NEW BLOG: nature is reminding us that Spring is ahead.

Happy New Year!

Well, after the snow came the melt, and inevitably, the river overflowed its bank and we had flooding. As the ground was still frozen, the water took some time to drain away, and when it went, it rained!  The pastures are accordingly wet, wet wet! It is important therefore that the feed trailers are on hard core and access to them requires minimum travel by the tractor on grass.

Though we feel sorry and a little guilty that the sheep have no cover from the elements, it does help to remind ourselves of the fact that they come from one of the wettest parts of Wales! In any case, when they went through the race recently, confirmation came that their condition was as good as daily observation suggested. We are still moving them around every three weeks or so in order that the animals get at least some fresh grass to eat apart from the haylage in the feeder trailers.

The cattle seem contented and we have another calf – a male one this time. The rain means that we are having to use a lot of bedding straw, and the cold meant they ate more than normal, but so far so good. News that a neighbour had lost 100 of his herd of 300 cattle to TB was sobering.


Around and about, the daffodils on the drive, that don’t sit under the winter rainfall, are starting to make an appearance above the soil, and cyclamen are flowering in the garden. Despite the cold winds and icy temperatures, nature is reminding us that Spring is ahead.


You may recall from notes I wrote in late November that our Stewardship contract expires in April next year. Given, as you will recall, 40% of the average farm income comes from subsidies such as the Stewardship contact, and indeed, an interview with a hill farmer suggested that for them, the subsidy made up 70% of their income, you will understand the importance of all this to us in the post Brexit scenario.

So, possible good news on the funding front came from MP Michael Gove’s speech to the Oxford Real Farming Conference this week, and having listened to it, it does looks as though funding for agriculture will continue post Brexit at, at least, the same level. Moreover, it seems that the intention is to increase the percentage of the subsidy that will go to environmental schemes, which is obviously of importance to us.

In ‘other’ news, a first strand of ‘comment’, relates to memories evoked when hearing that ‘Little Women’ was being serialised for the television over Christmas. Being blessed or cursed with both a good memory and much curiosity, my mind went into overdrive.

Which other American authors had I read; what was the range of the children’s books available to my generation and, given the range stretched from the Victorian period to the 1950’s, how might I answer the classic question “compare and contrast”; what influence had they had being pious or at least worthy, jingoistic or socialist, exciting and/or informative and last but not least how did our language change over the course of the 100-year period covered by these authors. Great fun but sadly this is not the place to expand any further! In any case I am not a Margaret Fisher or Geoffrey Trease ‘…intent upon reading…. ‘ and ‘Tales out of school’.

A second strand of ‘comment’ is that ‘fake news’ is often referred to today as though it is something new. Perhaps that is because we live at a time when more and more is known about the past, but fewer and fewer people tap into this information – instead lapping up ‘statements’ which ignore rather than falsify truth.   For example, we have seen recently the appearance of books bringing together some of ‘the facts’ that the ‘Left’ would rather be forgotten. I referred some time ago to the attack on the myth that the Welfare State was the product of the Labour Party.

A recent book entitled ‘Gulag and the Left’ highlights the degree to which the Left shut its eyes to the realities of the Soviet state in the 1930’s, issues that much concerned George Orwell who wrote about them in his essay ‘The lion and the unicorn’.

This is of course not a failing of only one class or party, but does indicate the dangers of trying to take the moral high ground when few individuals or movements have no skeletons in their closets.

A third strand of ‘comment’ is, how much, both good and bad, came from the 19th century. Thrown up by the memory of books read as a youngster, I recalled vividly reading ‘A child of the Jago’

From all sides of my family there was movement from the land and from sea faring into the East End of London. They never lived in the worst parts of the area and though some ended in the work house, others prospered – a typical story. My mother’s grandfather was an early activist in the Independent Labour Party, while my father’s grandfather prospered as a rope manufacturer having begun as a rag and bone man.

A placement in the Bethnal Green area in the nineteen sixties required going back to re-reading ‘A child of the Jago’, and of course the James Greenwood publication of 1869 titled ‘The seven curses of London’ – just one of a variety of reports from individuals and committees which eventually led to the reform movement that saw things slowly but radically improve.

Obviously, I ought to at least give Charles Dickens a respectful nod for his part in this change but sadly I have never, at any age, found his writings catch my interest.

Looking at the list of the ‘Seven Curses’, the improvement is obvious, but equally obvious is the fact that matters may be better, but are still far from perfect. Of perhaps of particular interest is a strand running through the book of the corruption, turning a blind eye and collusion of the police force and magistrates with the criminal world. ‘Plus ca change’.

Finally, on a lighter note Anne and I enjoyed a small culture fest, in that, for 5 consecutive nights we watched films on ITV – I won’t be negative about the adverts since the BBC seems to devote much time to also providing them – spurred to take on this marathon by claims by certain members of the family that our ignorance of Harry Potter was lamentable. So, we watched films 5, 6 and 7 parts 1 and 2.

I suppose the most positive to be said is that we did watch them from start to finish, even if the last two were shot in almost total darkness, so enhancing our general confusion! Having sacrificed ourselves in this way, we were told the films were nothing like the books in content and nowhere near as good!

The final film we saw was Spectre which at least was shot in good light and like all good series should, left an opening for yet another Bond film to follow.


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