Tuesday 26 September 2017

The shut-down honesty shop is a hot potato

Lay of the Land

It’s possible Pat’s honesty shop could reopen if people were honest enough to take responsibility for their choices and cared more about their neighbours — and Mother Nature — than short-term savings.' Photo: Getty Images
It’s possible Pat’s honesty shop could reopen if people were honest enough to take responsibility for their choices and cared more about their neighbours — and Mother Nature — than short-term savings.' Photo: Getty Images

Fiona O'Connell

Last week on these pages, I was lamenting the loss of local farmer Pat's 'honesty shop', which sold local produce and trusted the consumer to put their money where their morals are, via an old biscuit box that acted as a self-service cash register.

This endearing enterprise fell foul of a false economy, with arguably more than a hint of hypocrisy about it. For some rural residents complain about the demise of such local businesses, while playing a pivotal part in their downfall.

For these days they shop almost exclusively at foreign supermarkets that sell ultra-cheap vegetables rather than the excellent but possibly more expensive produce of local and organic farmers. It's possible Pat's honesty shop could reopen if people were honest enough to take responsibility for their choices and cared more about their neighbours - and Mother Nature - than short-term savings.

But one thing Pat can never bring back is his camera-shy collie, Glenn. For this "big, quiet dog", that scarpered when I tried to take his photo, died last Christmas at the impressive age of nearly 19.

I was glad to hear that his sidekick, Alan, is still "flying", while Molly the Jack Russell is also going strong. Pat told me about the new mutt on the block, Bran, who at seven months old is already "huge".

I decided to see for myself when I was passing Pat's farmhouse recently, where I averted my gaze from the sad sight of the locked-up shed that once housed the honesty shop. Its former proprietor was nowhere to be seen, nor was Molly, the tremendously happy terrier. But the yard, with its plentiful pots of pretty chamomile in bloom, was not empty, for two friendly dogs came up to greet me. And I can vouch for the fact that Bran is indeed massive, and following in the footsteps of paparazzi-phobic Glenn as the silent but smiley type.

Alan's shaggy coat was wet from a recent dip. Last time we met, he cajoled me into playing catch with an obviously prized potato, which had soon descended into a game of two rather mashed halves. But now there were no spuds lying about, perhaps because the shop that sold them had gone from feast to famine. But where there's a clever collie with the will to play, there's bound to be a winning way. As I discovered when a log landed beside me just as I reached my car.

I looked around and Alan eyed me, before turning his gaze meaningfully to the lump of wood by my feet. I kicked it awkwardly in his direction - nearly taking his eye out in the process - but an unperturbed Alan eagerly whacked it back.

This went on for a while, the log splintering as it bumped back and forth between us. Finally I climbed into my car, possibly nursing a fractured foot, leaving the log and at least one of Pat's pooches in reluctant peace.

Here's hoping the honesty shop is back in business the next time I pass. Then I can buy potatoes and give my left foot, a friendly dog and a fine farmer an honest to goodness break.

Sunday Independent

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