It’s all about the sheep!

I apologise for the length of last week’s note, but not for the content, my feelings were running high.  

This week will see a much shorter note, and end on Friday since on Saturday I go to have my second cataract done and will again take up the ‘look’ of Buddy Holly (or so I might wish). 

I understood on Monday why I felt the need to write about Donald Rumsfeld and his most famous quote. For me, out of the blue, an unexpected set back caused the day to pass while I sat in a zombie like state. The detail is irrelevant but for those whose naivety is as great as mine, the word to remember is convalescence – it had completely escaped my notice.  

So, after sharing with you the farm notes there will be no great rants – I promise. Incidentally if you want distraction from political life in this country try reading the Atlantic or Vanity Fair, both of course American publications, though covering international events well.  

But first I need to share the good news supplied by researchers at Anglia Ruskin university. As and when global society implodes, we are third in the list of states to survive. Unsurprisingly the five states they list are all islands!   

A “very likely” collapse would be characterised by the disintegration of supply chains, international agreements and global financial structures, according to researchers at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.  

Farm News

We were concerned to learn from Brendan that he had seen a red kite eating what may have been a rabbit in one of our fields. Unlike the RSPB, this news was not received with unalloyed joy. The kite is not merely a scavenger, but also a large predator, and as such is most unwelcome here. It puts our hares at risk, as well as small birds. It is forgotten why large predators like the wolf and kite were causes of concern. In the case of the kite, it was not just to protect gamekeepers raising pheasants for ‘gentlemen’ to shoot! 

We are pleased to have small raptors, owls and buzzards, on the farm, but are concerned to have the ravens and carrion crows joined by kites.   

The bulk of the week was given over to the sheep. As a first step, the shorn wool had to be taken to Bromyard, a picturesque drive but time consuming. Then there were the consequences of our discussion on sheep. We decided to buy a new batch of one year old ewes and explored further the drug routine our supplier worked to.  

He, like us, suffers from much too molybdenum in his soil, and it became clear that in two ways his approach differed from ours. Fortunately, he uses organically verified products.  

He drenches twice a year rather than once and used boluses on the ewes. All not too disturbing.  

And then it was time to have all the sheep in for drenching and cliczine.  

Those of you with very long memories may recall that some years ago, in a more competitive situation, we were awarded a similar sixty percent grant for an up-to-date sheep handling system. At the time we decided to spend the money elsewhere. In the event we have ended up with a far more useful and sophisticated system. Mind you we still had to find the sixty percent!  

And so, the week passed. We had several downpours, but although that made spraying impossible it was good for the cut fields.  

A piece of good news came from the RPA. Some time ago a claim was submitted for the most recent work completed on new fencing. We were getting slightly anxious, so when out of the blue I got a telephone call to tell me all would be well I was delighted at the outcome, if at a loss to follow her explanation. That I put down to my current state of health. The follow up email bewildered Chris similarly, but if the money will come that is the main thing.  

If I had not promised to keep this short you would certainly hear my views on how big organisations fail to value the time of their customers… 


I understand the so-called Olympics are currently in progress. I lost interest in these events decades ago when the behaviour of Russia and its satellites made clear winning medals at any cost was what the event was about, and all was about national pride. I fear in recent years British governments have all but imitated that approach. Tables showing how many medals each country has won support that view. Does the number of medals individuals achieve really say anything meaningful about a nation?  

I have no doubt that patriotism is inbuilt in me but jingoism and nationalism I want nothing off. 

I wrote recently how difficult it is for an English person to answer the simple question ‘what does being English mean?’ Well in the paragraph above I partially answer the question. I would add to that list simple things like: 

  • being able to laugh at oneself, and I am therefore going back to the 18th Century definition, which was character 
  • accepting the rule of law 
  • accepting that life has its ups and downs 
  • attempting to live by a code of behaviour which stands by notions of tolerance, humility and laughter when faced by difficulties 
  • being above all, pragmatic and distrustful of ideological approaches.  

Essentially, I suppose conservative but with a small ‘c’ and a built-in dislike of authority.  

That great cartoonist Pont had a series of his cartoons published in a book ‘The British character.’ George Mikes, the refugee from Hungary who soon after the war became a British citizen, mined this territory to great effect beginning with his book ‘How to be an alien.’ Both I think realised that the whole question of a national character is really rather daft, and a subject for humour rather than consideration. 

Yarmouth remembered

I was delighted to read that serious money in going to be invested in Yarmouth in Norfolk. We lived there between 1949 and December 1952. In those days, despite the extensive bomb damage, it was a lively town with its own theatre, a mass of activity along the holidaying areas and, despite the Luftwaffe, many buildings still standing dating back to its very significant historic past.  

A sandbank offshore provided a safe roadstead, often used by the Navy during the Napoleonic wars. Indeed, the fleet that attacked Copenhagen assembled there. That was etched into my memory by discovering resentment over that was part of the patter of a tourist boat cruise.  

The Minster, arguably one of the three largest in England, and dating back to the 12th century, was extensively bomb damaged, but has now, I understand, been reconsecrated and brought back into use. But that was in the 1960’s, long after we had left. How damaged its graveyard was, I do not know, but I still well remember visits to it, full as it was of memorials to seamen – local and naval.   

Of course, what really sticks in my mind was going down to the quayside when the drifters came in and unloaded their over full baskets of the ‘silver darlings,’ and the full Baptist church on a Sunday during that period, when their favourite hymn ‘Eternal father, strong to save, those in peril on the sea’ was sung lustily and with full faith.  

The town had, I believe, two piers, but this was not territory my mother would allow her children to visit.  

Snobbery amongst the middle class was alive and well in that period – perhaps an unfair comment. Ideas of what was and was not acceptable were clearer them. 

Two things, I assume, killed off the bustling town of the 1960’s. Firstly the gross over fishing of the herring, and then cheap summer travel to far warmer places than an old fashioned sea side resort on the east coast of England, where, while it may not rain a great deal, may even have sometimes been sunny and warm, where the beaches despite being extensive and sandy bordered the grey waters of the north sea, a steeply shelving entry into waters that rarely exceeded 15 degrees, and where the currents were a constant danger – not to mention the jellyfish.  

It did not help that the town once had three railway stations and could at its height expect trains from all over the country during the holiday season, when it lost all that, closures became the order of the day. As far as I know trains still run between Yarmouth and Norwich. and south as far as Lowestoft. In our time in Yarmouth a train line ran past my primary school – North Denes – stopping at the racecourse about half a mile away and carried on to exotic places like Gorleston. Both line and racecourse are now gone and replaced by caravan parks and summer mobile homes.  

Still, I remember it with affection, learning to swim in an unheated open air Olympic sized pool, and seeing my first film called something like Angels 1500, and watching the original cast performing ‘the happiest days of your life’ and having my first term at the venerable grammar school.   

I wish them well for the future, but even if that fails, the architecture is worth visiting – and yes, I do know that the performance of Yarmouth school children is now amongst the lowest in the country. 

Time to celebrate 

Since this week, on Thursday, we celebrated 57 years of marriage, I make no apologies for choosing a John Donne love poem to end these notes. And yes, I do know it is a celebration of new love but….. 

And then to my utter surprise there was a cake made by Boots and Rosie, covered in flowers from the garden, lovely cards, and a host of bird boxes as gifts.

But I am distracted – back to the poem which is called “The good morrow”: 

John Donne, The Good Morrow

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I   
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?   
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?   
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?   
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.   
If ever any beauty I did see,   
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.   
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,   
Which watch not one another out of fear;   
For love, all love of other sights controls,   
And makes one little room an everywhere.   
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,   
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,   
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.   
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,   
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;   
Where can we find two better hemispheres,   
Without sharp north, without declining west?   
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;   
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I   
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

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