Beautiful weather!

This has been a delightful week. The weather continued to be beautiful until Thursday, and all were spurred into tackling jobs that have needed doing for some time.

The week has seen the arrival of Sarah who has come to us for, hopefully, most of March. This means the starting into life of the fruit and vegetable gardens. Perhaps even bringing back to life a part of the garden in field eleven. In preparation for her arrival the potting shed area has been cleaned and tidied.

The warmth and lack of significant rain means that next week most, if not all, the cattle may be released from the barn – significantly earlier than in past years. Of course, things are to change weather wise as the long-term forecast suggests Atlantic weather. Moving the young stock onto grass should enable them to put more weight on.

The ewes, on the other hand, seems a little fat, and so are going to have to stay where they are until they move to the fields closer to the barn for lambing. The remaining lambs are, as I reported recently, in good condition and of a reasonable weight.

The four IR’s remain in solitary isolation in a small field.  On Monday week we now have a visit booked in from a member of the governments TB Advisory Service.

Sadly, we still have nothing in writing from the government as regards our application for higher tier stewardship, though noises remain are positive.

Brexit drones on, and worries remain. However, in so far as it is in our power, we have been ensuring that we have a fighting chance of survival whatever the outcome.

Spring growth

We continue to ensure that the business park is well looked after. The drive has had its grass verges mown, while the daffodils are starting to flower. Our mowing programme attempts to ensure wild flower patches remain untouched. There is of course the ongoing problem with impatient motorists driving across the grass.

Our substantial clump of Mirabelle plum trees reached full bloom just before the weather turned, and for those few days have been a joyous sight. Blackthorn in the hedges is also now showing. Next week we anticipate the start of the bird survey which gives me the excuse to comment again on the pleasure we get from the large number of sparrows that dwell around our house. Their chattering is a constant background sound in all our ears during the hours from daybreak to dusk.

In the news

Two events towards the end of the week cannot be ignored. The US Ambassador to the UK, in a newspaper article, pushed us to adopt American agricultural practice – including acceptance of chlorinated chicken, and the use of growth hormones on stock – in the interests of achieving closer trade links, and chose to describe the EU as a ‘museum of outdated agricultural practice’.

Perhaps the word ‘ethical’ has been deleted from the language used to describe American agriculture…

The other, was the death of Andre Previn at the age of 89. There have been many obituaries, and no doubt more to come and I don’t need to add to those except to say that, I feel most fortunate to have seen his television programmes and to have on CD all his classical and jazz recordings. 


Nostalgia is an emotion I rarely experience, but periodically it catches me out. Entirely accidentally I caught a programme called ‘Coast’ early in the week and the sight of old film of herrings being landed on the quay at Great Yarmouth took me back over 60 years to scavenging for fish that had fallen out of the baskets onto the ground alongside other families. No health or safety of course since this was just ‘how it was’. Each drifter had markings which identified the port at which it was registered. Of fleets of once over 500 vessels, one Yarmouth drifter marked YH 89 and one Lowestoft smack with the marking LT412 are all that survive. The film showed markings still remembered – FR for Fraserburgh, PD for Peterhead and KY for Kirkcaldy.

Reading two recent publications about the Weimar Republic a phrase that leapt out was “a reality deficit”, and of course my mind at once thought of Trump and his favourite phrase “fake news”. A second linkage came from an apparently common belief in the Weimar Republic that ‘with the accession of power, a leader’s behaviour would change to reasonableness’. All in all rather, disturbing, though I do not seriously believe democracy in the USA is that fragile.

Thoughts on the Caribbean

Watching the recent episode of Death in Paradise, and with the Cricket in the West Indies, I began to think about how it is easy to forget that there is still not only a French presence in the Caribbean but as important, a French influence. A ridiculous error of course on reflection, since the British were very much “Johnny come lately” to most of the territories. My only excuse is that, apart from St Lucia they don’t play cricket!  (…yes, Derek Walcott was from St Lucia and St Lucia is not a French Department.)

The reason for raising this is that I had totally overlooked the fact that, aside from English writing novelists and poets in the Caribbean, there are those from the francophone world, until I was brought up short by a French name that I recognised but knew very little about.

Attempting to expand my knowledge, I rapidly found myself in a quagmire. I realised I might not have enough years in front of me to understand the world of Caribbean poetry, nor have I ever thought seriously about French colonial history in the Caribbean. The French as colonisers were, it is said, interested in sharing their language rather than matters of organisation; I quote ‘indeed most writers of African origin writing in English – until at least recently – are interesting to the degree they are naive and picturesque in their handling of a language in which they rarely sound at home.’ (Norman R Shapiro)


Love After Love By Derek Walcott

“The time will come

when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from your own image from the mirror

Sit, Feast on your life”

Sounds fine to me!!

As a youth, I played cricket with people of Caribbean ancestry, I studied with people of the Caribbean, in my work I felt completely at home with people from the islands. Of course, I met those with grievances, but so I did with people whose fathers had been coal miners. Like many English families, links to the Caribbean go back centuries, indeed to the time when dissident English were transported to Barbados.

Of course, no relationship is simple; surprising perhaps given the years of slavery, and the most recent scandalous behaviours in government, in truth, for the most part, although it is not reported on as much as the dissent, humankind stands shoulder to shoulder. Our shared links between communities are there to cherish as also to regret – but though we may have to cope with the aftermath of the ‘sins’ of our forebears we are not responsible for them, and the gift we have is that we can chose to make the present, and the future better – and in this way, this is one of the many positives of sport – which brings me nicely back to the cricket!

A week I think for confessing my ignorance. For over 30 years of my conventional life I worked in local government, and for over 20 of those years at the highest level. I routinely worked with local councillors and members of parliament. I experienced judicial review and appearances before select committee. I had regular dealings with senior mandarins in the Department of Education in particular. I attended cabinet ministers and members of parliament in the House of Commons. I even had a degree in politics and public and social administration. During all this time I never realised just how little I really knew about how the system actually worked.

In semi-retirement I discovered the BBC Parliament channel and even attended a session of Prime Ministers questions. After attempting to gain redress against immoral practices by a certain bank I was certainly wiser but would that I had known as much as I do now about how the system actually works.  I suspect that most of my fellow citizens have minimal understanding of how this country is actually run. This is surely dire. Discontent with politicians may well be justified but do not we have some responsibility to do more than moan? We are strong on our rights but seem happy to ignore our responsibilities.

Something simple and soothing is needed so I turned to John Clare.

A spring morning by John Clare

“The sun looks oer the willows & pursues
His travels oer a blue expanse of skye
Oft met by playing clouds in light limbd hues
Like visions of the fancy passing bye
Field heaths & commons stretch beneath hits eye

As green as meadows — little birds revive
As from a trance with chittring noise & song
Each ground wi bleating sheep is all alive
& clowns wi pleasure guide their ploughs along
Ravens resume their journeys to the fen
& puddocks hover oer each village yard
While chickens hasten to the clucking hen
Imprisond in a pen upon the sward
To raise a new springcherishd brood agen”

But for those of you not yet exhausted, and who have as little French as I do, the poem below is rather attractive, best read aloud, and not needing literal translation, and fits the season by describing the throwing off the cloak of winter. 

Le temps a liaise son mantras by Charles d’Orléans

“Le temps a laissé son manteau.

De vent, de froidure et de pluie,

Et s’est vêtu de broderie,

De soleil luisant, clair et beau.

Il n’y a bête, ni oiseau

Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie :

Le temps a laissé son manteau.

Rivière, fontaine et ruisseau

Portent en livrée jolie,

Gouttes d’argent d’orfèvrerie,

Chacun s’habille de nouveau :

Le temps a laissé son manteau.”

A 14th century french poem – clearly even French changed over time!

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