As the year draws to a close

As the year draws to a close

“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

Book 7 XXXVII…..Marcus Aurelius 

How know we whether Socrates were so eminent indeed and of so extraordinary a disposition?………..that he might ever carry himself justly towards men……..Neither vexing himself to no purpose at the wickedness of others, nor yet ever condescending to any man’s evil fact, or evil intentions, through either fear or engagement of friendship.

Words that seem very appropriate for our current political situation.  

Writing this week has been tougher than usual. We are yet again in isolation as a grandchild has picked up covid from school, and this has a sobering effect as many of you no doubt have experienced. Like other pupils from that class the symptoms displayed are mild but….  

It was a great relief to read an article from the Headteacher at that rather famous school, South Hampstead High School, in which she said their pupils hated the ‘cancel culture’ and were very interested in discussing the issues which absurd minorities try to write out of history. What really defeats me is ‘the culturally aware’ lack of understanding in whose footsteps they are standing – Hitler, Stalin and now Putin and Xi. We no longer can claim to live in a liberal democracy if this continues.  

When we read what is happening in our universities, what at once comes to mind is the young woofer in her first year at university reading philosophy who found the idea of discussion of issues on which she already held views as deeply upsetting. 

Incidentally, having mentioned China last week, ‘In our time’ set me right on a number of matters historical relating to that country. I had always assumed China’s hatred of the West dated from the Boxer rebellion. Certainly, that is probably still a cause of dislike, but it seems that it was the Treaty of Versailles which was infinitely more damaging.

Oversimplifying massively, the complexities of relations involving the Japanese and the Germans, the Chinese having come to the conclusion that Germany was going to lose the war, sent 100,000 men to join the fight, but were only allowed to dig trenches on the western front. Their assumption being that at the end of the war those parts of China that were occupied by the Germans and Japanese would be returned to China. In a mind-boggling decision, the allies, as a result of representations by the Japanese, and some perverse Chinese officials, handed all those territories to Japan.  

The consequences of that were not just hatred of the West, or the terrible wars between Japan and the China in the 1930’s, but the dominance of the Chinese Communist Party founded in 1921, and the ongoing relations between Japan and the West.  

That Treaty, and Woodrow Wilson left a disastrous legacy for future generations!  

Returning from our three-weekly collection of medicines from the surgery in Inkberrow, the differences between the fields around the farm and the village were striking.  

Here, almost without exception, the trees and hedges are leafless except for the ivy – such a valuable source of food and shelter for wildlife at this time of year.  

The village looks so different, even if the Christmas lights are excluded, the number of gardens with bushes and trees that keep their leaves throughout the year stands out. 

One feature unchanged is the number of rooks, who just before dusk, can be seen wheeling around to determine where they intend to roost for the night. I assume their nests, now starkly obvious, are not used communally.  

The Farm 

The weather this week has been surprisingly mild, though rather grey. Let’s hope it does not excite nature into thinking winter is over.  

The diary for this week in 2014 records days of rain, but with temperatures on the low side. Aside from noting that the rams had been withdrawn from the ewes, this quote speaks for itself: ‘One of those weeks with people in poor health physically and mentally. Little happened on the farm.’  

This week, although there are some differences, for example the rams since they went in later this year than in 2014, remain with the breeding flock, and unlike 2014, we sent eighteen sheep went off to market mid-week.   Otherwise, excepting the drier and warmer weather, that quote holds good for this week in 2021.  

In fact, for me the highlight of the week came from more scientific information in which climatic problems tied to methane and carbon dioxide are shown to be inextricably linked. Last week I showed a graph demonstrating the difference in holding carbon dioxide between at the one extreme, wetlands, and at the other, deserts. The graph completely ignored the issue of methane. 

New information confirms that trees, while playing a short-term role in locking up carbon, give off methane at the same time. It also reveals that in just one tree species, nature has provided a bark able to house the microbes that live off methane. This is good news indeed, and even more importantly, these microbes flourish on the surface of wetlands, which otherwise would be both the greatest reservoir for carbon dioxide, but also one of the worst emitters of methane.  

A realisation of ignorance

If the discovery, for me, of recent Chinese history, were not enough, I was very much reminded of the reality that the older you get the more you realise your ignorance, whether of trivial matters or matters of lasting significance.   

An article I read suggested that Albania was anticipating the return of the monarchy. In the years after the First World war, with the Ottoman empire destroyed, power in Albania was shared by many war lords, one, later known as King Zog the First, took control on a popular plebiscite. Though a thoroughly brutal man, he took the land off the big landowners and distributed it to the peasants who worked it; a man who introduced free and open elections, and the notion of democracy. He held his post until the Italian state conquered the country and overthrew him in the 1930’s. 

At the same time, because of what we were hearing about Ethiopia, I found I did not know the answer to the question why did Italy invade that country in the 1930’s? A little exploration and I dug out the fact that as part of Italian leaders attempts to hold their new country together in the second half of the C18th, they decided to follow those countries who were scrambling to establish colonies wherever they could, and already having Libya, turned their attention to Ethiopia. The result was a war which spilled over from 1895 to 1896 and ended in humiliating defeat. A humiliation that Mussolini was determined to reverse.  

And the relevance of all this is that the “horn of Africa”, trampled over by the Italians, the French and the British, became the nightmare it is today, as troubled as the territories on the other side of water.  

This week’s reading

Enough. Before the poem, let me just say how delighted I was to read a critic describing the book ‘Polar Star’ as masterpiece. Martin Cruz Smith in my view is one of the great novelists of today.  

As you may recall I am engaged in reading a book called ‘The Enlightenment’, a period only accepted by that name in this country, in the early decades of the last century. A truly fascinating, demanding and thought-provoking book which as so often these days, forces recognition of the narrowness of one’s knowledge of the non-English speaking world.  

At the same time, Anne, having finished and enjoyed a Christopher Fowler Bryant and May novel, is now reading Olaudah Equiano’s ‘Narrative’, a book I assume all ‘culturally aware’ people, have read many times. 

The poem below was written by Georges Louis de Bar who though German, chose to write in French, along with many of his countrymen. I passed my O level French exams in 1955 and, since there was only the one word that caught me out, I provide no translation. There is one ambiguous word. As so often happens we take a French word and give it a different meaning, “parens” means ‘relatives’. 

The ideas expressed in the poem sadly now seem dated, though I well remember our naïve belief that, once upon a time this was the future 😢 

Je suis, sans mon aveu, dans ce Monde pervers;   
J’y suis, puisque j’y suis, Bourgeois de L’Univers;  
Je suis Cosmopolite, ainsi que Diogene,  
J’embrasse en mon amour toute la Race humaine.  
Tous les Mortels ensemble, & jaunes, noir & blancs  
Sont par-tout mes prochains sont par-tour mes parens  

On which naïve, but positive note, I conclude until the New Year, while wishing you all a very Good Christmas and for 2022, less turbulent times.  

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