“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Overall, it has been an uneventful week with uninspiring weather to lift the spirits, perhaps the best that can be said, is that we escaped frost most nights, at least until the end of the week, and had little if any rain.
In the barn a female calf was born at the beginning of the week and all is well there. There was a moment when a few young stock managed to push open a gate, but since they remained in the barn area, this can only be ranked as a minor ripple in the overall scheme of events. There is still some time to go before they are let out, but that could be fairly soon, so long as next week is also largely dry. In any case they will need to be out by lambing.
The ewes are showing signs of pregnancy, but lambing is not due for another seven weeks, while the remaining 50 lambs are nearly ready to go. Our regular buyer is waiting until the lambs have put on more weight.
Where there has been considerable action is in the vegetable garden. With helpers Tim(g) and Adam both with horticultural backgrounds, and a clear plan to work to, work is progressing. Adam is interested in biodynamics, and this year’s Maria Thun calendars have arrived, so one of us will talk him through that.
I managed a visit to the spinney this week, and in so doing, was able to locate the rookery that is generating a fair amount of noise at the moment, and to have a clear view as to the current level of our brook, to get the appropriate buzz from seeing how splendid the area continues to be for wildlife and bugs, and also see how our transplanted snowdrops did this year. I had success on all fronts!
As I think you will recall, aside from the wood we have four definite ‘wild’ areas, three of which are made up of the corridor of the brook, and the two spinneys at each end. The brook itself is about 12 feet wide and runs through a wide uncultivated corridor. Additionally, the run of what was the ‘straight gallop’ provides a further long strip of trees and bushes and provides a place for deer and hares to take shelter, and like the spinneys is left untouched each year.
We had sunlight at the very beginning of the week, and I was fortunate to be able to watch our resident pair of buzzards gently circling in mild thermals above the field behind the house. Usually, it is not easy to see their colouring, but on that afternoon the sun revealed the colours beautifully.
That day also I listened to a woodpecker in another part of the farm. Here the greater spotted woodpeckers seem relatively common, though the green woodpeckers are here but not seen throughout the year. Whether there are any of the much rarer lesser spotted woodpeckers, I suspect not.
Though the blackthorn is not yet in bloom, the Mirabelle plums are. Sadly, like too many other flowering bushes and trees, once the blossom is over they look rather drab, especially since they rarely produce fruit. While the snow drops are all but over, the primroses are replacing the white with yellow, while the cyclamen add a touch of purple.
This week, for the third week running, we had to visit Worcester. Being driven this last month, I have become much more aware of architecture. Worcester is a splendid example of how successive generations over the ages have just done their own things, so the centre of the city is a jumble of styles covering hundreds of years. So very different from the continent, but then, though Worcester did suffer some bomb damage, the town developers subsequently, at least in the older part of the town, have not had a totally free hand.
Last week to my considerable discredit I made a statement about my musical likes and dislikes which basically was total rubbish. My only excuse is that I had spent far too much time listening to Bach cello partitas and allowed a burst of irritation to be expressed in my notes! Obviously, though my taste is eclectic there are composers whom I might avoid or composers some of whose work I do not enjoy but that number is limited.
Today we have marvellous opportunities to buy, for a pittance, CD’S of great players and composers of the past. Not so long ago there was only the one CD label that did that -Testament. Now most labels are happy to re package early issues, usually costing less than the original, and the expertise in transferring music from old records is vastly greater.
In general, I dislike CDs which seem to exist only for the instrument player to show off her or his virtuosity. That said, I have been overwhelmed by the pianistic virtuosity of a woman I had never heard of before – Ruth Slenczynska – a boxed set of her recordings on the American Decca label is now available.
Something which amused me greatly this week was thinking about one of the great joys of life – hearing of, reading of or just exploring areas of personal ignorance. Perhaps, for me, of the most trivial recently, was discovering that you can obtain the news on the social platform Facebook. I do have a Facebook account, courtesy of a kindly member of the family, but since I cannot imagine what I might use the site for, my password is long forgotten!
A story in the news that caused us much to talk about this week rested on, among the most misused words in our language, the words “common-sense”. It may be a delightful notion, but it surely is not common, nor is it certain what ‘common’ means in this context. The story and graphic pictures of a family, which included at least one child, who had erected a tent within feet of the edge of a 200-foot crumbling cliff defied belief, but then they had unknown reasons, or their own understanding of common sense.
Last weeks’ ‘In Our Time’ was one of the most lively and argumentative sessions I can recall listening to. Leaving aside the reality that speculation easily slides into fact, the discussion centred on Marcus Aurelius’ and in particular on his “Meditations”. The points of contention were over his status as a philosopher, and the merits of the work. Two points stood out for me; the first was the idea that the man, like all learned Romans, would have written in Greek, the second and the one that interested me more was this. Apparently, the Meditations are commented on in the 17th century, the book achieved greatest prominence in Victorian times, when it was seen as a basic document, especially in public schools, for preparing would be leaders.
I suspect that the division of opinion, between the two and the third, was rooted in basic politics on the part of the ‘experts’. One anxious to remind us that though Aurelias is regarded as one of the five ‘good’ emperors of the second century, he was actually a ‘battling and butchering’ figure, just like all the emperors, and that the ‘daybook’, which is what the meditations appear to be, were essentially a document of self-justification, and not in any way to be, regarded, as a work of philosophy. If they had value it was in providing a blueprint in management for colonial officers.
The next excitement for me was wondering about the media’s reporting, which has been full of gloom and doom of course, over the effects of a slowdown in the speed of the Gulf Stream, resulting from fresh water entering the sea as a result of the melting of ice caps; but it was also reported that data on the speed of the current had been uncovered going as far back as AD 400.
Leaving aside the fact that to be strictly accurate, the Gulf Stream splits when it reaches Newfoundland, and the warm surface current which turns East towards us becomes the North Atlantic Drift, and it is this current which warms the seas around us, not the Gulf Stream, I felt challenged by the statement that we were facing something not experienced before.
I found, without any difficulty, that inflows, on a large scale of fresh water had happened frequently in the past without resulting in the now predicted effect on the North Atlantic Current.
By this time, I was firmly hooked on the matter, and in due course found a paper published in the Royal Meteorological Society journal, arguing that it was a total myth that it was this warm current achieved any more than keeping the shores of England and Scandinavia free of sea ice.
Obviously, I searched for any evidence that this paper had been rubbished but found none. The author Richard Seager, having first taken his degree at Liverpool University, moved to America where, after gaining a wide range of higher qualification, eventually became a Professor at Palisades Geophysics Earth Institute at Columbia University.
He has written a number of papers, often in collaboration, but the one that caught my eye and which I referred to above, suggested that the warm current that we mistakenly call the Gulf Stream lifts our overall temperatures by little more than half a degree. It is a fascinating paper and easily accessed on the Web. That I did enjoy!
It is, I suppose, something very basic in the human psyche that makes a person of strong beliefs overlook beliefs, overlook a basic tenet of the belief, and accordingly act quite contrary to that tenet.
Given the horrific situation in Myanmar, you probably will have guessed I am talking about Buddhism. A belief system, rather like Christianity, that holds the value of humility and non–violence at its core, yet all too often, acts quite differently.
Though I was vaguely aware that Burmese history had had considerable violence in it, probably because of the books, many autobiographical I had read, I had formed the basic idea that here was a peace-loving people.
This idea was rather diminished in recent times after the terrible behaviours towards one of the many minority ethnic and non-Buddhist groups, and supported by the President, who had been given the Nobel peace prize for, to a limited degree, introducing democracy to the country after a long period of military rule.
I did know the first Anglo-Burmese war had been, from the point of view of the East India Company, very expensive in terms of lives lost and money spent. What I had not realised was that it resulted from two empires colliding, nor had I known how large the Burmese empire had been before and up to that time, including countries such as Cambodia.
I knew also of two further ‘wars’ resulting in Burma becoming a province of India in 1886. My stamp collecting days meant that I knew Burma was split off as a British colony in 1937, while as we all know it was in that country that the ‘forgotten army’ defeated the Japanese invaders and eliminated the idea of Japanese invincibility.
I knew that complete independence came in 1948, but not that in 1947, those who had negotiated the peace were assassinated, and that in due course military government became the norm, with religion, militarism and ethnicity at the core of their beliefs.
Enough from me, however fascinating the history is, but words used by the daughter of the editor of the first English language newspaper – The Nation – which opened in 1948, and in due course was shut down by the military, provided an appropriate summary of the situation.
The daughter’s name is Wendy Law Yone, and she is a novelist of repute writing in English:
“the same blend of megalomania and mysticism inherent in Burmese despots and witnessed in 17th-century Burma, that dynastic lunacy with delusions of divinity, is still in florid evidence today” (think of Cambodia to see this approach at its most extreme).
Obviously, I can only end with words from a ballad written by Rudyard Kipling and taken up by a variety of people including Brecht and Sinatra.
The road to Mandalay” – the first and last verses
‘By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay
Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be —
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!
In the interests of political correctness, relationships between Burmese and Europeans began from the arrival of the Portuguese, continued with the Spanish and in due course the British.
Attitudes to the offspring of these relationships continued to be positive until relatively recently, and of course Anglo-Burmese covered all the mixed relationships dating back to the Portuguese.
Moreover, since credit should be given where it is due, Burma was known as the Scottish Colony. It is all too easy to forget that while most of the trading companies relied on English money, the key players on the ground were very often from one of the other nations in the United Kingdom!