Monthly Archives: May 2014

If the cap fits

Finally, after extensive field trials and a no little personal hardship and expense I am finally able to announce to a waiting world the results of my labours.

Lesser men would have cavilled at the cost, never mind the loss of personal dignity. But for those of us born to explore the outermost fringes of mens fashion, this is of little import.


Yes, I have finally finished by comparison of the ‘baseball cap’ and the ‘flat cap’. Obviously the learned paper I am about to submit to the appropriate academic institution will be mulled over for some months, and I feel an increasingly excited world cannot wait that long, so I will present you a summary.


In effect, the baseball cap is superior in conditions of bright sunlight, as the longer peak shades the eyes. The flat cap is perhaps not as good in these circumstances.



The baseball cap is also superior in that it offers considerably more marketing opportunities.




But when worn during strong winds, the flat cap is far less likely to blow off and is generally warmer.

It also is a more flexible working tool; a leather patch sewn to the top not only makes it waterproof but means that you can use the cap as an impromptu glove or oven-mitt for removing hot dishes from the cooker, or hot irons from the fire prior to placing them on the anvil.

All in all, I would suggest that for the truly practical man, the flat cap is probably the answer. 

Electoral snobbery and the dog poo fairy

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers’ Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

Bertolt Brecht

I don’t think anybody has written better about anthropomorphic personification than Terry Pratchett. In his Discworld books, they occur when people believe that a phenomena or a concept has a personality, and thus the personalities become real. One of Pratchett’s best characters is DEATH, but there are others.

Within his books it seems that the more belief there is, the more likely the personification is to exist. So Jack Frost really does paint windows and the Sandman creeps round with his bag of sand sending children to sleep. Belief is what matters.

So I was a little perturbed when a couple of days ago, I saw pasted to a litter bin, a sticker bearing the immortal words, “There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy.”


This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but given the lack of trust in authority in this country at the moment it might become one. After all, if ‘they’ say that something doesn’t exist, and ‘they’ normally lie, then obviously the dog poo does exist. We’re more likely to believe in something if ‘they’ tell us not to. Hence I’m expecting to see the dog poo fairy with her red hair and white dress giving TV interviews in the not too distant future.

This lack of trust tends to manifest as contempt.

Q   “How do you know when a politician is lying?”

A    “Their lips move.”

The problem is that contempt seems to leak into other aspects of life and I don’t know about anybody else but I’m getting worried by the amount of contempt there is in politics at the moment. You see one extreme in Thailand where the country’s urban elite refuses to be governed by a party elected by the peasant majority, accusing them of taking power by bribing the peasantry (whereas previous governments took power by bribing the urban elite?)

It looks pretty bad in the US. A friend of mine described his country as “The place where the ‘liberals’ aren’t liberal and the ‘Christian right’ isn’t Christian.”

But what is it like here in the UK? When you look at stuff people post to their Facebook walls, what strikes me is the visceral contempt they, (or the people who create the ‘witty’ memes they post) appear to have for those who don’t share their political viewpoint.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with regard to the UK Independence Party. It’s notable that at a high level both the Conservative and Labour parties have been backing away from the extreme rhetoric. Indeed they’ve stressed that they don’t regard UKIP as racist.

At the moment the local election results are coming out, and already people are trying to make sense of them. One quote I thought was interesting,

“Some academics say Ukip’s base these days are those “left behind” by New Labour: generally older, generally male, generally less likely to have degrees or other academic qualifications, generally more rural, generally home-owning. (Note, yes, generally.) They feel, the theory goes, like they no longer recognise or like modern, post-immigration Britain and cannot trust the political elite.”

The big difference between London and the rest of England is also interesting but then a lot of people outside London don’t regard it as part of England anyway.

I confess that I’m waiting with some interest to see the results of this Euro-election, or at least the UK results. I’m not so much bothered by the actual result as what sort of comments we start seeing on Facebook about them.

Will people be willing to accept the choices of their fellow citizens or are we going to see the sort of vitriol people have poured over political parties poured over those who voted for them?

One thing that worries me about the US is that they seem to have taken this level of contempt for fellow members of the electorate even further than we have. Certainly I’ve seen comments, from this country and from the US along the lines of “Anyone who votes for party X is too stupid to deserve a vote.”

It’s amazing how rapidly people forget that we’re supposed to be equal. My vote, your vote, and the vote of the person who just voted for the party you loathe are equal, just as we are all equal.

If we’re to remain a democracy, it’s something we just have to learn to live with.


What do I know, if in doubt ask the dog

As a reviewer commented, “Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”

Occasionally you get it right.

Not sure why the incident came to mind, perhaps it was seeing the honeysuckle.

It isn’t even flowering yet but it started me thinking about scents and the way scents seem to be able to tap straight into your memories. Catch a whiff of a long forgotten scent and suddenly you’re transported right back to childhood.

It seems to surprise people but in fact I’ve got a good sense of smell. I can have a flock of sheep walk past me on the lane and sometimes catch the suggestion that they’ve got blowfly problems. Whether it’s acetone on the breath or the hint of retained cleansing, it’s a diagnostic tool I’ve found useful over the years.

But there’s real pleasures to be had, the other day I walked through a dell that was almost full of gorse bushes in flower. The smell of gorse, (some people describe it as being like vanilla) was almost overwhelming.

But it’s honeysuckle that I remember best. It’ll be about fifteen years ago now; we had some stock escape late one evening. It’d be about midnight when we discovered this and everybody got dressed and went out to get them back again. An hour and a half later we’ve got them all back, or so we thought; we’d stuck them in a building to calm down and counting dark cattle in a dark building doesn’t really inspire confidence in the final number you come up with.

So I’d just check one last place where they might be. Everybody went back to bed and I just walked down one track round the back of the hill to make sure there weren’t any cattle down there. It was a bright moonlight night and the air was still. As I trudged along the track I turned a corner and stepped into a pool of honeysuckle. The scent just hung in the air, so rich and thick I almost had to cut my way though it. I’ve never smelled it like that before and I don’t suppose I’ll experience it again, but occasionally, by accident, you can be in the right place at the right time. Every so often you get it right.


For those who aren’t too sure what honeysuckle is, here’s a picture I found on the web for you



Amazing what you run into when you’re just wandering about minding your own business

And from everybody but Amazon

As a reviewer commented, “

This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.One person found this helpful”

Ain’t no Justice any more?

There’s an old proverb, “Throw enough mud and you’ll get your hands dirty.” It’s from the same bitter school that came up with the other proverb, “Give a man enough rope and he’ll hang you with it.”

It’s just that over the last few weeks I’ve been intrigued by the sheer number of posts on Facebook ridiculing UKIP, or slagging off the Conservative party. Now I realise that a lot of people who read this blog are not UK based and don’t follow UK politics.

So in simple terms here is what is happening. In this country we have a cosy political elite which largely forms the leadership of all three main political parties. They’ve all got privileged backgrounds and take for granted a lifestyle that for many of us is unattainable. I well remember my disbelief when I discovered that the amount a Labour Prime Minster spent on his family’s summer holiday was more than I aspired to earn in a year.

It’s not so much as they’re out of touch, as they live in a separate world to most of us. Add to this the fact that the ‘party’ system is dying, with political parties having active memberships smaller than football supporters clubs.

In crude terms, issues that this cosy elite found too disturbing to deal with, or issues that they didn’t see as a problem, didn’t get dealt with. In fact they’d close ranks and brand anyone raising these issues as a xenophobe or a ‘little Englander.’ They might have been right in their assessment, but government by contempt and dismissive innuendo is no way to build community solidarity.

And UKIP spotted a gap in the market. They’ve hooked on to the issues the other parties wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. UKIP representatives are no more virtuous than those of any other political party, they’re no wiser nor are they more honourable. But by and large they’re new on the political scene, but even more important, they’re regarded with contempt by our cosy political elite.

But what the political elite hasn’t realised is that they’ve been regarding the opinions of the ordinary people of this country with contempt for years. They’ve never attempted to lead, to reach out and discuss and inform. They preferred to ridicule into silence. Who will forget Gordon Brown and the ‘bigoted woman.’

Personally I suspect that the more they ridicule UKIP, the more people will vote for them. Not because they agree with UKIP but because we suddenly have a chance to rub a lot of smug and wealthy people’s noses in the dirt and humiliate them a bit.

It’s the same with political parties pillorying other political parties as ‘out of touch’ or as being composed of ‘toffs’. I don’t think they’ve realised how out of touch that makes them look. Not only that but as the public has come to the conclusion that they’re all the same, what they are doing is throwing mud and getting their hands dirty.

So what?

What next?

It was Plato who said “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

It’s also been said by a number of people that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Some people now seem to run the country, the rest of us just watch from the sidelines, staring with growing disbelief and posting cute cat pictures to each other on Facebook.


Perhaps we can see a reflection of our priorities in the relative coverage given to the loss of a Malaysian airliner and the kidnapping of a similar number of Nigerian school girls!


Why do ‘They’ allow this sort of thing to happen?




Yeah well, what do I know. Just ask the dog


As a reviewer commented, “This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

I, for one, am hoping that this short collection of blogs finds a wide and generous audience – not least because I’m sure there’s more where this came from. And at 99p you can’t go wrong!”

Yeah well.

Life is, apparently, a gas, but I just wish it wasn’t hurting my shoulders so much at the moment. But then I’m getting ahead of myself.

This week has been an interesting week, on Tuesday, youngest daughter and I had a trip up Coniston Old Man in glorious weather, cracking afternoon.

Wednesday I’m in hospital having my gallbladder out by keyhole surgery. I finally get out of Furness General Hospital at about twenty to ten at night (they insist you can walk, pee and generally look after yourself before letting you go which is fine by me), got home and got to bed.

Now I expected pain and discomfort from where they’d cut me open, but apparently when doing keyhole surgery they put Carbon Dioxide into you and this leaks everywhere, and eventually before it dissipates it can collect at your shoulders where it gives you jip!

It feels a bit like having a pulled muscle.

Only in both shoulders simultaneously.                             

Anyway I’m currently not up to doing much, sitting at the computer is sort of bearable for a while but frankly I’m more comfortable sitting in an armchair reading.

But with one thing and another my concentration isn’t perhaps what it should be, so I put aside those books that were worthy or interesting and looked round for something to read. Then I found it, Jack Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy. I bought the first volume in 1984!

(the three books in one volume, go on, you know you want to)

Soon I’m lost in the story and there’s still another two chunky volumes to go.

And for me this is what books are about. This is great writing. Forget the highfalutin literature; just give me a damned good book.


So if anybody asks me what I want to write, this sums it up. If in ten years time somebody goes into hospital or whatever, then I’d be chuffed if when they pack their bag they put into it the well thumbed copies of Justice 4.1 and its sequels. (Or make sure they’re on their kindle/nook/e-reader of choice) Not because it’s what you ‘ought’ to read, or what you ‘should be seen reading’ but because that’s what they want to read because they know it’ll lift them out of the uncomfortable ‘now’, then I’ll call myself a writer. 

Me, I’m going back to my armchair.