Weather forecasts, however wrong they so often seem to be, have been watched by us with great interest recently. On Friday it was suggested that we might, if lucky, catch a torrential downpour. As the day approached the likelihood grew less, but after a near neighbour claimed to actually have rain we felt really hard done by – but then for some forty minutes we did have a little rain and so enjoyed that smell of dry earth as it accepted the rain even though the amount that fell was too small to measure. However, ‘nil desperadum’ (I think that is the phrase) there is a hint of proper rain to come next week. Moreover, it seems clear that our holistic approach to farming has helped us weather this dry spell better than some.
Otherwise there is not a great deal to report. The young cattle were moved on to a new pasture, but the main flock and suckler herd appear to be very content where they are. This has meant it has been possible for a concerted attack on docks, nettles and thistles. But, I hasten to add, only in the pastures. Faris and Clement have done a fantastic job cutting down seed-laden docks, digging thistles, and cutting back nettles. The dock seed heads and the thistles went to the bonfire while the nettles cuttings were of course left on the pastures to rot down.
On the paperwork front, Chris is making progress with the higher tier stewardship but still has a number of fields to measure and photograph. We have tenders in for seed mixes but have yet to get anything in writing from contractors.
Next week will be busier with the whole farm to be again sprayed with 500 and with a mended pto there are more tasks the tractor can engage in.
TB testing in about 7 weeks!
Have you ever noticed how little use so-called handbooks of birds, butterflies and insects are? This morning at the edge of the scrape an unknown bird was seen. Three of us attempted to find a picture that in any way resembled what had been seen. All to no avail. In the end, possibly wishful thinking led to the assumption it was a juvenile lapwing – who knows! Incidentally the swan has abandoned us despite the scrape still containing quite a lot of water.
The Reith lecture this week concentrated on the relation between war and civilians and in particular the increasing influence civilians had on whether wars were fought and how irresistible this influence could be. I had no idea the Prussian High Command were nearly pushed by public pressure into entering a colonial war over Samoa! Public pressure generated by the invasion of ‘plucky little Belgium’ forced the British to enter the 1914 war. On a more positive note, we have seen over the last sixty years or so in this country public pressure frequently playing a positive part in keeping the country out of wars.
And yet why are so many computer games about warfare even though we now know the reality of military action. On film and in novels, war stories abound. Sharpe as envisaged by Bernard Cornwall has either been watched or read in its millions. MASH was as popular as Dr Strangelove. And still these films come, I think ‘Dunkirk’ was perhaps the most recent.
A ‘hobby’ I rarely publicly admit to is philately. Currently I am much involved in the early stamps of the British North Borneo Company. Leaving aside the complexities of the stamps, I have found the history of this area of south east Asia and its peoples very interesting. It also shows just how far and wide British traders roamed and how successful and usually without the use of force, they were in reaching agreements with the local Sultans – and also the intense and positive relations they established with the indigenous people. Before proper historians rebuke me, I am well aware of the wars with Burma that took place before this period.
How and why did British traders get there is obviously because Australia is so close to the southern end of the Malay peninsula. There is a considerable literature about the area in both biographies and novels set in Burma – ‘Elephant Bill’ was a best seller sixty years ago. George Orwell spent formative years in Burma, and Somerset Maugham set some of his short stories in Malaya. This part of the world had a number of Rhodes type characters who somehow managed to avoid great visions of making the world map red in colour.
After independence there was some rejection of works by British writers about the area, but these works are now highly regarded by Malayan writers and historians for their content and obvious appreciation of the cultures they came into contact with.
A last odd piece of information to share. The 18c stamp of North Borneo of 1894 was based on a sketch made by the son of Captain Frederick Marryat, who of course was the author of ‘Children of the New Forest’ and his semi- autobiographical novel ‘ Mr Midshipman Easy’ – an author still very popular in the 1960’s.
Everybody was out on Saturday afternoon, so I indulged in two of my interests. India versus England on the ‘box’ with sound off while I enjoyed a recently recorded and the little heard Handel opera called Serse – just for the sounds of voices and orchestra, as I have to admit that while I may know in general terms what the opera is about, that’s it! The mezzo-soprano Anna Stephan has a fantastic voice, though it is a little hard to imagine her as the Persian King Serses. And how encouraging to be able to enjoy an opera that has a happy ending!
BIRD SONGS AT EVENTIDE by Rodney Richard Bennett
Over the quiet hills,
Slowly the shadows fall
Far down the echoing vale
Birds softly call
Slowly the garden sun
Sinks in the dreaming west
Bird songs at eventide
Call me to rest