Dry pastures!

Since my self-inflicted injury, I seem to have adopted a shuffling gait rather like a standing, though stooped, bespectacled tortoise with a rather wispy beard.

I have hopes that one day I can see a chiropractor, but who knows when. With some pain in almost every position, stoicism and a stiff upper lip is called for and I shall regard it as my bit in “we are all in this together”.

After some very nice summerish weather last week, the bulk of the week gave us a very cold wind blowing down from the arctic. As the week progressed, the wind swung more to the west and now on Sunday thankfully the south. The pastures are much drier – so much drier in fact that the ground is cracking in places! But with warmer weather hopefully the grass will shoot ahead.

Outside, I am reliably informed that the Blackthorn is flowering, the Goat Willow is as splendid as usual, and the Hawthorn is in leaf. Were Anne and I in better state we would enjoy going for a walk, but for now photographs have to do:

Operationally the week actually started off well. A procedure has been set for our ‘paper inspection’ and our inspector, Caroline, having been briefed, meant it was not going to be a case of the blind leading the blind. A majority of the papers were written by me on the computer, with the rest needing to be answered by Christopher. Very sadly I discovered all my papers are in Word, and with all that is going on, being agile enough of mind and body to email these documents across became a herculean task. Fortunately, Caroline is being understanding.

There was again no farm meeting on Friday as strict isolation applies, and this is of course far from ideal although phone call meetings work to a degree, ‘real communication’ requires face to face communication. That of course does not mean a general lack of activity. For a start two more cows have safely calved, and since the feed situation is holding up all the cattle will be kept off the grass as long as possible. Incidentally all three of the recent calves were male.

The compost heap which was in field 8 and was ready for use has been spread onto fields 9 and 10. This has allowed field 8 to be thoroughly grass harrowed and rolled in preparation for seeding with wildflower seeds. This hopefully will take place fairly soon. This will still leave three further fields to re-sow and nagging has started.

When the cattle are released from the barn Tim will have the massive task of clearing out the barn ready for lambing. And yes, deciding where to compost it! Eighty plus animals bedded on straw for five months produce a quite amazing load.

The unexpected shortage of work for Martin elsewhere is working out very much to our advantage. In the first place he has cleared the internal fencing in field 6 and contractors can come in to erect new fencing. Now Martin will move onto the field over the river where the hedges have significantly advanced into the field overtaking the fence and making the field entirely useless for keeping cattle in. Martin will do the necessary to re-establish the fence line so that the fence can be renewed. The pond by the workshop has no overspill pipe which means the orchard often gets far too wet – that is a problem that also is on the list.

I know I ought not to say this, but among the masses of ‘good advice’ we received when we took on the task of farming Rush Farm, there was also some absolute dross. Hard to identify the worst mistake. but high on the list were the purchase of an underpowered tractor and short hay trailer. Fine perhaps for a hobby farm, but just not up to the requirements of a proper working establishment.

At government level all seems rather in a state of limbo and not thought through thinking. Deciding that stock markets and animal hauliers were not essential means too few animal leaving farms, which means the market for fresh meat cannot be supplied. Visions of being overrun by sheep and cattle are not so far-fetched in some parts of the country. As I hope you would expect, I have raised with our MP both that issue and the perverse decision that apparently small farms are not regarded as SME’s needing support. 

Revenue claim and thoughts of government money

I have also of course asked yet again why the revenue claim, and a smaller capital have still not been paid despite being cleared for payment. As for the much larger capital claim, it seems that in some point in time I will be given the opportunity to appear before an Appeal Panel. As and when there is no indication; as to what form it will take given ‘lockdown’ who knows.

One of the sadness’s of the world is the way in which we have accepted the willingness to expect or to demand new things be supplied by local government, while at the same time expecting a reduction in the amount of government money to be disbursed, and at the same time demanding cuts in our rates.

Surely one day the population will wake up to the fact that to take out, people have to put in. And though income inequality in my lifetime has soared from perhaps 5:1 to now being 50:1, that may be a cause of discontent but really is neither here nor there in total economic terms. Obscenities such as this are distasteful but so is much in life. 

Either we cut our coat to fit our cloth, which of course neither Thatcher and Cameron did, or we print money or, sin of all sins actually put up income tax. Nothing wrong with any of the approaches if you keep in mind likely consequences. I can think of only two governments who have actually kept the lid on expenditure – the Attlee and Kohl governments. We all know the reality is that if politicians tell the real truth the public will boot them out and our wonderful media will be leading the demands for their removal.

Music, and other things

Somehow the urge to read and immerse myself in music appears for now to have left me. The standby cd on my ‘walkman’ has been a Pearl Recording of Heifitz and Feuerman playing Brahms violin sonatas, and that was listened to at least once a day. I have now decided on a change and have opted for Mendelssohn’s ‘Songs without words’. This is music that despite my best efforts I could never master despite it sitting on my piano stand for years. Beautifully played by Ilse von Altenheim how I wish I could have managed even some resemblance to this myself.

On Wednesday afternoon I listened to Mahler’s “9th” but unsurprisingly it did little to lift the mood. A novel claimed to be in the same league as one of Martin Cruz Smith’s Russian novels finds me still on page 26 after starting it over a fortnight ago. Even Donald Trump’s press conferences fail to stir the emotions. Without a seemingly nonstop showing of Poirot and Midsummer Murders available most evenings, where would we be. 

Through it all Anne copes with my inability to help her in anyway round the house, battles internally with the restrictions and fear that surround us, and ensures that I have some awareness of the absurdities of the outside world. Our, and in particular my, email world buzzes as we follow the lives of friends who came to us as woofers over the years – celebrate births, share worries about work and on occasion grieve, but like all of them look forward to better days. My newly acquired ‘proper’ French Dictionary may not get used this summer.

But all this is suggesting a far greyer world than necessary. Anne continues to be ‘wrapped up’ in her 16th century Series of novels and I have discovered the absurd world of the Wilding definitive stamp issue of 1952 to 1968. A period when the Royal Mail was experimenting with different watermarks, phosphor bands, phosphor paper and so-called graphite bands. All this, not at the time to excite the stamp collector, but as part of the major mechanisation of the postal sorting system at a time when ‘snail’s pace’ looked set to dominate for ever.

I also towards the end of the week ended my personal mithering over Plato’s tripartite model I have referred to twice recently. Eventually I remembered that until relatively recently psychology had been seen as a subset of philosophy. The notion of the ‘unconscious’ only really came into common parlance in the 1800’s – Freud merely picked up an idea and ran with it. I now feel comfortable by interpreting ‘thymus’ as the unconscious.

My ‘run’ of limited cheerfulness came to an abrupt halt on reading the interview Jared Kushner gave CNN which came up on my emails Saturday morning. My views on Trump are well documented, but now I realise he is almost a normal human being compared to his son- law. Read it only if you are feeling very strong. The man is clearly a monster.

Poetry

Given the times we live in I was very anxious to end with a poem about a ship flying a ‘yellow jack’ but failed. I eventually settled on this early poem about Solitude written by John Keats. The link is tenuous I admit, but it does seem true that shortly before his death he spent ten days anchored in Naples Bay delayed by an epidemic raging ashore. If you think the link too tenuous, I also attach a very famous poem from a period which experienced many such events.

(The ‘yellow jack’ was flown by ships to indicate that there was an infectious illness aboard. In Quebec Yellow, it became synonymous with English sailors, for yellow fever)

Coronavirus as such may be new, but infectious illnesses certainly are not, and in time experience led to the understanding they could be imported on incoming boats and that boats with such illnesses should fly a warning flag.  But that of course was before the aeroplane and the belief that modern medicine could solve all but the final problem. The second poem reflects attitudes in times before that.

Solitude by John Keats

O solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee

Or if you feel strong…

In Time of Pestilence, 1593 by Thomas Nashe

ADIEU, farewell earth’s bliss!
This world uncertain is:
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys.
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die—
                Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade;
All things to end are made;
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die—
                Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye;
I am sick, I must die—
                Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave;
Swords may not fight with fate;
Earth still holds ope her gate;
Come, come! the bells do cry;
I am sick, I must die—
                Lord, have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply;
I am sick, I must die—
                Lord, have mercy on us!

Haste therefore each degree
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage.
Mount we unto the sky;
I am sick, I must die—

                Lord, have mercy on us!

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