“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
What a very strange week we have had, whether talking about life on the farm, or global politics. The weather on Tuesday changed abruptly to the chilly but dry weather we have had for the majority of this week. Hard now to remember the wind and rain that battered us at the beginning of the week.
Hard also to recover from the excitement of the cricket on Monday, or on that evening the conclusion of the BBC series Blair Brown. It was a fascinating series and revealed a great deal. I confess by the end of it though, I was near rant mode.
Brown did deserve praise, but why could he not have admitted that yes, it was the ‘lenders’ and yes, it was the American banks that were the worst offenders, but they reached this position as a result of governments deregulation in both the United Kingdom and the United States – Conservative and Republican respectively – allied to the political belief that all should be able to have a mortgage.
The only reason I can come up with is that he then would have been asked why, in all the years he was Chancellor, did he not ensure that the Financial Services Authority was doing its job properly.
In passing, for me at least, his need to read so many books at that time was surely rather a devastating indictment of his understanding. Nobody but an extremist on the right could have possibly fail to understand that unrestricted capitalism is a straightforward recipe for disaster, especially when one sector of the economy is allowed, and encouraged by governments, to become too important to fail.
Returning to calmer waters, a key puzzle for me this week is why do women and men have buttons on different sides and also belt buckles?
Of a different order is the question why did Mr Biden need a cavalcade of 85 vehicles to attend the Rome Conference, or why did notable attendees require nearly 80 private jets to attend a conference on Climate Change? Or, talking of private jets, why did the Prime Minister have no understanding of how his use of a private jet, to attend an exclusive dinner with Lord Moore ex editor of the Telegraph, one evening on day two of the conference, might be seen and reported on?
All which reminded me strongly of the age-old message ‘do what I say, not what I do’. Having referred to ‘calmer waters’, though I can resist commenting on the latest false step by the PM in the commons, I cannot ignore his comment about the waters around the Arctic becoming ice free, which he, alongside Putin, welcomed on the grounds that new shipping routes would be opened up. As one commentator put it ‘It is sort of funny”. Here is a man, the actual prime minister, persistently saying the first thing that comes into his mind. He simply won’t let reality get him down, such is his determination to remain upbeat, to push his message of “cakeism”.
Turning to the farm, the heavy rain at the start of the week neither caused the brook to overflow its banks or the pastures to become so saturated they needed to be kept off.
That said, there were large puddles in the usual places, including the bridle path, but by Tuesday the northerly winds meant colder weather and even some frost, and the puddles were largely gone by the weekend.
The event of the week, though it was all done in a morning, was the filling of cow horns and then their planting to give us preparation 500 to spray on the fields next year.
That said, there was quite a bit of activity for the animals as they were moved around to ensure that they both had feed, and that pastures were protected. The most significant move was probably that of the young cattle out of the barn and onto the field on the other side of the stream. Not only is their plenty of grass for them there, but it meant it was possible to clear the barn of bedding in readiness for all cattle to be housed for the winter. Visitors will notice that the rams are back on their named field, and much more importantly, looking fit and well for tupping which will begin very soon. The ewes are now on the field by the house where there is plenty of grass.
Visitors will also notice that fencing the drive has all but been completed, but there are other stretches, not visible in the same partly completed state. Not visible either from the drive are the two gates hung this week.
Among the papers received were three passports for the latest calves, an adjustment to the requirements relating to Avian flu, and a long statement from DEFRA about changes to agricultural funding – but neglected to give any useful details as to how we might respond. It’s not reassuring to learn that there will be bodies to assist us, but not until more specific information is available.
As you would expect, I scanned the Budget, in so far as detail has been released, and found nothing directly relating to agriculture, but there are certainly indirect consequences which will affect our finances, and of course increases in the cost of fuel and electricity are to a degree already with us.
Attempts to require us to pay 50p for a unit of electricity as opposed to the current charge of 14p are not cheering.
But then, all the commentators seem clear that all, but the very wealthy, are going to be increasingly worse off, especially when account is taken of very reliable estimates that Covid has reduced GNP by 2%, and Brexit by an additional 4%.
It is at long last recognised that the main sources of methane are pipelines, petrochemical plants and landfill, and that cows are just an excuse to avoid facing up to the real culprits, and part of an ideological battle with such as vegans. Sadly, there is still a clinging to the notion that reafforestation will save the day, the only explanation for which being that having to take uncomfortable real decisions such as actually turning away from coal might be avoided.
It is too early to form a view as to whether the Climate Conference actually was more than words, words, words, so I shall pass for this week on that, and indulge in some comments about music, authors and a television series.
The ‘go to’ series at present in Shetland. The photography is so atmospheric, and the acting so good that infelicities in the plot line cause no problems. This series was not written by Anne Cleaves herself but has her support. Personally, I find Vera, as portrayed in that series, preferable to the Vera in the book, but perhaps that is all down to the way she is portrayed by Brenda Blethyn.
Anne is very much enjoying the series of novels written by Martin Walker set in France, I on the other hand have been rather immersed in my French stamps of 1853, though I also found reading and then thinking through the poetry of William Diaper very slow going, though I did have the benefit of Dorothy Broughton’s splendid introduction to his complete verses. I was almost sad that I had not studied English Literature at university, but realistically I am well aware the life of an academic would not have suited.
I mentioned the cellist David Popper, and since then have listened to, and found out, a little more about the composer himself. Apparently his 48 etudes for cello are still alive for cellists of today, his light music I quite enjoyed, despite feeling it was salon music, and in places felt rather derivative. No doubt my appreciation for Paul Tortelier might have got in the way.
Sadly, following on from my comments about the India Pakistan match, numbers of Indians have been arrested in India for congratulating Pakistan, and that is regarded as treasonable. As though the world does not have enough problems.
Thinking of the recent absurdity over fishing, it was, I think, not in the same category as the Northern Ireland border dispute where I suspect ‘our leader’ either did not read what he signed, or had his fingers crossed behind his back. It seems to me entirely possible for sides to be certain that they are correct when translations are involved. Even ensuring in one’s own language that misunderstandings cannot arise is hard enough – witness the number of lawyers and their financial success – to reconcile the meaning of words in two different languages, is not likely to be easy, especially when emotions and politics are involved. In any case, English is notoriously close to Greek in its capacity, if chosen to use it, to leave one uncertain of what you are being told or are reading.
Any professional translator will confirm that translation is a very difficult task. Is it more of a problem between English and French, rather than say English and German? I am not competent to say. I have a deep interest in our language, not least because it is arguable which major language grouping it falls into. Early English was undoubtedly a Germanic language, but modern English is an amalgam of the three main language groups of North-western Europe, with the additional spice of words collected from the years of colonial power.
Personally, I find great similarities between my interest in theology and language, and that is perhaps because in both matters the passage of time has caused many rifts. My interest in theology has nothing to do with belief, my interest in language has not meant, sadly achieving any ability to learn other languages.
In my experience, the idea expressed in the “Loom of Language” that speakers of English are well placed to become multilingual since we share so many words with the French, and with some understanding of sound shifts, should find German easy since 70% of the words we use are directly related to German, is total rubbish. Thinking of school pupils being taught in Latin, and finally being fluent in both that language and Greek can only be explained by either neurological or genetic changes over the centuries, since acquiring a second language to English today is a nightmare. Or if you prefer a more mundane explanation, the English of today has in so many ways changed even in the last 80 years the task has become harder.
This coming year we will have second year agricultural students from Lyon. Since a key part of their placement is to write separate reports on aspects of farming, apart from improving their English, I shall again be enjoying the challenge of making sense of English and its translation. I have missed this part of farm life for two whole years and hope our health holds up. Having young people on the farm helps them and helps us, spare hands on a farm being always welcome, especially if they come with some farm experience, as these two do.
Recently I have referred to my struggles to read Cudworth and in choosing a poem by Alexander Pope faced similar problems. Though Pope is second only to Shakespeare in the number of quotations in our language which come from his poetry, he is almost as little read today as the poet I have chosen for this week. The obvious question is why and the answer to that is likely a further accolade to Shakespeare.
The curriculum that the was offered in grammar schools such as Shakespeare attended, which were for the better off middle classes (but for boys only of course), and the schools the gentry and their ‘superiors’ went to was very different from anything we would recognise today, and the teaching methods would horrify today’s pedagogues. The curriculum was limited to Latin (in which most tuition would be given), Greek, Rhetoric, possibly Drama, and Memorisation. No doubt some English would have been taught even if it was restricted to the Bible.
Learning was essentially by rote, but if schooling was completed, did mean all who spoke both Latin and Greek could access, from their memories, all they had learnt; could both write and speak at length, alluding to myths and poets from those ‘classical’ times. And this was the basic school curriculum for many, many years, though at some point there would have been a widening to include some approach to mathematics.
So, the education was in many ways extremely limited, but suited the times, and taught some, skills which should not have slipped off today’s school timetables. Among these I would in particular include the training of the memory – which for centuries had been a prime aspect of education.
Personally, I am unable to call back poetry in detail, though for our age group, taking English language or literature at GCE level, since no books were allowed, demanded at least short-term memory of a high order, but short-term memory and long-term memory are very different things, and of quite different value. It was General Wavell I think who told the story of a colleague saving the skin of himself and his troops by recalling from some classical work where he would find an oasis.
Shakespeare then would have had that background, but somehow, he was able to present ideas and stories in a language that ordinary mortals could understand and enjoy. While at the same time fitting in classical allusions, coining new words, and stretching the envelope of our language.
Most poets of the 17th and 18th century were not of course writing for the ‘hoi poloi’ but for their own educated class, who had the time and ‘training’ to enjoy lengthy works. In the case of Dr Cudworth, the fact is his readership would read Greek and Latin in the same way as himself.
William Diaper, whose name was brought to my attention by a friend, belongs to that group of poets. He was known to a contemporary of his, the writer of Gulliver’s Travels, (a deeply satirical work which somehow has metamorphosed into a children’s fairy story), Johnathan Swift. Diaper’s life and career were short – the latter because his patronage lost political power, the former by ill health. None of his poetry might be described as short, his shortest reflected his love /obsession with fishing and the sea, which hung over all his longer works The lines I have chosen reflect a slightly odd attitude, given his working life as a curate in the Church of England, but give, I hope, a fair indication of his voluptuous style.
Extract from DRYADES a poem by William Diaper
While ripen’d Fruits, and milder Seasons last,
And only empty Clouds the Skies o’er-cast,
Nymphs in lone Desarts chaunt the rural Lay,
Till the wing’d Hours bring on returning Day.
But when fierce wintry Storms the Forrest rend,
And rattling Hail, or fleecy Snows descend;
When conscious Birds, who know succeeding Times,
Haste from the Cold, and seek for milder Climes.
The Elfin Pow’rs (who can at Pleasure leave
Aerial Bodies, and new Forms receive)
Cast off their Vehicles, and freed from Sense,
Nor dread the Storms, nor Cold, when too intense.
The earthy Gnomes, and Fairy Elves are seen
Digging in lowest Mines with busy Men;
There labour on the fruitless Work intent,
While deeper Snows the wonted Dance prevent.