A pheasant in charge!

A very mixed week here, not helped by coughs and colds. On the very positive side, Sarah and Jack are working very well together and already the vegetable garden and the sowing programme has begun, we have had a new heifer calf born and sold a further fifteen lambs. It has been a week in which we have spent further frustrating time trying to make sense of recent test results, and survived Storm Freya. 

As I so often say, it is important to somehow hold onto a sense of perspective. We were very upset at the uprooting of the one goat willow on the road to Priests Bridge.

Spring Awakening

Each year since we have been here, we have greatly enjoyed driving past its colourful spring awakening, but it now is no more. And then we saw the pictures of the effects of the tornado in Alabama. We may live in a climate which is often drabness itself but need to remember to balance that against the hazards people who live elsewhere have to cope with.

Have you noticed how the notion of ‘dressing down’ on a Friday has resurfaced – one of the problems of ageing is realising how, given time, ideas re-appear and are invariably greeted as entirely new!

Our conversations with our vet may have been in a way frustrating. but did at least ensure an exhaustive review and agreement on some actions. The vet coming out from the TB Advisory Service next week hopefully will have additional thoughts. We have already booked the next TB tests on the inconclusive reactors. 

Given the amount of rain we have recently had, hopes that the young stock at least, could leave the barn this week were pipe dreams. We now once again have puddles on some fields. Even the delivery of 10 bales of high protein organic haulage means we still have to be concerned about whether we have enough feed.

Before selecting the lambs to go, all went through the race, and given we are now selling the last animals, weights and condition were both acceptable. The race has been in use twice this week since on Tuesday the ewes were given an approved mineral drench before lambing. 

A moment of hilarity – I have mentioned before that in addition to the four moorhens in our garden, we also our have a semi resident pheasant. Sadly, a frequent visitor is also a squirrel. On Saturday the pheasant and the squirrel met, and it was no contest. The squirrel fled for its life! 

Higher Level Stewardship

A templated letter from the RPA regarding our bid for Higher Level Stewardship did little to help my blood pressure, but this was as nothing compared to the problems I then encountered.

The letter ended with the words – call us if you need further clarification which I of course acted on. The person I spoke to, however civil, could, it became clear, do no more than parrot the words of the letter. Requests to speak to the author of the letter brought forth shock at the mere idea.

Eventually I was driven to resorting to say that I was already drafting a letter to Michael Gove, at which point I was put on hold for five minutes before being put in contact with someone, I would like to say at the cutting edge, but that clearly is not a feature of the RPA.

The individual I spoke to really tried to be helpful, and clearly had had to deal with many frustrated farmers.

A follow up email I received from him suggested that that all was now dried and dusted and ready to be sent – sadly we have been here before.

The agreement will be from the 1st of January, but we may not get it until the 29th of March. I have no love for any of our political parties, but wouldn’t it be great if whoever is in power actually ensures systems work!  

Having failed to find out how I could reach Michael Gove I telephoned the staff at the Select Committee with whom I have had previous conversations and whose report published last summer drew attention to the many failings in the RPA. Other than sympathy, the most useful thing I got was how to contact with Mr Gove. I repeat my criticisms are not about the frontline staff but about the systems and the determination of senior staff to lack the courage to actually talk to complainants. 


This weeks reading

Reading the latest thoughts of Macron, I was reminded that lack of awareness of decline of power is as true for Europeans as for the British. Europe may in total have a population of over 500,000,000 but the power now lies elsewhere both in numbers of people, growth and power.

France was, of course once a world power, but dreams of regaining that, even if as part of Europe, is surely cloud cuckoo land. Empires come and go and that is just how it is!  Most, on balance, were a mix of good and bad.  Naturally we are bound to feel that the British was the worst of all these – yet more wishful thinking.

..music and poetry anthologies

An issue which I have never resolved when listening to music is whether I prefer to listen to, say, a collection dedicated to Chopin, or one-off pieces by various composers. Accepting it depends very much on mood, a concert featuring several composers can, if pieces are chosen carefully, be rather special. These days collections of works by orchestras or by conductors are commonly available.

The same applies to poetry, except perhaps that recordings dating from the 1920’s are the earliest that can be listened to with enjoyment. Of course, we can hear now the music of past centuries, but is what we hear what the original listeners heard? In poetry the poems of poets of millennia ago are still there to be enjoyed even though often only in translation.

It seems historically to have been the custom to publish ‘the complete works’ by Pope, Shelley, Browning, Kipling, Walcott or say Masefield.  This approach can be rather indigestible unless the ordering of the poet’s poems throws light on his or her poetic development. Anthologies definitely, like concerts, have their place.

Anthologies of poems are easy to find, some famous, some with a common thread, some educational and some, often the most interesting, very much reflecting the personality of the individual. As you must guess I do not lack a variety of these. The two I dip into most regularly are probably not the most obvious, and indeed perhaps are no longer in print.

The collection formed by General Wavell called “Other Men’s Flowers’ is a particular favourite. Wavell was a man who fought in wars beginning from the Boer War through to both the two world wars, rising to the rank of Field Marshall. It is not to his discredit that he fell out first with Churchill and then Attlee. He was a lion and not a donkey. He was a man who loved and found solace in poetry.

Note the restraint I show in not challenging the nonsense of the statement “Lions lead by Donkeys”.

The collection formed by Walter de la Mare called ‘Come Hither’ reflects the choices of a man who was both a poet and story teller for children and adults. As a bonus it also ends with a lengthy section called ‘out and about’ which contains a commentary on the poems chosen. A book that can be turned to time and again. I find it sad that the children’s stories written by poets such as Masefield, Stephenson, de la Mare and Kipling seem no longer to be read.

Historically the Penguin publishing group gave us a series of anthologies from those from particular nations, to modern poetry and energy to comic verse. Others provided anthologies celebrating nature, wars and other cultures. We know the Russians regarded poetry as one of the finest forms of expression. There have been times when. even in this country. poets were highly regarded, and their poems read widely.

Fortunately, despite the feeling we are a nation of philistines, somehow the urge to write poetry and for publishers to print it persists. A recent addition to my shelves has been a collection of the latest poems by Clive James. Poetry gives us something over and above what can be gained from television, computer games, music or novels, and that has been so from time immemorial. Let’s hope it is never forgotten.

Having leant a new skill, I attach a link to a piece by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, one that I enjoy so much I have, accidentally, acquired three copies of it on CD. I hope you enjoy it. 

Turning to a perhaps lesser known poet – Francis Brett Young – lines that in some ways reflect this time of year:

February – By Francis Brett Young

“The robin on my lawn

He was the first to tell

How in the frozen dawn,

This miracle befell,

Walking the meadows white

With hoar, the iron road

Agleam with splintered life,

And ice where water flowed:

Till, when the low sun drank

Those milky mists that cloak

Hanger and hollied bank,

The winter world awoke

To hear the feeble bleat

Of lambs on downland farms:

A blackbird whistled sweet;

Old beeches moved their arms

Into a mellow haze

Aerial, newly-born:

And I, alone, agaze

Stood waiting for the thorn

To break in blossom white.

Or burst in a green flame…

So, in a single night,

Fair February came,

Bidding my lips to sing

Or whisper their surprise,

With all the joy of spring

And morning in her eyes”

Continuing with the minor theme of sharing poems from other than British poets, I offer the following:

Er Ists – By Eduard Moerike

Fruehling laesst sein blaues Band

Wieder flattern durch die Luefte;

Suesse, wohlbekannte Duefte

Streifen ahnungsvoll das Land.

Veilchen traeumen schon,

Wollen balde kommen.

—Horch, von fern ein leiser Harfenton!

Fruehling, ja du bists!

Dich habe ich vernommen!

Given we now have Sarah with us, it felt appropriate to have a German poem about spring. I have no idea how it should really sound but if you assume a rhyming pattern, it sounds pretty good.  As an aide, Fruehling means spring and violets are Veilchen but if you get desperate, since it is a very popular poem in Germany, turn to google. But if that is too much trouble try this translation.

“Ribbons flutter in spring, so blue,

Flutter freshly through the skies,

Odour-sweets from earth arise,

Memories of yore so true.

Violets by now in dreams,

Wanting soon to come

Hark, sounds for a harp so gently beams!

Spring, there thou art!

Yet I’ve heard the hum”

Quite why the poem is called ‘It’s Him’ I cannot explain since after three weeks of German lessons at school I was ejected from the class as beyond redemption. Subsequently my interest in stamps means I can read German philatelic literature but have no idea of pronunciation and have some contacts with German philatelists – who speak English anyway!

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