Spring has sprung!

Well it has been one of those weeks – and the weather has played only a small part.

Lambing started on Monday, TB testing was on Tuesday and Friday and it seems likely that three out of the four isolated animals will be slaughtered; a key member of the family has been totally out of action all week and needing support; and the Ulula team has been severely stretched in terms of bodies available. However, as you would expect, morale remains high, if energy levels are somewhat depleted. The arrival of half-term means that noise and laughter in house and gardens has significantly louder, and time available for parents is increased because transport to and from school has ceased for a period.

Because of the torrential rain over Monday/Tuesday night the main herd has had to stay in the barn, but given the weather forecast, will be let out on Monday – the field they will go into is yet to be decided. Bacchus whose eye was causing such concern, now seems to be restored to good health. All the cattle are anxious to leave the barn and since our feed reserves are almost exhausted that, added to the medium-term forecast, is fine.

Lambing began on Monday and largely has gone well. The ewe that got stuck and was carrying quads never recovered, and the ewe that got attacked by a dog had to be put down. So far there has only been one seriously difficult birthing and fortunately our vet was on hand (because of the TB testing) and managed to save one of a set of triplets. As I have written before, lambing brings you face to face with the real world of nature – but the ‘miracle’ of new life entering the world balances the downside.

Losing three animals to TB means that, almost certainly, the whole herd will be tested again in the near future. It reminds us that we are in a TB ‘hot spot’.

The rain at the beginning of the week meant that no cultivation was possible; that was actually helpful as the seed will not now come until Monday. I look forward to being able to write next week that up to 40 acres has been drilled. There should also be some photos since they are required to prove the work has been done! Having considered the matter carefully our new fencing will be conventional, and we have all but decided on the contractor to use.

Spring is firmly established

Despite the cool nights and chilly wind that have been with us for the greater part of the week, spring is now firmly established. Aside from the hedgerows, the wood is once again enhanced by the flowering of primroses and bluebells, while our garden is a sight for sore eyes with many different plants in flower. While the cherry and plum trees are already in full bloom the apples and pears are only at bud burst.

The quite hard frost at the start of the week did not as I rather feared, kill off the masonry bees which are back again. As for the birds, while we have not heard a cuckoo yet, everything else sounds to be in full voice. A sound and sight that each year gives me real pleasure is the skein of geese flying over the farm accompanied by the sound of their wings and characteristic honking. They probably are only Canada geese but it’s good to have them raise a brood on the scrape each year.

Parliament in recess

Parliament has gone into recess for Easter which hopefully means no talk of Brexit for a week or so, and the extension of the deadline, while solving nothing means nothing too dramatic is likely for a while. So, world news can again take its rightful place in our thinking. Developments in Algeria and Libya are so akin to the behaviour of the Arab world described in the book ‘The Arabs’. As for the Sudan, we might very well need to support a new influx of immigrants attempting to enter Europe.

Viennese sound

I have often read about the distinctive Viennese sound. Now I have heard it. This morning listening to the Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet playing a favourite Haydn quartet, the difference in sound from that played by more modern quartets is striking. I am tempted to use the kind of language that irritates me badly when I read reviews.  The rich velvety Viennese sound contrasted so greatly with the ‘brittle’ and ‘sharp’ sound of the later. I suspect however I might easily tire of the slightly ‘syrupy’ sound of the early fifties, accustomed as I am to more modern interpretations, but it was certainly interesting. 

Childhood memory

A strong youthful memory is of huge seaplanes moored in Poole Harbour. Short Sunderland’s I assume, and indeed there is such  a preserved aircraft in a museum in Southampton. The other types whose names come to mind are ‘the Walrus’ and the Catalina. Today seaplanes are only found in a very few parts of the world. All this came to mind because of the adding of Brunei to the list of hated regimes reminded me of the key role the seaplane had played historically in the pre-war period of the empire. Below Brunei, on the same island, were the states of North Borneo and Sarawak. The introduction of the delivery of mail by post both via Singapore, and within the states by seaplane, had huge significance in the development of those territories. With no infrastructure, all depended on the use of rivers and the sea. What was true of this small part of the world was equally true of many other parts of the world.

A few of these aircraft continued in use after the Second World War into the fifties but they were slow, and the war had caused not just the creation of landing strips but faster and more economical aircraft. They were a feature of their time and for that short period played a vital role. Perhaps their last momentous world appearance was in 1948 when, with Berlin entirely cut off by road, all supplies from food to coal had to be flown in, most by regular air transport but a considerable amount by the Sunderlands of the Royal Air Force to Lake Havel until the lake froze in winter.


As you must know, every year we have the pleasure of the company of woofers, the vast majority of whom come from France and Germany. One common feature is in our greater use of ‘may I”, ‘would you mind’, ‘thank you’ and in particular ‘sorry’. I am sure most of us at some point laughed at ourselves for saying ‘sorry’ either to a piece of furniture or when the fault is clearly not one’s own. I raise this because of the link between ‘sorry’ and ‘apology’ and how easily it seems the difference in meaning between them is not recognised.

The distinction ought to be clear. If I kick you, deliberately or accidentally I certainly need to apologise – depending on the circumstances I might even feel sorry. That, like most families, some of my relatives died in workhouses, is something to feel very sorry about but if any organ of government chooses to apologise, it would be quite absurd. Any descendent of a society which built an empire should be sorry for the bad things done but does it make sense to apologise? Should an Italian apologise for crushing the Ancient Britain’s in the first century AD, or in more recent time a Belgium give personal apologies for the horrific behaviour of their ancestors over a hundred years ago in the Congo – to what end. I would expect the Belgium to feel sorry for that episode in their history but surely not the Italian – though they might well feel properly sorry for their countries efforts to build an empire in Africa.

As a side issue I ask myself again, just why it is felt that this country was so dreadful in having an empire. Empires are/were not restricted to the British or to Europeans – we are so self-centred and arrogant in our thinking, we are no longer the world power, nor will we ever be again but does that really matter?

Returning to my main theme I think we also have a real problem with our use of ‘thank you’. I may be totally alone, but nothing irritates me more than when a BBC presenter fulsomely thanks a reporter, flown at great expense to us to the back of beyond, for repeating all that the presenter has just said. On the other hand, do we say ‘thank you’ enough to people who may just be doing their job but do it especially well? So ‘thank you’ is another expression that often is misused. And the more one thinks about these phrases the more one realises how tone and inflection is crucially important in our language 

Unfortunately, having written that, I was at once reminded of this new habit of asking questions and finishing on a rising tone. I thought only young people did that but actually there is a prominent politician who does this every week when the Commons is sitting, and I do not like it!

Misunderstand me not, our use of ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ are essential components of a peaceful social life. To date I have not come across any wholehearted attempt to explore these matters, but I do think this confusion bedevils all kinds of relationships from the personal to the national. There is a theme here which rather like a scab, I am bound to come back to at a later date.

Hopkins is a poet who, largely, is only known to us by grace of the actions of Robert Bridges – a poet I have referred to before. In particular Hopkins, a convert to Catholicism in the nineteenth century uses poetry as a reflection of his piety and faith. He believed his poetry should be read aloud – an approach I think is worth following with all poetry.

The first eight lines of his sonnet entitled Spring by Gerald Manley Hopkins

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.”

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