Monthly Archives: April 2013

Me, I change the light bulbs.

There are certain jobs that shouldn’t fall to an honest churchwarden. Trust me in this. Churchwardens do fixtures and fittings, perhaps even a bit on the personnel side, but pontificating on the eternal verities is way above our pay grade.
But you know what it’s like. When the midden hits the windmill, you’re the man (or woman or whatever) on the spot. Anyway, quite literally, I was just going into church to change a light bulb. (And how many churchwardens does it take to change a light bulb? Two; one to change the bulb and one to fill in a form under the Faculty Jurisdiction Measure.)
I unlocked the door and as I opened it, something fell onto the floor. Being a churchwarden I automatically feared the worst; hopefully it’s not structural, just some more rendering falling off. But this time it was a rather thick envelope, it must have been shoved in the side of the door.
Now thick envelopes aren’t necessarily good news either. It tends to be builders’ estimates or polite requests for prompt payment, the sort of stuff which fails to aid digestion as you read them when you’re having your breakfast. So I picked it up and looked at the front. It said, ‘Happy Birthday Grandad’.
At this point I had a sinking feeling and opened the envelope. In it was a birthday card, a big one, and inside someone had written a long message to their Grandad and how they were missing him.
When it mentioned that they hoped he was still playing his guitar, and was playing with ‘Jimi’ and could he pass on the writers love to Amy Winehouse I realised that, as usual, I was getting out of my depth. I was there to change a light bulb, so I changed the light bulb.
But I’ve still got the card to forward. The writer had said that they weren’t sure how to send a card to heaven, and I’m with them on that one. I suspect that even the Church of England’s comprehensive instructions for Churchwardens doesn’t cover that. So what to do about it?
In the end I left it standing on the communion table, next to the Bible. I’m not too old to remember loved ones I’ve lost. Eternal Verities may be beyond me, but folk religion I can understand. Anyway, according to the book there’s this bloke who’s in charge, he said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, he can sort it. I can cope with that.
Me, I change the light bulbs.

Shock scientific survey shows that people prefer salacious stories about sexual misconduct to quality literature or hard news.

First, dear reader; let us be clear in one thing. When discussing the crude desires of hoi polloi, it is taken as read that your own interests are infinitely more cultured. I take it for granted that you don’t follow this blog for titillation or amatory misfeasance but instead seek to become attuned to my muse. (An old woman in a young girls dress who rants and mumbles obscure verse of uncertain meaning*)
No, we are considering here those lesser breeds without the law whose lives are ruled by their untrammelled bawdy cravings.
You clicked on this page, agog to read about the latest survey whose undreamt of revelations are both shocking and disturbing.
Oh yes, the survey; well you see, with this blog business, I can delve into the stats section and workout how many people view each post.
Some of the posts have been cunning wrought pieces of the masters art, some journalistic exposes of a minor nature, others blatant attempts to sell a few books. (You did know I write books didn’t you? Click on the ‘About’ section now, lest you miss out. There are only so many electrons out there; I’d hate them to run out before you bought your copies.)
And now, looking back on my ceaseless toil, I can tell which posts were best received, most sought after, most loved and admired.
And frankly it is a case of ‘sod literature, journalism and high culture, give us more Marks and Spencer Knicker Adverts.’ (I did think of using that phrase as the title but felt that I’d end up getting hits from those wanting to lay a new lawn)
I’m beginning to feel guilty. Every week, women all over the world, suddenly realising they’re beginning to get threadbare in the Knicker department, desperately search Google for salvation.
Sadly for them, as they sit there growing increasingly draughty around the fundament, they end up being directed to my blog.
Overwhelmed with guilt at the suffering I’m causing, I shall slink off to get myself a spot of lunch

*Sunday morning and already a classical allusion for you to nod knowingly over, whilst you perhaps ponder upon the mutability of fate.

Smarter than the average sheep. (And also quite bright for a Londoner as well)

Sheep aren’t the most stupid of God’s creatures; they’re not even the most stupid mammal. Indeed Horses could well have been created to allow sheep to feel the smug glow of intellectual superiority that everyone needs from time to time.
Not that this is high praise, there’s single celled creatures floating in seas of freezing ammonia, illuminated by the dying suns of decayed nebulae who have more idea what is going on that your average horse. But who needs intelligence when you’ve got charisma and a good body? It’s worked for horses and it’ll doubtless work for others.
But I digress. Our next door neighbour had an issue with sheep. She’s a retired lady and a Londoner by birth, but much to her joy has found herself living surrounded by sheep and lambs. Oh and remember, when I say next door, she is the nearest house in that direction, but it’s a five minute walk, so we don’t see her every week. But anyroad up, she was heading for bed the other night when she thought, ‘That sheep sounds a little close.’
So she stepped out into her middle garden, and there, dancing along the top of the wall was a young lamb. This isn’t too improbable as her garden is well below field level and the wall top isn’t much higher than the field. Anyway, this was (briefly) cute, until the lamb fell off the wall and landed in the garden. At this point her quiet evening erupted into chaos as the lamb frantically tried to get back up the wall to join mother and mother tried to come down the wall to rejoin lamb.
Now at this point I can tell you, with all the confidence of a professional, that the thing to do is to catch the lamb, (which was probably about twenty kilos), and then bodily hoik it over the wall.
What you don’t do is to do what my neighbour did, which is to go into the house, get a kitchen chair; place chair against the wall and pat the chair indicating that the lamb jump onto the chair and then over the wall.
This never works. Sheep just aren’t mentally equipped to cope with this sort of thinking. Their grasp of spatial geometry just isn’t up to it. I’m glad our elderly border collie wasn’t there to watch this. Border collies can convey baffled condescension better than any other breed I’ve ever come across.
But she got the chair, placed it appropriately, attached the lamb’s attention to it, stood back and watched.
The lamb jumped onto the chair and then straight over the wall where it rejoined frantic mum.
Smarter than your average sheep obviously.

Was it love or just wind?

It’s an interesting thing to have on your CV. If I lie on my stomach in the muck, my arms are just long enough to reach into the icy ‘water’ and pass a rope under the chest of a black limi heifer who has managed to get herself into a slurry pit.
It’s one of these jobs you do methodically. First a cow-band round her neck, fasten it to the chainlink fence, now she’s less likely to drown. Cattle float and can swim, but if they get tired, eventually their heads sink and they drown.
Next get the rope. Strip to the waist, all the while thanking the Lord that it wasn’t a fortnight ago, and lie down in wind-dried muck.
Then quietly, because you don’t want to upset her, slide your hand down one side of her shoulders, push the end of the rope under her and grab it with your other hand.
Fasten rope, attach rope to fore-end loader, lift, pull back and deposit one wet and exhausted heifer on dry land.
With heifer washed off with warm water, stomach tubed with electrolytes and wrapped in straw out of the wind, you finally get a chance to work out how she did it. If she’d broken through there, across that bit, and got a decent run up, she might just have been able to clear that which would have meant she’d have come down there and from there it’s straight through the crust and into the drink.
When you get to the stage of structural modifications you begin to ask questions like, ‘What on earth possessed her to do it?’ Last night was a howling gale, perhaps something spooked her? Either that or looking at her age perhaps it’s her first time abulling?
Well she won’t be the first lass to end up in deeper waters than she expected on a first date.
Anyhow it wasn’t how I’d intended to start my morning, but as they say, ‘If you want to hear God laugh, tell him what you plan to do tomorrow.’

It must be spring, this evening I was nice to a poet.

Well it’s about time. I mean by that it’s about time that it was spring. (I don’t think being nice to poets ought to be seasonal, it lures them into complacency).
People were beginning to wonder whether it was going to show up at all, or whether we were going to do what we did last year, have two weeks of summer early then go straight into autumn.
At last we’ve got the first signs of grass, there’s this hint of green. Indeed if I’m not smart enough to work out an excuse for putting a few ewes on the lawn I might even have to get the lawn mower out. So yes, spring might actually be happening, and about time to.
I’ve been helping out a bit with FCN, or the Farm Community Network ( and you soon realise that some people have been finding it tough. In Cumbria we haven’t had a decent summer for two years, I’ve talked to folk who last year got less than half the fodder they needed to carry their dairy herd through the winter, and they’ve been forced to buy in feed. I know families where each month since Christmas they’ve spent more than their annual profit on feed alone. So each month winter has continued, they’ve gone another year into debt. By January, they knew they’d make no money this year. By the start of February, 2014 was a bust as well. Anyway I’m sure you can get the picture, I’m not going to labour the point.
But now, at last, it feels as if spring is here. To be honest, it’s my favourite time of year. Yes, summer’s OK, autumn with the colours can be spectacular, especially when you get up into the Lake District. But it’s spring which shows this area off to perfection.
What I really love is when you look round and see a million different shades of green, each subtly different, and as the sun moves, they all change. I don’t think anywhere in the world does spring half as well as England, and to be honest, nowhere in England does spring half as well as Furness.
Looks like it’s probably time I got the puncture fixed on my pushbike, it seems that I might need it again. Frankly this winter, when it wasn’t raining it was blowing a gale, so the bike stayed carefully put away and the front tyre was a job I’d get round to. But spring is here, life is starting, lambs are putting good taste and dignity to one side and are gambolling. I walked down one track and the air was heavy with the scent of gorse, blackthorn is in bloom and the bird song can be deafening at times. We’ve done it, we’ve lived through another winter, we’re out the other side, we’ve won another year for ourselves.

Oh yes, and I mentioned poets. I bet you never realised that farmers are very like poets. You see, neither farmers nor poets can honestly claim to be involved in an economic activity.

The death of Margaret Thatcher has been reported

British PM Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl driving Tanks in Fallingborstel, West Germany, 1986.

So I’m getting my retaliation in first. Any moment the web is going to be filled with happy munchkins dancing round singing ‘Ding dong the witch is dead’. In fact there is even a Youtube video with the comment “Thumb up if you landed here after discovering Thatcher died”
People who’ve achieved nothing and are going nowhere will fall over each other to spit on the corpse, but I wonder if they’ve noticed that the politicians of at least four parties are already fighting over who gets the ruby slippers.
She belongs to history now, it will judge her. But we live in a different world from the one in which she won her first general election. She was part of what changed the world, with the collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and now the fact the China is probably more right wing that America.

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The battles she fought are behind us, the generation now in power has other and more serious questions to face. I’d guess that this country will change more between now and 2049 than it has changed since 1979 when she won her first election.