Yet another week dominated by the bungling affairs in the United States, and here at home the Bank of England warning that plans should be in place for a no deal Brexit – while the country still struggles with Covid 19. All hard to believe in this little patch of England, so cut off in many ways from the outside world.

I am of course delighted that as one of the 2.2 million I may now leave the house, however in my case it is actually the effects of hay fever rather than any government instruction that applies. The truth is Anne and I have been so very very fortunate in where we have found ourselves.

Having gone round the farm with Anne at the end of the week I found myself regretting my inability to express my feelings in poetry. While even I can manage formulaic poems, they are so far from the real thing. The sight of our trees and hedges, the wild areas, the birds, the contented cattle and the mix of order and disorder fits so perfectly my personal image of how the landscape should be managed, and as always fills me with gratitude to have reached this point as I approach the end of my life.

The farm, after a busy weekend taken up with moving stock around, all the time bearing in mind the restrictions of Higher Level Stewardship and ensuring that the whole farm was once again sprayed with 500, became a little quieter. The barn is now completely cleared. All trailers bar those on which a scratching brush is attached are now collected together on the much-tidied windrows.

Our consumption of prep 500 is so considerable that if, like this year, our own efforts are not as successful as we hoped, we have to buy it in, and though much comes from the BDAA, we also import from Germany. Now the compost heaps are all but complete merely waiting some tidying, all will be treated with preparations 502 to 508. Additionally, we shall of course be making cpp which we add to the 500 or horn preparation at the time of spraying.

Sacha and Romain have played their part in smartening up the business park, helping out with stock movements, planting out tender vegetables and ensuring the drought does not destroy the hard work already done in the vegetable garden day a week. How fortunate we are to have their contribution.

Sacha and Romain are sadly only with us for another 4 or 5 days but have been very very welcome and useful visitors – one of the toughest tasks they tackled was exposing the fence line in the Rams Field. There was a time when it was safe to keep a bull in that field but that has not been the case for a number of years.

Fencing is a long way from completed but work continues, indeed in May over 1200 metres were erected. It is not until you actually see an invoice or think about what is involved that you actually realise that the capital grant goes only a small way to covering the actual costs. Moreover, the fencing itself only makes up 65% of the final cost. 

Related in part to the fencing, but as much as to our attempts to avoid overgrazing, we shall be using very much more electric fencing than in past years. Hopefully our new equipment will save both time and energy. Obviously, it is likely that we will need more batteries since using mains electricity is only possible close to the workshop.

We did experience some light rain midweek and some heavier showers later in the week, but I doubt we have had in total more than half an inch – not really enough but far better than nothing. The trouble with these showers is that they are so localised and apparently strike at random. It is hard to watch heavy rain fall on fields just a short distance away while the shower passes us by.

The RPA were so kind as to contact me by email in order to inform me that my appeal was now in front of the appeal body. No doubt I should feel grateful, after all it is only ten months that have passed. But then what can one expect at a time when the Leader of the House forces through a requirement that the Commons returns to its normal anachronistic habits on voting so that government whips can intimidate those who show signs of voting the wrong way; of a government that decides at this late stage to require 14 days quarantine for foreign tourists. All this when the Prime Minister offers refuge to 3,000,000 Hong Kongese while his immigration minister rushes to take punitive action against refugees coming across the Channel. No wonder the book written by the political commentator Isobel Hardman is a best seller – ‘Why we get the wrong politicians’.

Thoughts inspired by events in the USA

Reverting to events in the United States and hearing terms like militia I realised here was once again an area of vital difference between our two countries over and above the fact that their population is six times the size of ours. The word militia took my mind back to the post-restoration period when efforts were put in place to ensure a standing army could no longer be a threat to the country. Each county under the aegis of the Lord lieutenant was responsible for establishing a local Militia. Surprisingly militia were not formally abolished for two hundred and fifty years, though their military value was always doubtful and on occasion counterproductive. 

For the past century this country has relied on a small standing army with a reserve, except twice in times of national danger when conscription was introduced. Though the army is always available to the civil powers, the assumption is that it is the police who are responsible for maintaining the peace. 

The contrast with the situation in the United States is astonishing. Aside from their maintaining a standing army 30 times larger than the UK, each state maintains its own National Guard under the control of the state Governor. The National Guard totals somewhere between three and four hundred thousand members. Additionally, it is legal for civilians to set up their own armed militia. Exactly how many of these exist is hard to be certain but it has been as many as a thousand with a total membership of around 100,000. 

Add to that 18,000 police forces and how can you have common standards – after all it is a problem in this country with 43 forces. Moreover, the history of policing diverged from the inherited pattern of that in England. In the first place the main purpose of the new police forces was to control disorder rather than solve crimes. Secondly in the southern states, the ‘slave patrols’ were what evolved into their police forces. This needs to be understood if we here are to stand any chance of making sense of the situation in America.

As every day passes, the realisation of the width of the cultural gap between the USA and our world, grows. Sadly events there spill over into this country as well, but at least though racism obviously exists in this country, it is of a different order, nature and origin, but then we do not have the history of the joining together of a slave owning group of states with those whose economy was built on cheap white labour, nor the built in fear that seems to exist there.

Beethoven’s First Symphony

On a lighter note, after listening to Record Review on Saturday when recordings of Beethoven’s First Symphony were reviewed, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I should feel a degree of sympathy for experts. I must have around eight recordings of that particular work, including the one the expert settled for. I confess I enjoy all the copies I have, and the only explanation for this I can come up with is that my aural memory is very ill-developed, if it exists at all. So ‘compare and contrast’ when applied to music just does not figure as a meaningful activity for me sadly. That said, I am acutely aware of wrong notes and music that is off key which made certain events I had to attend rather testing.

A lighter moment

Anne and I watched a film of a book by Agatha Christie this week called I believe ‘Death in the Caribbean’. Never having read the book nor seen either of the earlier versions I was amused to see the nod to ‘Murder in Paradise’.  

While still In this lighter mode, I recommend ‘Slightly Foxed’ a small company with rather less pretensions than the ‘Folio Society’ – it not only publishes a much smaller range of books but also a quarterly magazine each of which contains a significant number of short essays by authors both well-known and not, but always worth reading in their own right.

I may collect stamps, but my excessively large collections of records, cd’s and books entirely reflects my interest in the content, not any potential value. So, I have no first editions that I know of, nor any valuable records. I do enjoy a well printed and presented book, but it is the contents that may lead me to purchase it. From the Folio Society I have bought the Adrian Bell Trilogy for my son, so he can share books that greatly interested me In my youth (my copies are very tatty), for myself I bought Erich Kastner’s autobiography of his youth, in memory of the pleasure ‘Emil and the detectives’ gave me years ago. Their booklist is not long but obviously selected with great care and I guess reflects a mindset that I can relate to.

Sadly, it is some time since I have seen a barn owl, but happily on Thursday evening I heard one moving along the hedgerow in the field by the drive. Their call is totally unlike that of a tawny owl, and frankly a rather disturbing sound but then they are called screech owls!

Once seen they are hard to forget. In the hope of perhaps celebrating their return I have chosen the poem below.

When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

When merry milkmaids click the latch,
And rarely smells the new- mown hay,
And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
Twice or thrice his roundelay,
Twice of thrice his round allay;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.

When I read the name of the poet, I was very surprised. Read aloud might make it easier for you to guess. Obviously from the 19th century, a romantic but certainly not a rustic. Given the poet was not obscure I leave it to you to decide.

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