A testing time

The week has passed without major incident. The vet had to be called out to tend a young heifer who had a nasty wound from a horn. He did the necessary and also checked our cow with a lump. Happily, he felt all should be well after his ministrations, and indeed both animals seem completely untroubled. Next week is of course TB testing, never a treat for any farmer.

As for the ewes, we now have the scanners booked in for Sunday the 17th of this month; the ewes look good and seem very contented. The lambs are mostly well, with only a few with “dirty bottoms”.

Happily, or sadly as far as the children are concerned, the terrible snow forecast at the beginning of the week failed to materialise, though on Friday morning there was a smattering. We certainly have had frosts, but nothing out of the ordinary. Just as the sheep are getting through their feed quickly, so are the birds that frequent our bird feeders, mainly blue and great tits, sparrows and goldfinches. The moorhens and pheasant seem happy with what feed gets spilled. What has been quite amusing to observe has been the ‘pecking order’. The mistle thrush sees off the blackbirds, the wood pigeons ignore all other species, while the moorhens avoid the jackdaws. Good news also is to have seen a flock of starlings back on the farm.

At last the brook has more water in it, and the scrape is once again full. Despite this the pastures are still pretty firm, though there is some poaching around the feeding trailers. Jack is now tackling the brambles in the wood having cleared the deer fencing. At the moment he is wishing he was better at identifying bird song but there is no one here able to provide much help. Certain birds are easily identified by their song just as some can be identified by their flight, but nobody here can identify more than a dozen or so.

Rural Crime

Rural crime remains a constant threat, be it animal rustling, or a spate of vehicle thefts; one of the most irritating aspects of it is the need for extra security for our vehicles and houses. Chris is linked in to the local ‘bongo drums’ and we know that the issue of theft is almost as popular a topic for the local village as dog faeces!

American fibs

We caught a television programme about American ‘fibs’ about their past. No nation is without its myths, you might almost say we wallow in them ourselves, but and this is the crucial fact, we know, that except for a credulous few, that is all they are. This programme is not exactly breaking new ground, but what I found almost frightening, is the revelation that a majority of Americans not only believe but rely on these untruths to bond themselves together. What happens when, as it eventually must, a majority discover they have been raised on lies? Can a society withstand that situation?

From all one reads, the musical ‘Hamilton’ is great entertainment. Hamilton, of Franco-British ancestry, and from one of the smaller colonies in the Caribbean, rose to become Washington’s treasury minister. He was without doubt an exceptional character. So what, you might say. But those of you who have followed the American uproar about the Chinese stealing industrial secrets may not have realised the Americans are ‘being hoist by their own petard. Hamilton in 1791 published a paper which resulted in a huge and successful campaign to steal industrial secrets and engineers from the British. Nothing really criminal about that, Britain obviously over time had, perhaps continues to do, the same, but isn’t it slightly odd that the ‘facts’ as set out in a book published in 2004 by Yale University Press is only to be found second-hand for £97.75.

Beautiful books and marvellous music

Sales of books and cd’s of classical music are ‘bucking’ the trend apparently. Certainly, as a listener and reader, I think we are living in an extraordinary time as regards the richness of the offering facing us. Of course, as regards books, some may be dross, reworking of old material or just sensationalism, but much is of great interest. As for music, we are now able to listen to artists long dead or perhaps retired, making music when they were in their prime, in fact the choice is overwhelming. Having been reminded at the end of last week that Andre Previn was, as a jazz pianist said to ‘have the flow’ I managed to find a second-hand box of his recordings as a jazz man – ten discs and a real bargain. I played every cd more than once and savoured most of it. Am not quite sure how he is labelled – not traditional but neither so modern as to irritate.

I read at the weekend two book reviews that I found really interesting, but nonetheless, I have not put on my ‘to buy’ list. The first is another biography of Hobsbawm. A man I struggle to feel any sympathy for, stuck as he was in an alternative world in which individuals meant nothing and amazingly unaware that should Marxism succeed, he would be among the first to be executed. That he should have had such influence as he did on young minds reflects poorly on British historians, university history departments, and publishers.

The second is a book on antisemitism written by the woman who challenged David Irving. The reviews I have read are positive, but it sounded to me that it said little new. Apparently, a certain amount is said about Jeremy Corbin – the key criticism of him being that he facilitates anti-Semitism, though may not hold such views himself. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a man who would be prime minister!

What is happening to the BBC?

Avoiding dropping into rant mode – I hope – I cannot believe I am alone in feeling the BBC is giving more and more time to advertising its own programmes and that some of these adverts are dire. The advert for a programme called Click shows a maniac smashing old items – is this helping society? Another advert that falls into the same trap. An app(?) that allow one ‘to have the news as it happens’ – yuk!

Keeping Warm

We live in a rather ancient house and keeping any part of it warm is as much a challenge as it has been for many centuries. So, while we may applaud the fact that as you approach, for example, Birmingham, now you do not see from miles away the yellow haze covering the city. For us, in truth, without a wood stove and open coal fire we would need to wear clothing suitable for the Antarctic to survive the winter. An exaggeration of course but not that great.

Sitting as I am now close by a coal fire that flickers and chatters, I felt the lines that follow to be particularly apt (in this dangerous age I should perhaps make clear that though our actions may be selfish we break no regulations!)

From a poem called ‘Old Winter’ by T Noel 1799-1861

Old Whiter sad, in snow yclad,
Is making a doleful din;
But let him howl till he crack his jowl,
We will not let him in.

Let his baleful breath shed blight and death
On herb and flower and tree;
And brooks and ponds in crystal bonds
Bind fast, but what care we?

Let him gnaw, forsooth, with his freezing tooth,
On our roof-tiles, till he tire;
But we care not a whit, as we jovial sit
Before our blazing fire.

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