Irene Johnson (known as Buster) was born at Versailles in 1907, to a French mother and English father. She was 29 when she married Johnny, swapping her cultured upper middle class life for one of frequent chaos and uncertainty. In 1951 they moved with their young family to Nethercote, a remote and run down farm in the heart of Exmoor. They were still living there when they died; Buster in 1987, Johnny in 1992.
About the editor:
Birdie Johnson, the youngest of Buster and Johnnyâs four children, spent a large part of her life at Nethercote, the family farm. In 2002 she produced the Exmoor Oral History Archive (www1.somerset.gov.uk/archives/Exmoor) and, with photographer Mark Rattenbury, co-authored Reflections: Life Portraits of Exmoor, the book of the archive. She moved to the High Weald of East Sussex in 2009, where the landscape serves as a replacement for the Exmoor she left behind.
BORIS JOHNSON'S GRANNYFESTO
Boris Johnson announces his 'Grannyfesto' to a packed and appreciative audience of friends and family at the launch of Alas Poor Johnny, a memoir of life on an Exmoor farm written by his grandmother Buster (Granny Butter), Dulverton Town Hall, Easter Monday, 6 April 2015
âIt is fair to say that no one in our family has much of a reputation for meeting copy deadlines â and indeed one of the reasons my brother Jo has had to zoom back to London this morning is that someone rang him before breakfast and reminded him that they needed 4000 words by 7pm for the Tory election manifesto â donât worry â itâs going to be superb.
But Granny Butter has today beaten all comers by producing her book not just late but fully 28 years after her death â to call her the late Granny Butter is an understatement, my friends â and it is a triumph.
Her memoirs have been brilliantly edited by Birdie and every page of them evokes a world that has almost vanished â Exmoor in the 1950s. A world without television and the internet, a world without central heating and mains electricity. Where life is an elemental struggle to start the fire and light the tilley lamps and pull the cows from the bog and save the sheep from an appalling disease called blackleg, to which they invariably succumb.
And yet I am sure that Jo would agree with me that there is so much we can learn from this book. And in this tense pre-electoral period I believe it is time to cull the 10 key points and put them to the people.
Yes; here it is â the Grannyfesto.
1. Abolish VAT on hearing aids.
2. Apply to the UN for immediate recognition of the superior intelligence of rats, geese and other animals.
3. Create a fourth emergency service, staffed by volunteers, to perform that humanitarian function essential to any civilised society of pulling your husband, and his landrover, from the river when he has had one too many at the Royal Oak.
4. Institute forthwith an NHS for animals, funded out of general taxation, to help cope with the appalling and vaguely obscene consequences of terrier tail baldness.
5. Admit asylum seekers from Italy and other Eurozone disaster areas on the strict understanding they speak English and help with the lambing.
6. Bring back hunting to Exmoor. While always respecting the feelings, and indeed the wishes, of all animals involved.
7. Relax planning bureaucracy so that hard pressed hill farmers can build attractive tractor sheds for machines that ceased to function at least 20 years ago.
8. Negotiate an immediate opt out from all burdensome and intrusive EU legislation on vacuum cleaners and other electric appliances, because sometimes the wood is so wet that the only way to get the fire going is the old Electrolux on reverse thrust, and put it to the people in the form of an in-out referendum.
9. Make scrabble an Olympic sport, provided that joey with a small j is globally recognised as a valid term for a baby kangaroo.
10. Finally, above all, bring back MANNERS, in young people. So that they stand up when all grown-ups, particularly ladies, enter the room. And so that they eat crisps in the proper way, with a knife and fork, as Granny Butter was taught to do when she was brought up in the Pavillon du Barry, Versailles.
That is the Grannyfesto my friends, these are the ten key policies that I think will carry this country, or indeed any country, on May the 7th. If you seek any further elucidation it is all here in this wonderful book, for which we thank Granny Butter, as indeed we thank her for so much else. So well done Birdie on a brilliant job â and forwards to victory with Granny Butter.â
Alas Poor Johnny by Buster Johnson
Edited by Birdie Johnson, with a foreword by Boris Johnson
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