I think I owe a thank you to my family for allowing me to share with them ideas, thoughts and the questions that are fermenting in my head just about every waking hour; for their tolerance and good nature I am truly grateful. I also must acknowledge my enormous appreciation of Anne’s good humour after all these years for the above, and in particular, accepting my need to read so widely, and buy and keep a substantial library, mainly non-fiction and essentially relating to the humanities. I freely admit the many feet of bookshelves required take up far too much space and have cost money that might have been spent in quite different ways. After writing this I realised my own mother had to cope with exactly the same problems! In their/our suburban house near the northern edge of Bournemouth, the dining room was also my father’s study, home of our upright piano and effectively three walls of bookshelves reaching to the ceiling, which, since the house dated from 1911, was nowhere near as low as in modern houses. Sadly, she died long before I was of an age to appreciate what she had to put up with.
A mix of news about our cattle. Our oldest cow at seventeen, and almost toothless is ill, but we and our vet are doing all we can to help her recovery.
Much more positively, we have had the birth of two more calves, and one of these births to a heifer which, as last week, required human assistance as the calf at birth presented itself backwards. A dangerous situation, but as you can see from the attached photo, the calf is safely suckling.
Otherwise, there is no real news to share with you. The five hares have been seen again, there is some blossom on the blackthorn hedges. In the wood there is no sign of primroses, let alone bluebells. Visiting the wood at the moment is not a real pleasure, I am told, because it is so wet especially in the 15th century furrows.
The garden and drive however are now much more colourful: primroses, daffodils, crocus, hellebore, periwinkle and still some cyclamen.
The week opened with frost at night and sunshine during the day. By mid-week we reverted to grey, dampish warmer weather. Neither condition really helpful for growth in the pastures.
I wrote about our intention to accept a DEFRA offer to have an adviser to help us out regards how we can best claim grants to cover the loss of money arising from the end of the Basic Payments Scheme. That you will remember is/was based on the number of hectares farmed – the larger the farm, the greater the grant. We have a visit on the 23rd of March – a stunningly quick response!
In recent weeks there has been a degree of concern in the farming community on the concentration on the issue of carbon, taking attention away from the real problems which are those that arise from the use of fossil fuels.
This is of course inevitable for it is easier for governments to concentrate on carbon capture rather than do anything serious about the producers of fossil fuels, which are the basis of most fertilisers, a fact that is not widely known.
Soil is of course home to a host of living things, and carbon is not a negative component of that world. What does destroy that world are fertilisers and treatments to kill unwanted plant and insects.
I came across this graph during the week and, though I have reservations about the value of averages, the information comes from a reputable source. DM here means dry matter.
Whilst periods of 2021 were very challenging for grass growth, GCGB data shows grazed grass yields averaging 9.2 t DM/ha to date – highlighting the productivity that is achievable with attention to grassland management, even in trickier conditions.
Finally, I am happy to say that it appears we will have woofers from April to the end of July. Certainly, on the first of April we are looking forward to welcoming Alice, who will be with us over the lambing period. A time of learning for her and an extra pair of hands for us.
Last Thursday morning I listened to a fascinating discussion on the Arthashastra. Bliss! A discussion about something I had never heard of. I now know something of what it is, and inevitably was driven to explore both the language it was written on and the early history of India.
Generally, I am uncomfortable venturing into an area where I have very limited prior knowledge, but since what I found may well be unknown to you, and actually is not irrelevant to today’s world, and also illustrates how nationalism and prejudice can so easily mislead us, I will venture… I have had to rely on the internet rather more than I am comfortable but did manage to access some research papers.
But first the interest and significant of the 15 books of the Arthashatsra which were only rediscovered in 1905, and first appeared in English around 1915, having been translated from Sanskrit. Artha apparently means ‘aims’ and shatsra means ‘treatise’. The issue of Sanskrit I will pick up later. Essentially it is a treatise on how to achieve the aims of a well-run state, covering all aspects including social behaviour but excluding ethics. It has been compared to the “Prince”, and in many ways is close to the thinking and ideas of Plato. It came into full prominence in the reign of King Chandragupta, who was founder of the Mauryan Empire, which lasted from around 320 BC to 185 BC. This empire embraced an area even larger than that of the British centuries later. The document largely followed Hindu thinking.
After a reversion to the normal situation of ‘War lords’, the next significant empire was that of the Gupta’s, though this only ruled northern India, but is seen as the ‘golden age’ probably because after defeat by the ‘White Huns’, India was eventually ruled by a variety of outsiders including the Muslims and the British. Though there is no reason to really believe it, it is tempting to think of the criminal Gupta family that dominated South African politics for so many years as being related!
The Gupta empire which lasted from the 3rd to 6th century AD was overthrown by the ‘White Huns’. I stop at this point as the ice gets far too thin in terms of my knowledge. If any explanation is needed, I admit all efforts to find the books I was looking for failed, and in any case, if found focussed on knowledge over forty years old.
But there are three particular points to make: First, Hindu thinking that Sanskrit is the mother of all language stems from belief and is not reality. Sanskrit language like all European language derives from a proto-Aryan stem.
Secondly, as I have written before, Caucasian is but a subset of Aryanism.
Thirdly ‘hun’ is not another word for German. This is a common misunderstanding. Its popular derogatory meaning stems from its use in WW1 propaganda to suggest the enemy were barbarians. Actually, the Huns were a nomadic group of tribes, who were part of the Hunnic tribes that were settled in Central Asia. In literature they are described as either, Black, White, Green/Blue or Red depending on which part of the compass they came from – the White Huns who invaded India came from the western tribes.
A final cautionary note, nationalism and prejudice are much involved. Additionally, modern archaeology is substantially changing our knowledge base. It seems scholars first became interested in Sanskrit in the 16th century, and that interest heightened in later centuries, but came up against the biblical idea of the ‘Tower of babel’ which blocked the growth of knowledge for some years.
The British, as their trade with India grew, became ever more interested in the past and present of that country in the 18th century, and this led to the establishment of the Asiatic Society. Inevitably as the involvement of the British grew, so did the realisation that here was a civilisation far older than even the Greeks. None of this should suggest it was only the British who were engaged in this learning. The French and Germans were also much involved and the latter did much of the exploratory work on linguistics.
One of the greatest British archaeologists of the early twentieth century was Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Sadly, he fell into the familiar trap of interpreting what he uncovered in the limited light of what was then known and believed. You will all remember that the ruins of Great Zimbabwe were for many years assumed to have been built by the Portuguese since it was unthinkable that Africans could have built them.
Empires come and go, and have done since recorded history, and this is true of every populated continent. Past empires all had their positives and negatives. Surely the ‘sackcloth and ashes’ we chose to wear over the past British Empire reflects badly on us, our sense of perspective, and demonstrates one of our worst characteristics – a belief in our own superiority that has irritated our political friends for so many years.
I am not going to add to the debate on Ukraine but do want to draw attention to the fact the European world enjoyed seventy years without one European nation attacking either another, or its own people. If we go back two hundred years, excluding two world wars, the historical record of Europeans fighting each other is dismal. I list a few of the worst conflicts as a reminder of what we have enjoyed not experiencing these last seventy years:
In the period 1821 to 1826 was the Greek war of Independence, during which both parties inflicted massacres and genocide against each other; in the 1850’s was the Crimean war; in 1870 was the Franco-German war, and in the early 1920’s was the genocide of the Armenians. If the list were to include all the colonial wars and other internal conflicts involving Europeans, not a year of peace can be found not involving Europeans in that 200-year period.
An issue that really caught my imagination was that of the location of famous sunken ships, which seems ‘all the thing’ at the moment. Three boats, in particular, are noteworthy in different ways. The Clotilde is believed to be the last of the American slavers. It’s one and only voyage was carried out in 1867, following a bet between two rich Americans that they could actually get away with bringing back new slaves across the Atlantic. The vessel successfully made the single journey required by the bet, carrying some 110 slaves, far fewer than planned, as Naval boats interrupted the loading. Since the act was totally illegal, the owner ensured that after discharging its cargo, the boat was then set on fire and in due course sank.
Searches have been ongoing for years as to which of the wrecks in Chesapeake Bay might be the boat that Captain Cook made famous – the ‘Endeavour’. While there was no doubt about the general area in which it lay, there was dispute as to which wreck was the correct one. The ship was deliberately sunk with others as part of a barrier across an arm of the Bay. This was not an unusual step. Perhaps the most famous example of this dates back to 1020, when a total of some fourteen Viking ships were sunk in the main seaway to Roskilde, in Demark. Five of these boats have been lifted and are on display in a museum close to the Roskilde waterfront. It is hoped to lift the further 9 vessels, one of which is believed to be the longest warship known to date at 36 metres.
Roskilde by the way is a lovely small town to visit. There is a great deal to see from art to architecture, both religious and secular, the waterfront, and very friendly people.
The third boat, whose wreck was discovered last weekend was Shackleton’s boat the ‘Endurance’, which, after time spent trapped by ice, eventually had to be abandoned and sank in the ice bound Weddell Sea. The wreck was found at a depth of 3008 metres, and a mere 4 miles from where its Captain had logged its position at sinking. I had assumed the ship in the process of sinking would have been crushed. In fact, aside from the masts and riggings, photographs from the drones employed to find it show the hull of the boat sits flat on the sea bottom almost undamaged. The journey in small boats to South Georgia is one of the genuine epics of our time, and Shackleton demonstrated his outstanding skills as a leader – a real hero, too often overlooked by those who admire Scott, a man not in the same league. Shackleton himself returned after the First World War to search for the wreck and lost his life on that expedition. His grave lies in that most desolate of places South Georgia, where a memorial marks the burial site.
Haydn figured in a recent television programme, and I learnt that it was in London, on his first visit, that he first encountered the pianos made in the shop opposite his lodgings. A speciality of John Broadwood, these grand pianos were very different from the fortepianos he was accustomed to play and compose on. I suspect that the only reason I was struck by this information came from the fact that our rather battle worn Broadwood was tuned only last week. Registered in 1900, it certainly isn’t really old, but at least John the piano tuner had a listing of these pianos, which are all numbered, and it seems pianos built in 1900 were from an excellent bunch. I still miss my old German upright, but we have no space for it, so it sits in storage. The ‘grand’ is harder to play but certainly produces an enormous volume of sound!
My father’s degree was in English, with History as a subsidiary, and his library was full of books reflecting his lifelong interest in these subjects. At his death, his books were, in the main, sold off as I had no time, emotional energy, or space to take any. But his love of poetry did not pass me by, and over time I have built up my own collection of books based on my personal interest, which includes poetry in translation from many countries. While I cannot stop myself, when choosing the weekly poem, from often falling back on classical poets, I also get delight from poetry that is less familiar hence sometimes choosing poems in dialect.
This week in exploring my main topic I stumbled across a poet who, with her husband, spent years in India, and then back in her native Scotland resumed writing poetry. The poem below is in the Angus dialect. The only word that might catch you out is ‘Lirk’, here meaning fold or hollow in the hillside.
How to pronounce them properly is another matter but seems to me unimportant – l doubt Haydn would instantly recognise my efforts to play his piano sonatas, but so what!
The poet is Violet Jacob and the poem called ‘The field by the Lirk o’ the Hill’
Daytime an’ nicht,
Sun, wind an’ rain;
The lang, cauld licht
O’ the spring months again.
The yaird’s a’ weed,
An’ the fairm’s a’ still –
Wha’ll sow the seed
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill?
Prood maun ye lie,
Prood did ye gang;
Auld, auld am I,
But O! life’s lang!
Ghaists i’ the air,
Whaups cryin’ shrill,
An you nae mair
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill –
Aye, bairn, nae mair, nae mair,
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill!