“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
I was very hard pressed over what I should write in my introduction. My first effort was far too long even if, in my view, the matter I discussed was enormously important. In the end I decided to use a quote from an article from Jeremy Clarkson at the start of the week. “We don’t have to set fire to each other. We could just disagree”. Important words from a man who, out of the blue, in recent months, seems increasingly the voice of sanity.
The weather this week has been crisp, frosty, foggy and for a few hours each day, sunny. It somehow feels quite wrong. In my mind I have been taken back to early April in 1954, walking across heathland, and then across football pitches, all heavily frosted, and myself in my first term at this new grammar school, satchel on back and feeling the cold on my legs since grey flannel shorts were the order of the day.
From those words you will appreciate news from the farm, though in all but one respect, is fine. So, unless I had chosen to be repetitive, I am left with very little to say.
The ‘one respect’ is that Tim will be off for three weeks at the end of this week, and hence Chris has had to take time to arrange support since he cannot do all the routine tasks on his own seven days a week and everything else required of him.
Our stock has expanded by the addition of a new heifer calf, otherwise our stock numbers remain unchanged. As for the family, grandchildren are back at school, parents and grandparents in good heart and no new concerns we are yet aware of.
Avian ‘flu has reached Inkberrow, but so far no dead wild birds have been seen on the farm.
One of the most unusual bird sightings of this winter was to see four grey herons all together though not quite in a group, in a field some little distance from the Brook. In the garden, as I have remarked before, we see numerous blackbirds all at the same time, the one and only mistle thrush pair we seem to have, routinely at least three moorhen together, and sadly far too many rooks. For the moment, we are not seeing those wretched magpies, but do seem to have our own small colony of Jackdaws. Though I really want to dislike them, I cannot since my grandmother would, at the drop of a hat recite from memory the ‘Jackdaw of Rheims’. I doubt it is well known today, but the author, Richard Barham, aka Thomas Ingoldsby, was a favourite in Victorian times.
Watching our resident Greater Spotted Woodpecker in our very old apple tree I saw that once again it has mistletoe growing on it. Good news that, since some years ago, in support of a SCBS Christmas Fair, an overenthusiastic volunteer, cleared the tree of all the mistletoe then growing on it – little of which actually got sold!
It is one year since America survived an insurrection, and digesting comments from a variety of sources, it appears that the Republic remains at risk of breaking, it seems to me therefore, compellingly necessary to share some ideas expressed by Montesquieu who, writing in the 18th century a book called The Spirits of the Laws, is now seen by most as having written the first and fundamental work of modern political sociology.
Not all his ideas were soundly based, but his thoughts on republics, on democracy resting on the foundation stone of separation of power and on the basis required for democracy to flourish, have stood the test of time. He was much influenced by his time living in England and his rapport with the thoughts of men like John Locke, and was perhaps slightly delusional in his notion of how far democracy existed in this country at that date, but that in no way diminishes his observations which I share below since they are relevant not only to America, but also to ourselves given the behaviour of this government and the approach of the Prime Minister.
Republics were in his view inherently unstable; open to being taken over by dictators and bonded too often solely by fear of another community – obvious examples of this are Nazi Germany and Russia today over Ukraine, which we know makes up only one sixteenth of Russia’s borders. History demonstrates the accuracy of this idea, and that necessary bonding is not achieved overnight or even over more than two hundred years.
Democracy requires absolute division of power between the leaders, the judiciary and the executive. Our present Prime Minister and many in his party seem determined to move away from this proposition, which took centuries to firmly establish. Mind you this week has, at last, demonstrated that our democracy may still have some resilience.
Finally in Montesquieu’s view, whatever else, it was what the people that determined what form of government best matched their perceived needs. Whether we like it or not, our notion of democracy is not regarded by the majority of people in many countries as how they wish to be governed.
It is no exaggeration to write that our notion of democracy, which is limited to a relatively small number of states, is at risk and will only survive if the general population either in this country and/or America protect it.
I was stumped recently by the question as how Prussia had moved from being a small and insignificant state to becoming the major power among the German States, and then leading the unification of Germany in 1867. I was also taken aback by having written fairly recently about the 18th century and referred to the consequences of the Seven Year War in Europe, without taking on board all aspects of the significance of the War of Austrian succession, which began and ended in the decade before. That war was over who should lead the Hapsburg Empire after the death of Charles VI, Holy Roman emperor and head of the Austrian branch of the house of Hapsburg, in October 1740. At the same time, The war of Jenkins Ear was underway, and no doubt appealed to English public opinion rather more than the battle in Europe between the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs.
In fact, the most significant set of events in that war were probably those in Silesia. On the death of Charles, Frederick King of Prussia, seized control of one of the richest Austrian provinces, Silesia and the Austrians though they tried to regain this territory utterly failed. Prussia had suddenly become a major power. In the wars that continued, the British made, what with hindsight, really did come back to bite them in 1914, by throwing its power in support of the alliance which included the enlarged state of Prussia.
The two Fredericks threw everything into become a major military power, so that at the Battle of Waterloo the French were faced by two armies. The largest, led by Wellington, was made up of forces from a number of German states, as well as soldiers from the Low Countries. The other army was the Prussian, which after an early defeat by the French regrouped in time to claim to have guaranteed French defeat at Waterloo.
Their role in 1815 so enhanced the Prussian position it led to the unification of all German states under the authority of Frederick of Prussia, now emperor of Germany. Again, ironically, England backed this move, not knowing that the heir to the throne and an anglophile would die very early, allowing a man to succeed him who would all but destroy Europe in the First World War, which in itself led to the Second World War. I assume that they have this status because though there had been previous world wars, none had seen armies made up of conscripts.
Attempting to find something positive to say, it was in the early 20th century that the abused soils of Silesia and their drop in productivity meant Rudolf Steiner’s ideas on agriculture, which we now call biodynamics, came to be developed.
I doubt that you wonder why I have made no comment on the test matches between Australia and England. Once upon a time I would have given over a large part of the nights on which the matches were being played to listen to Test Match Special – how glad I am to be past all that, especially given the dismal performance of the English team.
What is still within my interests is looking for common links and failures to see and act on them. After the ‘massacre’ at Peterloo, the English government realised that using the army to quell discontent could easily become disastrous, and that a civilian force was required. Churchill of course was not sold on this proposition, and when Home Secretary did once call out the military. I do not think the situation in Northern Ireland can be equated to Peterloo, but if you introduce the army into any volatile situation, inevitably they act as they are trained to act.
Amritsar demonstrated that this reality had not been understood in India, and a panicky general, faced with what he saw as an uprising, ordered his Gurkha troops to open fire, and the result is well known history. From the novels of Michael Pearce – writing about occupied Cairo and Abir Mukherjee, writing about India in the first years of the second decade in the 20th century, the civilian governments struggled to keep the soldiers from intervening since they were well aware of the dangers if the Army took control.
I should perhaps confirm that despite this action in Amritza, Sikhs made up a high proportion of the Indian army and were highly regarded members of that force. The poem I have chosen in entirely nostalgic but hopefully none the worse for that.
Snow flakes by Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.