40 bird species!

Putting to one side the fact that a struggle in the wood shed last Wednesday left me feeling as if I had been head butted by a calf while being struck across the back by a fence post, it has been delightful to see the sun shining and contented ewes nibbling. Since I am now housebound both by command and physical injury, I can even more appreciate the views from our bedroom and sitting room over the garden and fields.

The children revelled in the warmth of the early week, both out in summer clothes and sun hats, together with excited dogs as they built themselves a ‘den’ at the wild end of the garden. No missing school bothering them. Speaking entirely personally, though of course as a retired educationalist, in my view the children are learning at least as much as if they were at school – different but just as important things. We have this obsession in this country with force feeding children’s brains at an early as age as possible, or to be cynical is it just so that they are not underfoot at home? All right for some I hear you say but society is in part our responsibility as well.

In a strange way the farm, for the present at least, feels isolated from the surreal outside world. If the supply of diesel dried up, we would struggle, if the abattoirs shut, new techniques would have to be learnt, if the water supply failed, we have our own natural source of water. Nothing would be easy, but life could be maintained. As a family we do need the pharmacists to continue to supply life maintaining drugs but otherwise….

Nature of course rolls on un-involved in any way with the idiocy of humans. Another calf arrived safely without human intervention, we lost a ewe that had been active and alert to the end.

Though it is not for me to address the problems facing the business park and the SCBS, they obviously do exist, and the lack of activity on the drive and the sense of being in a ghost town underlines this. For many tenants, most of them self-employed, life is very worrying and while the charity clearly wants to do all it can to help, it has its own financial position to consider too.


To return to a happier matter I am delighted that Gert, in an early morning visit to the farm before the lock down, identified 40 species of birds and this before the summer migration has really started. The most exiting observation was of reed buntings. Sadly, no kingfisher or heron was observed, but given the flooding of the Bow Brook that is perhaps no surprise. Very unfortunately this visit will not be followed up as by no stretch of the imagination can travelling to undertake bird Surveys be called essential and Gert has to protect himself just as the rest of us do. We all wish him well and perhaps…. next year he can try again.

Final seeding and lambing

Chris is talking with Jonathan, our contractor and local leading environmentalist, about completing the final seeding and if this dry weather actually holds, that work may be possible. That and lambing are major immediate concerns. This year, for the latter, we shall have no woofers to assist, Tim has the constant worry of his mother’s health, Chris is totally overworked, and Brendan may not be available – still what will be will be. In the meantime, with Martin still on site and the ground drying out, efforts are being made to eliminate all traces of the oval gallop by levelling the ground between the track and the centre. A task that has been on the list for years and needs doing early in the season to allow regeneration.

The time draws closer to our long-distance inspections, and once it is clear, which it may be by Monday, I shall have a real incentive to ignore the complaints of my body and address what is wanted.

I have incidentally received my LETTER – Anne, by not revealing her email address, has escaped. 

The American way

For those of you who read the Washington Post or Atlantic, one can only say thank goodness we have not emulated too much of the American way of life. There, chaos on an unimaginable scale ranks supreme. I would never have thought I would write this but thank goodness we have leadership from The Johnson and not Trump – a man who surely should be ‘sectioned.’ Perhaps leadership is over-egging it, but we do at least have a strong civil service and a military well accustomed to helping in times of crisis. 


We read much about life in Europe and have real concerns for our friends there, particularly in Italy. It looks unlikely that those who were coming from late June to the end of August may be able to join us and that is a real disappointment as we had already established good relationships.  Hopefully they may be able to come next year.

To-do list

Speaking personally, the deepest frustration is being physically unable to keep on top of my list of jobs to do and talking to people. Aside from writing up stamps, I have on the go a number of articles I am writing – nothing too significant, together with a range of thoughts that I have failed to bottom to my satisfaction while, underlying all, are issues relating to the farm and it’s future when Anne and I are no longer on the scene.

It was all very well Max Hastings suggesting now was the time to write our memoirs, but for most of us, thinking backwards does not come easily, and even when you try it, what level of accuracy can one hope to achieve. And all this assumes somebody might be interested in reading what is written. I have written the odd paragraph but frankly if our children do not know us now, warts and all, what is the point.


Butterflying as you must by now be used to, I have been worrying about the lack of precision in our use of language – perhaps inherited from the worship of the ancient Greeks in the 19th century?  Are ‘seeking attention’ and ‘ambition’ the same? The Greek word for both is thymus. Can we distinguish between ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’? All thoughts brought to a head in my mind in receiving a fascinating and delightfully illustrated book called ‘Lost in Translation.’ Every page sets out a word in a particular language and then explains in a welter of words it’s meaning.

Being an automatic number counter by habit it was easy to see which languages produced the most examples, which languages were quite unknown to me, and the oddity that English was not represented at all. For those who doubt my sanity I do recognise that the choice reflected the author, not any serious statistical count. Given the identity of the individual who sent me the book I wondered at the need for ‘Kabel Salat’ since ‘tangle’ seems perfectly acceptable, and ‘Warmducher’ for the person who likes a warm shower – how many of us happily take a cold shower? Quite unfair I know but all in all, it really is a beautifully produced and written book and will give the family much pleasure.

But then I thought about the matter from the other end. Easy perhaps to define a great tennis player or violinist, but what about describing a great teacher or a great human being. The limitations of words become obvious and at some point, one just ‘knows’. This is perhaps where poetry comes into its own as a best attempt to describe scenes, situations and emotions which are otherwise only accessible to one’s feelings. Oddly poets don’t seem to realise the violin so often can say it all without words at all, should one have ears to hear it.

Speaking of poetry, am I alone in feeling that the elimination of rote learning in our education left significant drawbacks. When I think how my grandparents were able to pull out of their memory appropriate poems learnt long ago by rote, I so wish I could do the same. Of course, I can remember the odd line, especially from poems learnt for ‘O’ Level exams but that is no substitute. The odd thing is that for those exams at which no books were allowed, poems, at least one play and chunks of Caesar, Virgil and Ovid, all had to be there in one’s head sufficiently well to quote and compare and contrast. Where did it all disappear to?

Personally, sleep has overtaken both reading and music as my main relaxation aside from thinking. Anne is ‘buried’ in the 16th century following the adventures of one called Shardlake. The author is both a storyteller and a historian – he needs to be since his books are many hundreds of pages long. They also cast a necessary sense of perspective on our current predicament.

The poem below, most importantly came to me in translation from a close friend. Anne and I enjoyed it so much and the smile it brought to our faces that it seemed right to share it with you. Life must go on and humour is, for the English a key coping strategy.

The German author, Wilhelm Busch is apparently, both a humourist and illustrator. 

The Lonely One by Wilhelm Busch

the lonely one, the lucky one,
to him, by none, no harm is done.

no disturbance of his comfort zone,
no man, no pet, and no trombone,
and none who gives lessons wise,
which, though meant well, mean excercise.

escaped from everything that’s bitter.
he wanders in his carpet slippers
and in his night gown, if he likes,
as days go by, idleness strikes.

He knows no female prohibition,
that’s why he smokes with no submission.
safe from the gaze of curious spies
the patches to his clothes he ties
all by himself. And if he wants,
a whistled song is his response,
or silence filled with blows and puffs
and loud and unattractive coughs.

Thus, by and by, the memory goes
of his existence in the heads of those
who, at the utmost, now and then,
think, by themselves: what was his name?

to cut a lengthy story short:
(apart from taxes) it‘s felicity‘s hoard
which leads to how this has begun:
the lonely one, the lucky one.

Emily Dickinson

A light exists in spring
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period –
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels…

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