David Cameron and my summers at red currants bushes

If I would vote in the coming UK elections, in no way my choice would be Tories. Full stop. (Why, it’s maybe a topic for separate blog story, but here it’s not about that). But, today when Cameron was stating that “growing up should mean more than just getting drunk on your 18th birthday”and proposes to introduce some kind of national service, I am realizing that he is not completely hopeless. This “National service” would mean that school leavers after their exams in summer for 2 months would  enter a voluntary scheme  – combination of having ‘fun’ (though, I am not completely sure, what exactly is meant by that) and community work thus inspiring youngsters with passion, ambition and self-discipline.


As I read the newspaper about this planned initiative (i like the overall idea, but not sure, if this is the best way to implement it), in my thoughts I am traveling back to my childhood and teenage years, when through similar, but more regular and longer actions I learnt exactly that – passion, ambition and self-discipline – plus I learnt what is work, what is hard work and what is the value of money you earn and work you do. Moreover, because of this early work experience Eastern Europeans are well-known in Western countries for being hardworking, skilled, efficient, responsible and able to adapt to and survive in sometimes very harsh and tough conditions.

When I was about 6-8 years old I earned my first pocket cash by picking up red currants in our garden and selling them to a local food production company. I remember it took me about 2-3 hours to have a full  bucket of the volume of 10 litres. I dont remember anymore how much I could earn but that was my money to get prepared for school – buying maybe some clothes or stationery. In those days we had about 14 huge red currant bushes and since then for about 12-15 years every summer I have been picking up these bitterly-sweet red berries and if and when possible – earning some extra income. This naturally became as my responsibility and duty.

In my early school years this was not the only exercise. Every school year formally started on September 1, but actual studies – much later – early or mid October. Why? Because all pupils went to work in the potato fields – during the years of Soviet Union those were fields of local ‘kolhozs’, while later on after independence those were the biggest farms in our area which then provided vegetables to our school and thus significantly decreased the costs of our meals at school.

Actually my school had also its own apple garden with hundreds of apple and pear trees. Again, there was a day in autumn, when we had to go and pick up apples in boxes and store in our cellar which were used by our local catering for our daily meals at school.

In addition to that every autumn and spring we had ‘talkas’ – days off from school, when all pupils  under the leadership of teachers went to tidy a beach (my school was 200 metres from the beach) or a park nearby or a cemetery with lots of forgotten souls etc.


It is not really a practice anymore nowadays in Latvia as far as I know. But it is very interesting that while during these last 20 years we have abolished this practice (probably because, OMG – it is cheap child labour, violation of children rights, children can not do hard work, that’s not school’s task, it is not fun etc), progressive Tories in Britain are proposing this as a new and bright idea.

And, yes, as a teenage girl not always I was happy to go again to that potatoes field and bend my back all day, or to stand at the red currant bush all day while my friends are going to beach, but I believe exactly those actions in that age have made that necessary sense of responsibility, duty, patience and belonging to a larger community. Moreover, this is a way how we humans learn to survive, to obtain practical skills to make their living, be self-dependent and work in teams for common good.

In this context I would dare to state that there are definite limits of rationale of freedom and rights. Western society has become a victim of its own affection to unlimited freedom by nurturing bored generations being raised in-front of TV and computer screens and then as their hobbies choosing binge drinking, ganging etc.

Cameron definitely has a point to be worried about British youth and he better does smth about it.

But it just looks sad that after independence we tried to copy other Western countries and abolished many Soviet-times things, but eventually West is reinventing them because they are realizing the negative side-effects this freedom creates.


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