“This blog is the unfolding story of Rush Farm and an exploration of life by its philosopher farmer.”
Well the Indian summer, or if I were to be politically correct, ‘the second summer’ was, at least as far as real heat was concerned, of very short duration. But we have had no rain and the week has been a good one for life here at the farm.
It occurred to me that in personal life, conversations usually include following up on previous conversations. For this week at least I will adopt that approach by updating you on matters previously shared in these notes. A correct batting order should not be assumed.
The most euphoric moment was the receipt of an email from the RPA informing me that after 11 months they had decided to accept our appeal and would be reimbursing us with the large sum of money we paid for seed. There are too many people to thank personally, but they know who they are. As an exception, given my deep cynicism about politics today, I will however add that in that number are our MP and Joan one of her staffers.
This Friday the first puppy leaves us for a new home. Obviously, we cannot keep all of them, but we shall keep at least one. All will miss them including Steve, our postman, and there will undoubtedly be grieving grandchildren, if not Milly who is clearly bored with the whole business.
On Wednesday both Flash and Milly had to earn their keep moving sheep around. Flash remains anxious to work, but the moment a job is done she heads off for the farmhouse and adopts her normal position lying across one of the doorways.
The three rams we no longer needed were snapped up at auction and given their lack of pedigree paperwork realised a good price.
On another occasion I allowed a taste of sarcasm to creep into my comment about this countries attitude to immigrants. On Wednesday morning the excellent weekly programme ‘More and Less’ explored claims by the government in which they said, the UK took more settled immigrants than any other European country. Not a lie but the key is the use made of the word ‘settled’ – a technical term used by the United Nations.
In reality, while Sweden took 12 immigrants per 1000 of its population, the figure for Germany is 10. Surprise, surprise the figure for the UK was 1 per 1000. Not quite as generous a position as we are led to believe.
I will resist a rant, but in defence of statistics remind you all, as with guns it is how they are used!
Fridays released report on this service was utterly damming. A Labour minister some 15 year ago described the Home Office as not fit for purpose. Sadly, nothing seems to have changed and the response to the report by the Office was depressing in the extreme.
A slighter point was the discovery that the name of the ship which flying the Dutch flag landed some 20 Angolans in 1619 was the White Lion.
You will I am certain be interested to know the owner of that ship was Richard Rich who ensured the Royal Navy supported Cromwell in 1642 and was the head of the third family to hold the title of Earl of Warwick. Readers of Hilary Mantel’s epic trilogy will know the name of his father Robert.
Right, now to the latest news. After last week when most activity was about infrastructure, this week was very much orientated towards our animals. All have been moved around and in that process the lambs were separated from the ewes and further necessary vaccinations given to those young cattle that needed it.
Additionally, and perhaps I should have referred to it in my ‘follow up’, blood samples were taken from a selection of lambs and young cattle. Hopefully I will be able to share the results with you next week, but a preliminary report confirms that the tests were needed.
In the course of all this action I was reminded how different are the smells of the sheep and cattle when carried on the breeze. Mind you, even when up close the smells are better that those coming off wet sheepdogs!
The spare hardcore and planeing have been used not just to eliminate depressions in the bridle path but also to greatly improve the old farm track which in one section was in a very poor state.
The fields have plenty of grass on them and for those who were bothered I can now share that verges as well as our lawns look ‘proper’ – in other words the mower and strimmer have been much in use. We were pleased to learn that Daniel is not after-all leaving us at the beginning of October. He, by the way, has a splendid way with dogs and when Flash goes AWOL she is usually to be found in the mobile home with him.
There is much planned already for next week with the apples needing picking for pressing, and 500 to be sprayed across the whole farm. Also, while the ground remains firm the hedges in the field across the river can be cut back sufficiently to allow the field to now be fenced. The hedge we planted to divide the big field on this side of the river must be cut. Our preferred option would be to lay it, but at £25 a metre that, sadly, is out of the question.
Nicki rather generously describes me as a philosopher – I am of course neither a professional philosopher or historian but merely an individual with the time to think and read against a background of a long and, though I say it myself, successful life as both human being and leader.
I refer later to the challenges in choosing a poem. By now many of you will have realised that at least as great a challenge faces me when deciding which thought, or thoughts, I feel I must share. This week I have gone for one historic and one more recent.
I have been reading in a rather desultory way a novel set in the late 1300’s. One of the strands referred to the translation of the Vulgate into English. Thinking on this doubtfully, I was relieved to find that the author was aware his dating was inaccurate. I then side-tracked as one does, to thinking that certain key moments were taking place in England around this time. Developments that took place a century before Martin Luther but were suppressed firmly by state and church. This was a time of nominalists, Hussites and Lollards.
A moment when William of Oakham destroyed the arguments of St Thomas Aquinas, Scotus and others and reached the obvious, to us, conclusion that labelling was no more than that. It was that fierce central control that ensured the development of the printing press in England did not allow the publication of English translations of the bible until long after other northern European countries had started publication of translations in their native language.
And now to something closer to this century. At university, of the two subjects that actually interested me, one was then called ‘moral percent philosophy’ and the other was ‘economic history’. Recently I caught the tail end of a program by James May, on the Allegro. The inevitable question was how did other European countries and in particular Germany so completely overwhelm the car industry in this country. I guess we all think we know the answer but perhaps its slightly more complicated than is generally realised.
Of course, different priorities and different feelings in the various countries involved were factors but I think we need to reject many common beliefs. A favourite is that we did not benefit from the Marshall plan, but actually Great Britain was the biggest beneficiary; reject also the suggestion that the lesser damage to Britain’s infrastructure ensured money was not spent on the railways and roads; reject also the suggestion that Britain was held back because the state poured money into attempting to improve the social and health structure of the country.
The UK over the war years allocated 45 percent of its gross national budget to defence. The corresponding figure for Germany was 50 percent. Fairly meaningless figures in themselves because both parties could call on others for finance. Germany’s war effort was substantially supported by stolen money, forced labour and protection money from Vichy France, amounting to over 40 percent of that country’s GDP, while Great Britain was supported by the people and money of its empire.
This requires another pause. What did empire mean? The phrase ‘The British Empire’ did not come into the language until after the union of 1707, and then seemed to mean the new united island.
We have the first whiff of empire in 1851 when the Great Exhibition took place. But it was not until 1870 that pride in empire was stated by leading individuals like Ruskin. By the end of the Boer war public enthusiasm for the idea of empire was waning fast – so if it meant anything to ordinary people it was for a very short period.
And all that begs the question of what words like empire and colonisation mean, but that is too hot a topic for now.
So, I would like to return to my starting concern. By the end of the war, any outside observer would have recognised that our days as a world power were finished.
The question that should be asked is whether the country was ever actually a world power, and I would suggest that was, if ever true, only for a very short period.
If ever there was a dangerous area to explore then this is it. I realise I am opening a can of worms and or disturbing a hornet’s nest (though in fairness to hornets I should say the European hornet is both rare and far less aggressive than the wasp).
The ‘Great’ in Great Britain was only adopted at the time of the Act of Union, and signified no more than the joining of the two parts of our island. Though our country became eventually the major maritime power and trading nation for a period, its important role in Europe was working to ensure no one country came to dominate. Of course, from the end of the 18th century through to the 1890’s GB was perhaps the leading industrial nation. By the start of the 20th century other countries and in particular Germany had taken over that role.
Defence spending after the war continued at around 10 percent, dropping by 1950 to around 7 percent, rising again at the time of the Suez fiasco to 12 percent and then reducing steadily up to 1989: Germany was forbidden to spend money on defence, and in any case, had a quite different attitude from that which existed after 1919. Could these combinations of facts and suppositions point to the real reason for Germany’s success and Britain’s failure?
But that is not why I went down this path. The real point that I am trying to make is that the people in power were and continue to be willing to drag our country down, in a pointless attempt to avoid facing up to the reality that if Britain was really great it was because of the technological, scientific, philosophical and humanist ideals that developed here.
This country does, perhaps did have, great power, but it was in terms of the ideas that coalesced in the 19th century but developed over preceding centuries. It was British lawyers who wrote in the British ideals that formed the United Nations Charter.
Do not misunderstand me, I am in no doubt that we need to maintain a military capacity not solely for humanitarian purposes, but could we not accept the reality that in this, a country of perhaps 67,000,000 bodies. The vast majority have no false ideas about this country’s real place in the world, and as importantly, no willingness to throw their lives away to please politicians.
Choosing a poem each week is as much of a personal challenge as deciding what thoughts to share, since the number of ideas far exceeds what I can reasonably impose on you! This month the challenge is even greater since so many great poets wrote about autumn. The poem below is from America where they continue to use the word ‘fall’ which was in normal usage here until relatively recently.
These are the days when birds come back by Emily Dickenson
These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.
These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, —
A blue and gold mistake.
Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!
Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,
Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!