sow, fertilise and harvest all over again. The government rollers are failing now, ineffectually going in circles, using the same flailing and failing Grizzysnozzle, until the day arrives when it will fall out completely.
We are stuck in never-ending loops of civil rights restrictions, arbitrary statutory instruments, and fear-spreading predictions and statistical interpretations. The executive is ever more feebly turning up the same soil, the same ideas, the same expert advice, and refusing to allow a new approach – ‘a new set of rollers’.
My grandfather farmed the land to preserve it for future generations. He loved and respected the job at hand. He knew, as does my father now, that hard but necessary decisions are needed when investment in new machinery must be taken. Time now surely to invest in a whole new piece of machinery for our executive. One that will see us to the next harvest, rather than one that keeps rolling around in circles of barren soil, while the future crops (our children, our workforce, our future) remain unsown, unfed, and unfertilised. The Grizzysnozzle did well. But it is no longer useful – just another part of the broken rollers.