There was once a boy who went to war. Aged just 16, he persuaded the recruiting Sergeant to turn a blind eye, got kitted out and left for France, there to join his brothers in the trenches. Two years later, he was the only one to return home. The years passed and the boy became a man, took over the farm and worked the land well into his 70’s. Blessed with an agile mind and tough as Teak, he bore the scars of working with often unguarded and seriously dodgy farm machinery – not least several missing finger joints, victims of an unruly buzz saw. And with no one about to help on the day his cab-less tractor tipped over, he bent a steel bolt to free himself from the wreck and then walked home. He lived into his late 80’s and died while finishing the Guardian crossword. Like I said, bright. And tough. Thirty years on, and in almost every country – impoverished third world republics apart – roll bars are compulsory on tractors. Except in France. Here, our sons of the soil have flashing, detachable orange bubble lights with magnetic bases instead - so allowing Gaston to stride across his farmyard, plug in the coiled lead and slap the light onto his ageing John Deere’s mudguard à la Hawaii 5-O. ‘Book ‘eem, Danno’ he’ll mutter under his breath as he hurtles onto the lane, dried cow shit flying off the rear wheels.
Clearly, these lights not only project an invisible force field – thereby rendering other safety measures unnecessary – but also obviate both the need to look in the rear view mirror (assuming there is one) and operate the indicators – the argument being that more than one flashing orange light is confusing. That said, most of our boiler suited brethren are pretty good at letting those travelling at more than 5kph go past, though God alone knows how they’re aware of our presence – perhaps it’s some kind of farmery sixth sense. But even with such little traffic on the roads, it’s all rather more devil may care than you’d expect – and something of which the boy who went to war, my great uncle, would definitely approve.