Europe: The Final Countdown

Britain Is Going Back to the Dark Ages, So I Spent the Day as a Peasant

I ate a potato, tried to pray, and enjoyed the company of some sheep.

by Joe Bish
Jul 1 2016, 12:00am

The author, being humble. All photos by Jake Lewis

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

Boy howdy, have we made a mess of things. It would seem that in the last week, the United Kingdom has managed to economically cripple itself, have its entire government thrown into a state of turmoil, bolster the ideology behind despicable racist and xenophobic attacks, and become the laughing stock of the entire world.

We have taken the idea of progressive modernity, put it into a meat grinder, turned it into a shitty microwavable sausage, eaten it, shat it out, and then booted it into a sandy, dusty five-a-side soccer pitch to melt away in the sun. The people are, as per usual for times like these, complaining that Britain is going "back to the Dark Ages," where that same sausage-y shit would be poured out of a window and on top of some poor guy with plague pustules bursting all over his exposed genitalia. That's where we are now, that's where we sit. The Black Death is coming for us all.

But maybe the Dark Ages weren't so bad? Maybe we could do with a little bit of regression. Maybe we're just thinking about things too much these days. European Unions, Brexits, Johnsons, Corbyns—where has this stuff got us? A place on a decrepit rescue boat up the wide, brown, and loamy Shit Creek. No paddles here, friends; you'll have to use your hands. I spent the day as a medieval serf, the common peasant, the grub-man, to see if being plunged back to a time where I would already be middle aged and dying at 23 could compete with the sexy Snapchat dog filter of a life I've built for myself.

Firstly, a day's graft had to be completed. What kind of serf would I be without breaking my brittle backbone into a thousand tiny pieces with some menial work? My real job work is menial enough, sure, but not in a medieval way, so I headed up to the Spitalfields City Farm to indulge in some agricultural slogging. I had to lose my glasses too. It had to be an authentic medieval day, and petty things like "being able to see anything at all" did not fit into that dream.

I thought it best to begin to get into the mind set of the peasant. It was no good just walking around looking like a idiot, I had to start acting like one too. I became scared of the technologies around me, like this Crimson Chimney.

I was also perturbed and beguiled by this contraption that dispensed Royal Paper. I put the colored sheets in the pocket of my pelt. Perhaps I could trade them with the Solstice Witch for some beans and teeth.

I got to the farm and got straight to work. I mucked out a pen with a big fork and emptied it into a giant compost pile, where a friendly chicken was mooching around, pecking at the detritus.

I then tended to my flock. I fed a sheep some digestive biscuits, who then immediately fucked off as soon as I ran out of them. It got some of it's slobber on my hand. I didn't mind, it was as if it was kissing my knuckle in thanks.

This cockerel is called Jack, and has been in films, including one featuring Sex Lives of the Potato Men star Mackenzie Crook. He was very polite and nice and cawed softly as I held him in my arms. You can tell he's an actor as he has excellent media training.

In the community garden was a maypole, which I danced gaily around, the foliage brushing my ankles sweetly as I became dizzy with joy. Perhaps I could find a wife here, and we could frolic among the plants and bugs forevermore, having ten children, seven of whom die before me, the rest dying just after me. A man tending to some crops offered me some kale he'd been growing. I accepted it. I would have it for my lunch, along with the potato I'd brought from home.

Before I ate though, it was time for some prayer. The serfs prayed a lot I'm told, morning noon and night, so they did. There was a church across the road from the farm, so I wandered off to praise the Lord for allowing me to spend my short time on this earth surrounded by pig shit and under the thumb of cruel noblemen.

But it was closed! O, cruel fate! Hark to thee, vicar, let me in I say! I banged on the door to rouse the holy spirit from its slumber, but to no avail. I was a sinner for a day. God had cast me asunder and wouldn't let me into his house, as if I was trying to sell him cut price cleaning goods. 40 lashes for me when I get home. I'll use my iPhone charger wire.

Tired and hungry, I retired to a nearby field to consume my produce. I wanted to make a potage, but being a millennial who can scarcely operate a can opener, I did not have the skills nor the utensils to cook. I thought it best to just go ahead and eat the potato raw, sandwiched in the fresh kale I'd just acquired as payment for my hard work.

Needless to say, it fucking sucked. It didn't suck nearly as much as I thought it would, but it still sucked.

There was a lot of slug and snail slime all over the kale, which I think played havoc with my bowels. I hear that some vegans just eat raw food, so I thought it would be totally chill. It wasn't chill and I had to evacuate myself in the nearest bush, replete with needles and graffiti, with only a few spider's webs and chip bags for toilet paper. The dark ages were beginning to get very dark for me indeed.

After my gastric ordeal, it was time to calm down with some serf entertainment. Shin-kicking is an old school game that some creeps and weirdos in the provinces still play. The objective is to kick the shit out of someone else's shins until they're completely immobilized. This is what they did to relax back in the day. And so shall it be for me!

I consigned one of my colleagues to play with me. After a long, painful, and arduous battle down a back alley near my office, he emerged victorious.

I had failed in almost all of my dark age duties. I couldn't prepare a potage, I couldn't pray properly. Hell, I even think Jack the celebrity cockerel thought I was a prick. I deserved a very medieval punishment, and enlisted some friends to pelt me with soggy tomatoes while I was restrained by some scaffolding poles. A fitting end to my embarrassing, filthy, degrading day.

§

I don't really know why people always fucking complain about going back to the Dark Ages. Sure everyone died all the time, and looked like shit, and smelled like shit, and ate shit to stay alive, only to die a week later from eating that shit—but it's a simple life with its own riches. We have shunned these ways. Instead of farms and cattle we have Hummus Bros and vape tricks. I would rather be steeped in an avalanche of livestock effluence than read another thinkpiece. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Next time you tweet about going back to the dark ages, think about what that entails: returning to nature, to your human roots, being one with the animals (before you slaughter them mercilessly with your bare hands), being at one with our lord, eating fresh food you've made yourself, and getting the absolute shit kicked out of your shins. We could all do with a bit of that bliss in these troubled times.

Follow Joe Bish on Twitter.