A busy week with great news.

A busy week with great news.

It is very hard to tell how much of the tiredness we feel at the end of the week results from the media bombarding us with matters relating to Brexit – and that must be true for many.

It has certainly been a week of paperwork, and exhausting attempts to contact officialdom, but at least our higher-level Stewardship agreement has been received, and now accepted by us. There will be more paperwork this weekend in readiness for the soil association inspection.

To a similar degree Ulula has been immersed in doing its best to be in a position to manage Brexit, should it happen.


While overall, we are very happy with the state of our cattle and sheep, there have been problems, and the loss of another ewe. A sheep appears to have been attacked by a dog, but hopefully is recovering well. Bacchus is suffering from an eye condition and we have had to have the vet visit three times during the week. The ewe that died got ‘cast’ – a real hazard when the sheep are in the last stages of pregnancy and they look like barrels is that if they roll onto their backs, they cannot recover their footing, and if they are in that position too long, they die. However careful we are, it is not possible to watch them for every hour of the day and night. They are now in the field immediately across the bridle path from the barn and far as lambing readiness is concerned all is ready.

The suckler herd remain in the barn as we are benefiting from the ill fortune of a neighbour in that we have the use of his organic silage. This means we will have more grass for them when they are released.

With the smaller number of breeding ewes, we can manage without the whole barn for lambing.

Though we are getting anxious about the lack of rain, the dryness of the pastures has allowed one of our poorer performing fields to be spread with compost.

Driving around the neighbourhood it is impossible not to notice how many farmers have already lambed and turned their cattle out. To each their own, one has to operate according to the particular vagaries of the land you farm.

Sadly, the bird survey we were looking forward to has had to be put off for a year which means when it is carried out next year our pastures will be quite different and so might the bird population.

Woofers

On Friday the sun eventually burnt off the mist and when Sarah left for her long train journey to Rostock it was with our very best wishes and thanks. She left us with firm instructions and ideas for the continuation of what she and Jack achieved in our vegetable garden. Jack left us on Saturday but will return towards the end of the week. He certainly deserves a break and hopefully the weather will be kind to him.

The work that he and Sarah have been doing means that, so long as we can keep it up, we should have really good vegetables this year. Certainly, we are all very much enjoying home grown rhubarb at the moment.

The farm currently is looking at its best, with banks of blackthorn and other blossom trees in full flower. Sadly, amateur photographs are inadequate to enable us to share this beauty with you.

The British Isles, a little history

In recent days I have listened and watched far too many hours of proceedings in parliament. The SNP are very active players and include some of the best speakers in the House, but their key driver is Scottish nationalism. Wondering why, I revisited a reasonably balanced history of relations between the two countries.

Enmity between the four parts of the islands that may perhaps be safely called the British Isles (I exclude Cornwall since the situation there is less clear) was a feature of everyday life for centuries and existed for many reasons. Geology may have played a part because it was only the joining some 300 million years or so ago of England and Wales to Northern Scotland and Cornwall to Devon, that attached areas of beauty but little valuable agricultural land to the larger part which was England and Wales. 

The border country between England to the west and to the north was often ‘bandit territory’ and attacks were usually initiated by the smaller neighbours. For a range of reasons Welsh feelings of nationality never reached the level of that of the Scottish, though among the Welsh, despite a huge influx of non-speaking immigrants from England flickers of such feeling have never been totally extinguished.

Relations between Scotland and England were always more explosive. Hopes that the accession of King James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, bizarrely led, over the next 150 years, to more invasions of England by the Scots than ever before. Attempts to persuade the English parliament to allow the nations to become one failed on at least two occasions. It was not until 1707, related perhaps to the financial crisis of the Darian failure, that actual union took place. Despite the two Jacobite uprisings, there then followed a period of peace and integration. The Scottish people produced great engineers, politicians and philosophers, and were the backbone of the Third British Empire. Glasgow in that period was the second city of that empire.

Underlying the situation over all these years was the issue of religion and its different impact on the two cultures. Why did the cinders of resentment burst into flame in the last half of the 20th century despite, I would say, genuine efforts to remove grievances? The answer I fear primarily lies in folk memories, accurate or false, which together eventually led to a sense of grievance that burst on us in the last fifty or so years. Ally this to a lack of awareness or ignorance on the part of the people of the larger partner, and here we are.

If there is a feeling I have ignored Ireland, that is correct, but if anybody cares to look at what happened in 1641 in particular, the role of past history on present feelings leaps out.

The only answer I can find to this lack of understanding of the significance of the past is that the era of the historian who attempted to write joined up history has to a large degree been seen as an outdated approach. Historians tend today to specialise in the particular, and this is reflected inevitably in how history is taught in schools. There are Historians once again who attempt to provide linked up history, and this approach is once again respected, but too often when the questions are asked e.g. ‘why did this happen’, the answers often neglect consideration of all but the recent past.

Henry Ford was, if he actually said it, an idiot in saying “history is bunkum”. 

Bauhaus

Germany has been celebrating the centenary of the Bauhaus, an institution which could be compared to the Glasgow School of Art. That last institution was not forced to close in the 1930’s unlike the Bauhaus, which was regarded by the Nazi’s as decadent with its art nouveau approach. It’s founder and director fled Germany to England. His stay in England was not very happy, as the strength of the existing art nouveau movement and the William Morris movement left little room for him to find his own niche. As a notorious womaniser – he did of course break up the Mahler’s marriage – his writings suggest that additionally he found British women “too bony”! In America he did better as an architect, providing buildings that satisfied his ego but took no account of those who were actually to use and live in them.

Which magazines do you read?

It may be unfashionable, but we still subscribe to a number of magazines. Our choice has shifted over time. The ‘Oldie’ has replaced Punch (which long ago lost the plot) and is one I would recommend to those of any age. ‘This Week’ saves us having to take a daily newspaper. Private eye is just too too depressing, and in any case, I am no longer likely to figure in it. We have stopped taking both the TLS and the LRB which rarely got read thoroughly, and often just seemed pretentious. Anne takes ‘New View’ and unfairly I take not one but two music magazines.

From one of these magazines I learnt that there is an active volcanic area centred on the German Rhineland. This region known as the Eifel Graben has caused the German government ongoing concern since 2012.

‘Graben’ has a number of meanings but in geological language is a ‘Rift Valley.’ ‘Graben’ was a term I had never come across, before so foolishly I explored further, but soon got out of my depth. However, I did discover there is a ‘Worcester graben’ and an Inkberrow fault, but happily both are ancient relics of an activity over 300,000,000 years ago. The Rhinelanders cannot be so relaxed as ‘experts’ are recording worrying activity in one of the caldera.

There appears to be a growing fear that unless institutions or aspects of culture switch their attention to the youth of our society, all is lost. Basically, a restatement of the Jesuit idea that if you mould a child before the age of seven you have them for life. I do not believe this is sensible since it seems to be a very high-risk strategy. In the first place the adult population might turn its back and walk away. Secondly it ignores the reality that for most of us, age affects thinking and ‘taste’. Obviously, there are those who fail to ‘mature’, it’s hard not to immediately think of a certain leading politician.

Classical musics popularity

From this thought I moved on to think about why classical music is, by and large, not loved by the wider public. I think it is not because of the apparent formality, or the pretensions associated with it or because it is not attuned to the young.  Listening to Classic FM as opposed to BBC radio 3 perhaps provides part of the answer. If you can cope with the advertisement breaks, which is a big ask, you register how carefully they choose parts of pieces and rarely play the whole composition.

Even the most moving and justifiably admired compositions have sections which one puts up with for the sake of the best parts. Which concertos do not have written in sections or cadenzas in which the performer is solely just showing his or her technical brilliance? How many arias in opera are not affected by the same problem?  Music which does not allow the individual, group or orchestra to show off their virtuosity tends perhaps naturally to be written off.

Equally, composers often shun popularity for the sake of their craft – seeking a higher truth?  Listening to Bach’s variations, often they are simply boring. Listening to a piano piece by Avro Part written in the minimalist style evokes no emotion whatsoever. 

The great classical composers have/had the same skills as the most successful writers of popular songs and music, they tap into the basic reasons why life without music is unthinkable. These include tugging at the heart strings, causing the body to respond physically, relaxing, helping sleep come and lifting the spirits. Music, perhaps like alcohol, also has a role as providing a back-cloth to conversation and conviviality. The link between music and mathematics may be irrefutable and really excite a few but is not of interest to most.

Let’s get away from feeling that there is a political imperative to ‘educate or extend horizons for all’ by inserting a piece of ‘new music’ into a concert programme. This may make the programme producers feel virtuous, but rarely genuinely impresses audiences. And let us not be put off by the argument there are great composers worshipped today who were rejected in their time – that proves nothing. Beethoven’s string quartets, especially his later ones, certainly don’t sooth, but they do hold the attention of most who listen to them or even better attend a live performance. 

Why turn up our noses at composers of film of television series music unless it is seen as simply beyond the pale. My guess would be that such music is probably as demanding on the composers as writing a serious symphony.

Or am I in a fit of pique just responding to the horrible noises, Radio Three routinely presents us with, some of the worst being early in the morning. Probably totally unfair, but I do feel that a bit more of a ‘bah humbug’ and ‘emperors’ new clothes’ approach might be appropriate. Or do we get this music partly as the pleasure composers derive from getting away with nonsense. 

Spring goeth all in white

A short time ago I quoted from an anthology collected by Robert Bridges who was Poet Laureate from 1913 to his death in 1930, I felt it would be right to share a poem written by him about spring.

Spring Goeth All In White – Poem by Robert Seymour Bridges

Crowned with milk-white may:

Spring goeth all in white,

O’er heaven the white clouds stray:

In fleecy flocks of light

White butterflies in the air;
White daisies prank the ground:
The cherry and hoary pear
Scatter their snow around

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