Cold Comfort Down On The Farm

“I ha`scranleted two hundred furrows come five o`clock down i` the bute.”

It was a difficult remark, Flora felt, to which to reply. 

In the darkest depths of 1930`s Sussex, there resides a family of evolutionary throwbacks called the Starkadders, who inhabit a farm outside the town of Howling.         Young Flora Poste sets off to civilize her distant relatives, and hone their non-existent social skills to face the modern world beyond the prickly, over grown hedgerows that encircles their rustic, and primitive dominion like a castellated thicket.

When she arrives at the farm, it appears that the Starkadders do not so much inhabit Cold Comfort, as infest it. So begins her mission to pull her stone age relatives out of their age old swamp of uber dysfunctionalism, and haul the human pond life up the evolutionary ladder towards a semblance of recogisable humanity.

Flora soon discovers that the farm harbours a family of near lunatics; as in gigantic nut job, Great Aunt Ada Doom`s fixation on seeing “something nasty in the woodshed” when she was a young girl. Now too frightened to leave her room, she uses the excuse of childhood trauma to control the rest of the family with an iron grip. Then there`s Flora`s cousin, Judith, a depressive who`s married to hell and brimstone Brethren preacher Amos. Their mentally unstable and fractured offspring are Seth, a prime piece of top-side beef, the jealous and permanently suspicious Reuben, and the free spirited ( as in slightly mentally vacant) Elphine, who likes to dance, sing and get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Following up the rear, but by no means least in the crazed, rural pecking order, is the farm hand Adam, who has a penchant for cleaning the dishes with twigs.

Perhaps Flora sees herself as a fairy godmother – but a scheming, conniving and inveigling one, as she arranges marriages, career opportunities and issues blandishments to encourage and shove the farm residents, like a rickety, worm eaten old farm cart, out of the deep rut it had been trapped in, and into the 20th century.

It`s thought that Flora`s bossy, no nonsense, knows best character is based on Stella Gibbons herself; who also had a tendency to “get stuck into” family problems and misdemeanours. 

Cold Comfort Farm is a deceptively simple, but enormously funny satire on the perceptions of 1930`s society and how it viewed and portrayed the “lower orders”, by aiming the barrel of comedy back at the snobbery of the social elite. It is a beautifully written, poetic and perceptive social commentary, over flowing with eccentric, off the wall characters who never seem anything other than wholly believable, lovable, and well rounded individuals, while being given their full, due respect by the author. 

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