As expected, the weather this week was damp without being overly so; we had rain of course but nothing too alarming. A bonus has been that the downturn in temperatures has extended the lives of some of the bulbs and wild flowers. This year the lady’s smock and the bluebells are really good.
Lambing has continued at a steady pace and it was a matter of real chance if there were any ewes still waiting to lamb on our ‘lambing day which was on the 28th. There are of course plenty of lambs to see both around the barn and in the adjacent three interconnected fields. One of fields was sown last year and we feared the seed had not taken, but despite a poor show last autumn, it is now providing good grass.
The burden of lambing was somewhat eased by Katya’s arrival on Tuesday – it was good she came then because the period Friday to Monday saw one-third of the flock lamb and Tim and Chris were definitely feeling the strain. We did lose one ewe and her twins, but it’s been a good lambing. Talking of Katja, we are so grateful that she has been coming to help with lambing now for so many years – and is now an expert shepherd!
The two cattle herds have settled down well and for most of the week the suckler hard could be seen on the field by the drive lying down and looking most contented. The young stock were also moved onto a new field up to the left of the bridle path. There have been no more calves as yet.
Anne had hopes at the start of the week that it might be possible to do some spraying, and Chris hoped to have some compost spread, but of course the weather did not allow that. What was possible was for Anne, Beatriz and Chris to put preparations into the heaps of litter from the barn that have been in two of the fields for some time. When lambing is over Tim will have the mammoth task of cleaning out the left-hand side of the barn where the litter is nearly a foot deep over the 400 square metres.
My guilt levels are very high. On Friday morning my lower back problem had cleared, so I dared to enter the shower with confidence, only to somehow cause two of my back ribs to displace themselves, leaving me in significant pain and stuck in bed, unable even to do office work.
My prophecy that the green woodpeckers would be visiting soon proved correct, but the main excitement of the week was observed by Paul, who out of his window saw a stoat catch a rabbit. Stoats and weasels are rarely seen by the casual observer, and ‘The Wind in the Willows’ paints an entirely false picture of their size – they are unbelievably small. Their ability to take a prey many times their weight and size is remarkable. My ten-year-old self cried “lucky Paul”!
There are growing numbers of lapwing on the farm, with geese and coots nesting on the island in the scrape – the scrape itself is very full of water and the bridle paths at the back of the farm are, in racing parlance ‘heavy going’.
As previously mentioned, much of the outstanding paper work for the Higher Tier Stewardship scheme has been completed, though the BPS remains to be done. We now know from the satellite mapping we have some 9 and a half miles of hedges, so the length of fencing must be of the order of 11 and a half kilometres. Since the programme is competitive we can’t afford to allow our hopes to get too high.
The real low for the week is that Beatriz left us on Sunday. Two months just come and gone. We are so fortunate she asked to come, and that we overcame out doubts as to what she might do in March and April! We would have been completely lost without her, and she leaves us with all our regrets at losing her, and our very best wishes for her future. Attempts to find and hide her airline tickets failed so off she went!
On Monday, largely because of the absence of Andrew Marr, I listened to ‘Start the week’ on radio 4 and what an interesting programme it was. Of course, there was a degree of ‘book plugging’ but essentially it was a lively debate between English philosophers whose views were not entirely compatible with one another -‘that’s a childish argument’ was one contribution!
Edith Hall’s latest book on Aristotle is not yet published but she is universally respected as an authority on Ancient Greece. John Gray, now retired has recently had published a book entitled the ‘Seven types of atheism’ – a deliberate ‘rip off’ from William Empson’s criticism of poetical works ‘The seven types of ambiguity’. Not unexpectedly, given his trenchant style, it was of course Gray who resorted to that hostile statement. If you are able to access iPlayer radio, do listen, as the debate on the Aristotelian definition of happiness was very interesting. Interestingly, also but rather by the by, is that our word ‘happiness’ is said to come from the Anglo-Saxon word for dream!
As many of you may guess my mind operates rather like that of Mark Forsyth – author of a number of books including ‘The Etymologicon’, so after that programme ended I was drawn to the issue of ambiguity.
The question that first came to mind was whether tolerance of ambiguity was related to language or culture. Use of google suggested that, except perhaps in the case of Hungarian, it did not seem related to language.
From the history of the 20th century it could perhaps be argued that it does have something to do with culture – perhaps a built-in feature of British diplomacy.
Having got so far, I tried to explore whether anybody has attempted to link comfort with ambiguity, with personality, and discovered a huge gap in my reading in the field of psychology. An Else Frenkel-Brunswik – writing perhaps eighty years ago – identified discomfort with ambiguity in children, as a sign of an authoritarian personality. Later other psychologist’s came to the conclusion her methodology was poor, but, the issue of ‘ambiguity-intolerance’ is, it seems, still a very live notion.
Exploring further, I turned up a much later work by an American academic called John Hawkins which seems to assert that temporary ambiguity is far less easily accepted in German than English. All very interesting and entertaining and completing the circle rather neatly.
I feel extraordinarily fortunate, even if it is a source of some irritation to family and friends, in having a curious and questioning mind, or if you prefer, a butterfly mind!
Finally, a thought that came into mind over the Windrush affair. In the 1970’s I presented a report to the Manchester Education Committee addressing the issues of how schools, colleges and the city should relate to ethnic minorities. Multicultural education had its faults and perhaps leaned too far towards a view against integration, but it was based on the idea of respect. It was to the credit of the City leaders across all parties that this was accepted, and monies made available, to put these ideas into reality. Looking back, I still feel a sense of pride in the matter.
No poem this week though I have been sorely tempted to quote from Robert Louis Stephenson whose children’s poems were as good as anything he wrote. The poem from ‘A child’s garden of verses’ which inevitably rushed into my mind was ‘The land of counterpane’ (no prizes for guessing why). Should you have young children or young grandchildren this really is a must for reading aloud. And don’t forget when they get older, Treasure Island is also a must.