The Wigtown Daily: Full Interview with Chris Stewart

30 September 2014
Chris Stewart lives on an Andalusian farm and writes about it. Don’t pretend you’re not wildly jealous. He talks about his new book, Last of the Bus Club, today at 4.30pm.


How has farming changed since you first started?


I think it would break your heart to be a farmer today. Agribusiness calls all the shots; the big landowners and operators clean up all the spare cash, while the small farmer sinks ever deeper into the mud of declining returns, higher costs, and debt. Cheap food for the people at any cost is the policy, and those who pay the cost are the real farmers, the men and women who farm because it is their way of life. The public too pays a price for that cheap industrially produced food… in the immortal words of Garrison Keillor “You can taste the misery in the meat”.


In Granada, where we live, there are two particular quotes famous enough to be painted on tiles that are sold all over the province. The first one says :- “Give me alms, dear lady, for there is nothing that compares with the pain of being blind in Granada”. The other one, which I have on the wall of my house, is a quotation from Cicero and it runs as follows:- “Agriculture is the profession of the wise man, the most appropriate for the simple man, and the most dignified occupation for every man who values freedom”. (My translation) These words are my inspiration as I trudge out every day to dig, water or weed, but I fear that apart from a growing band of crazy idealists, they have long lost their meaning.



Can farming still be considered a lifestyle, or has it become business-oriented?


We have the unimaginable privilege though, of living on a farm but not off it. Thus we have our own olive oil, oranges and lemons, pomegranates, almonds, all the fruit, nuts and vegetables you could dream of, along with clear spring water, sweet scented firewood for the winter nights, and our own eggs and meat. We are fortunate in that we don’t have to make a living out of our produce – it would be almost impossible on a small mountain farm like ours – but what it gives us is an incomparable quality of life. Sometimes I feel that we have cheated the system, that we live like gods without having had to enslave ourselves to some dull and meaningless occupation. Of course we are slaves to our farm, but, to quote Bob Dylan, “you gotta serve somebody”.



How would you describe your new book, Last Days of The Bus Club?


I try to get these crazy ideas across. I’m not the first; there’s a whole heap of us, going back to the dawn of ideas and thinking. To revel in the pleasure of simple things, to know when you have enough, to give honestly of what you have got, to love and be worthy of love. It’s far from rocket science, but it needs repeating from time to time. Last Days of the Bus Club is yet another attempt to get these ideas across.



What advice would you give someone dreaming of chucking in the rat-race for the country idyll?


Just get down and do it. Then learn to laugh when things fall apart, as they inevitably will do; however bad things get, there will always be some poor bugger deeper down in the heap. Give it your all, work your butt off, but stop from time to time to look at the view.



What are you looking forward to at the festival? 


I like the rain falling on the sea, and getting so cold that the end of your nose goes numb and you can’t feel the dewdrop quivering there, and then your glasses misting up when you go into the pub to drink a pint of whatever it is that one drinks in those parts; it’ll be fun.


You can buy Chris' new book, Last Days of the Bus Club, at our Bookshop