Inspections on the horizon

 “This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”

If the British have a fatal habit, it is of course an inability to stop spending money you don’t have. After all it was not until the early years of this century that the ‘lend lease’ debt was paid off, and the then Chancellor spoke of paying back debts from the South Sea Bubble – and those still unpaid from WW I. Fat chance of that now!  

Attached to this dangerous habit are lessons acquired from a competitor, financially much stronger than we are; and of course, the issue so clearly defined by Hyacinth Bucket in ‘Keeping up Appearances’ and amplified by the ‘open society’ financial model practiced here, probably since the repeal of the corn laws. Incidentally Anne and I watched a replay of a programme from that series, and genuinely fell about laughing – if there is one thing we do/did well in this country it has to be self-mockery.  

Many, many farmers are not immune from these habits, and given the pressure they are under, who can blame them. I want to develop this further and will have to mention it in the farm news.  

Farm News

I think the best way of describing the weather this week is as having been entirely typical; some rain, one ground frost night, chilly, grey-mostly perhaps surprisingly all as forecast! Given what has been happening in other parts of the world, little indeed to complain about. With the coming events of TB testing next week, and the Demeter Inspection shortly afterwards, time has had to be given to both planning and then review and collection of data required for the inspection.  

I guess to some civil servant based far from the real world, the level of preparation for TB testing is just not understood, especially if the cattle to be tested are not routinely confined.  

With perhaps four separate groups to be worked through, the staffing is difficult to manage. Two at least on the crush, one probably two, to push the animals into the race, and while our cattle are normally amazingly good natured, not only are they large and heavy, but they are also equipped with horns of all shapes and sizes. Each animal as it goes through has to be recorded, and when the vet is finished, sent by another individual into the designated holding area.  

For adult animals this is no more than a routine tedious process, for calves and particularly orphans, this is all new, and often very challenging for both parties. The bull considers the crush not for him and has to be treated in the barn – he is very accommodating, so this is not quite as dangerous as it sounds.  

And then there are two days of inaction until on the third day the whole process has to be rerun, and anxiety reigns while the results are determined.  

The test is simple, each animal receives two injections in the shoulder. The top injection is of bovine TB, the lower of avian TB. These cause a reaction at each site, and it is the extent of the difference between these two reactions which seals an animal’s fate.   

An accuracy level of 80% is claimed. No one likes the test, but vaccination is still some time off. The slaughtered animals do go into the food chain but there is of course due process to ensure human health is safeguarded.  

For most young people, the initials TB mean little. The ‘wasting disease’ or ‘consumption’ is no longer the huge killer it was for the generations preceding ours, when it was both common and untreatable.  

The pasteurisation of milk, and to a lesser extent better housing, explain this rapid fall in incidence. The disease is still around but treatment is normally straight forward.  

Otherwise, there is little to share other than that tasks have been identified, and days set for them to carried out. A review of the farms holding of hay, haylage and straw confirmed all should be well over the winter. The grass may just about still be growing, but the falling temperatures will end that soon.  

I suppose a last, but important point to share, is that our rainfall has been inadequate, and though the year has nearly three months to run, matters look unlikely to improve.  

The government & debt

There is little to applaud the last Prime Minister for, except perhaps his actions on animal welfare and environmental issues. We are now seeing what the Daily Mail headlines claimed last week ‘A truly Tory government at last.’  

Live shipments of animals look like being resumed, we know already how negative her attitude is, this mockery of a Prime Minister, to animal welfare and the environment. Even Michael Gove has felt driven to express concern.   

Britain has been in debt many times. However, until 1945 had an impeccable debt repayment position as a highly successful manufacturing country. Also having vast overseas investments to generate so-called ‘invisible earnings’.  

Sir Stafford Cripps in 1945, on the other hand, was faced with a National Debt of some 254%, a country that had been bled dry financially by the United States, (which was understandable, not least because one of their war aims was to bring down the British Empire) and also of course, Americans were not that anti-fascist in their beliefs, even then. Britain had liquidated all its UK’s ‘invisible earnings’ and was quite simply broke.  

Bearing in mind I was a primary school pupil in the 1950’s, and my economic degree dates back to 1963, what follows is no more than a mixture of personal experience and remembered studies: 

The actions Cripps took would, I suspect, be unacceptable today, even if the situation is as perilous. Mind you, the Germans coped with the cost of re-unification by tightening their belts, but then they wanted it to happen.  

At the end of what most would call a good war, my father began a career in local government at a senior officer level. I write that merely so you can have a proper perspective on our post-war life. The comfortable seats in the house were a mix of pre-war saved items and others; leather seats, salvaged from old cars; while orange boxes, together with tea chests, met a host of household requirements, yet we were not a poor family, but the country was.  

So, part of the Chancellor’s strategy concentrated on doing all he could to bring in foreign exchange, and the simplest way to ensure that, was to ignore the domestic market, and concentrate on producing goods for export. As for taking English money abroad, exchange control lasted, at least nominally, until 1966. So, empty non-food shops, even if you did have cash. Food was rationed, and coupons needed, and I remember my weekly sweet coupons which I believe were still in use in 1954.  

But the real revenue incomes for the Chancellor came from taxation, including crushing death duties allied to the rich, really paying 98% on unearned income over £2,000, and direct tax income tax for the rich, at 90% earning over a relatively small amount.  

Eventually it was realised on the other side of the Atlantic that Europe, without financial support, would never become a viable market ever again, and so in 1948 the Marshall Plan injected large sums of money into Europe, and it was the UK and France that got the biggest share. It was this money that enabled the National Health Service to be born, and hospitals built.  

All this changed the face of Britain, and partially pulled us out of the financial hole the country was in, at a significant cost to the richer members of society, and more happily on the class system.  

Sadly, being an open society, notions of ‘Buy British’ meant nothing, since if we have patriotism, it does not lie in buying British. When Anne and I went overseas, Kings of Oxford was the place to buy a motor bike, when we returned the British motorcycle industry was dead. This approach to buying, allied to the use of pre-war machinery, and shoddy workmanship, ensured manufacturing was doomed.  

Gazing at the American model, the idea of ‘buy now, pay later’, or if you prefer, Hire Purchase, swept through the system. And our two national needs, to keep up with the Jones’s and spend money we might have one day, once again became the norm.  

And basically, that is why we are where we are today, because we enjoy a system that encourages politicians to avoid the truth and setting out our real financial position, and so fails to rub our noses in the reality that we are no longer a major power. Forget ideology and romantism, and replace it with a pragmatism, which is likely to mean saying ‘enjoy what you have, this is it’, and no, you can’t have annual pay rises merely for still having a job.   

The John Major government did actually improve matters, but to a media which, thought his alleged habit of tucking his shirt tails in his pants, meant ridicule was in order, his financial approach meant loss at the polls.  

To this extent there can be no dispute, without growth, a brighter economic outlook is ‘pie in the sky’.   

I feel the need to make clear, I am not referring to Karl Popper’s ‘Open Society’, but that brought about by social media, where the key driver is attempting to persuade you to waste your money on goods, made by cheap labour in countries where goods are cheap because labour is cheap, and the obvious outflow of pounds.  

On a moral level this is exploitation, but before we get too hot under the collar, bear in mind that is exactly how markets work, and which nation can claim clean hands in this practice.  

Somebody should be turning in their grave after opening up television to be very much an advertising rather than educational and entertainment medium.  

As a listening change, being still largely bed tied, I have been listening to different music on my player. From this come two questions, one objective, the other less so. Why are violin sonatas so called since the piano is the dominant instrument? Secondly, while accepting my hearing must be to some extent degraded, why do violinists of today adopt such a thin and wispy sound? Despite an earlier comment, I did very recently listen to Rachel Podger playing three Beethoven sonatas. It so happens I have the Menuhin siblings playing the same sonatas on a LP from perhaps the eighties. There is no comparison in terms of richness of sound.   

Just how many blind alleys we have gone down, induced by manufacturers seeking gain. Long wave is no more, DAB is not even as good as FM, and as for music via the internet…. How many sadly believe ‘smart phones’ are to make the buyers life easier, total rubbish. Smart phones benefit the makers and sellers – we are all so naïve. The simple truth is constantly forgotten, you get nothing for nothing.  Binary has and continues to do damage in just about every walk of life, and particularly in the direction it seems to push thinking as in, you are either for me or against me, all is now black or white, and so it may seem for those of the age that Helen Shapiro was when she made her hit records.  

Music and poetry 

I eventually returned to Haydn, feeling a need for music that was structured, organised and a bit jolly and currently needed by me at least.  

I realise this poem is a little premature, but I liked it and since I am no fan of the Bronte novelists, seized the chance to be positive.  

Fall, Leaves, Fallby Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;  
Lengthen night and shorten day;  
Every leaf speaks bliss to me  
Fluttering from the autumn tree.  
I shall smile when wreaths of snow  
Blossom where the rose should grow;  
I shall sing when night’s decay  
Ushers in a drearier day.  

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