Book Simple: Cold Comfort Farm and Planned Parenthood
The animals are discomfortingly close at the Washington zoo. The cheetah, with a running start, seemed like it could easily clear that mere wall of holly surrounding its realm. The sign which warns not to touch the prairie dogs due to their propensity to bite appeared, well, much more necessary than in other zoos I’ve visited.
Despite the recent warmth, by afternoon there was a distinct chill, giving the zoo an air reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm, the charming novel by Stella Gibbons, had it also been overrun by several busloads of parents and toddlers in Maclaren strollers. “The farm lay in the shadow of a cold, windswept hill … surrounded on all sides by rough stone buildings, where the animals were kept – cowsheds for the thin, bony cows, stables for the horses ….” February, the time when Flora Poste arrives at the farm, is rather bleak, but as her uncle Amos knows, “soon all the animals and plants would be renewing life.”
Let me explain: Flora, our heroine, needs to find housing. When her distant parents passed away “Flora was discovered to possess every skill except that of earning enough to live on.” Like any sensible girl, she turns to relatives. Despite the charming offer of a bedroom borrowed from a mother’s cousin and shared with a parrot, Flora chooses the Starkadders. “Child, child,” writes Aunt Judith, “We are not like other people, maybe, but there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm, and we will do our best to welcome Robert Poste’s child.”
Arriving at the farm, Flora discovers that, while stocked with the anticipated “highly sexed young men” named Reuben, Seth and Adam, Cold Comfort Farm is additionally full of opportunities for Flora to organize. Flora can put Reuben, the farm’s Heathcliff, at ease about inheriting the farm, and can dip Seth, its Mellors, in the ice bath of an interest other than women. Amos is packed off to save sinners, travelling in a Ford van and preaching on market days. Flora figures out little wild Elfine as well: “A well-cut dress and a fashionable hairstyle might make her look really lovely.”
Parody, for such this is, always makes a clarifying point. Human beings must take themselves less seriously. Our needs are much less complicated than we imagine. We so often muddy up matters that are at heart, very simple. A scrubbed kitchen and contented inhabitants make Cold Comfort Farm an entirely different place from the grim, dirty Cliff Notes version of Wuthering Heights it starts as.
Flora believes firmly, as do I, in a tidy life. Meriam, the frequently pregnant housemaid, is not totally receptive to Flora’s stern dose of information about the nature of contraceptives. “’Tes wickedness,’ said Meriam heavily. ‘That’s right,’ said her mother. There was a pause. Then she added, ‘All the same, it might be worth tryin’.”
Speaking of family planning, (and I apologize about the transition, but I can’t come up with anything funny to say about this) please inform your congressperson about your opinion regarding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is an organization that has helped women keep their lives under control for over ninety years. Its federal funding is currently threatened, but every dollar spent funding Planned Parenthood saves taxpayers about $4 in Medicare expenses, according to the Guttmacher Institute. You can support Planned Parenthood HERE or HERE. It is an extremely important last resort, whether as a source of cancer screenings, prophylactics or information for those without many choices. Please stand with Planned Parenthood.
Click on the book cover to buy COLD COMFORT FARM at Amazon!