It’s always said that when you see the swan, swimming serenely across the water, you never see the feet paddling frantically to keep it moving. And life is a bit like that.
Today there have been times when I could have passed for a gentleman of leisure. This morning I couldn’t fill cake bins because there was no dairy cake and a delivery is awaited. So I could get on with something else. I wrote up a Tallis Steelyard story because somebody had sent me a picture for inspiration. It’s across at
But after that I was helping sort through lambs to see if any of these fifty kilo thugs was anywhere near ready for going.
Yes, we still call them lambs; even through they left the cute stage behind them six months ago. At this stage it’s not unknown for them to try and slip past you by jumping; after all it worked quite well when they were little. But at this stage in their life, the technique means that 50kg of sheep moving at speed is coming directly towards you at above waist height.
Still some have been tagged up to go, and I went in and got a bit of dinner.
During the morning somebody had mentioned that a neighbour’s cattle had got into one of our fields. So Sal and I went to check this out. Yes, the cattle had got in, but they were in no longer. There wasn’t anything I could do to keep them out, our wire was up so I just tightened our wire a bit more in the vague hope it would act as a deterrent.
On my way home I walked past the house of another neighbour, stopped to say hi. He’d just finished mowing the lawn, which reminded me that I’d meant to do ours yesterday. Given the forecast, our lawn was as dry as it was going to get, so I quickly drove the lawn mower over it when I got back, then talked to a chap about milking parlour fittings, disposed of a spam phone call, had a brew and wondered if the cake wagon would ever come.
Along the way I checked the other sheep and made sure a couple of dry cows who’d been put out to grass for a couple of weeks were all right.
Then I got caught up in a different sort of work. Have you ever contemplated the institution that is the village hall? Have you ever wondered how they survive?
On one level they survive because a small cadre of local people are willing to put in the effort to keep them going. They form the committee, organise fund raising, make sure the place is warm and watertight and generally put in an awful lot of hours.
Then in a good village community there is a rather wider cadre of local people who don’t get involved in the running of the place, but they support the project. They turn up at all sorts of events, sometimes on rotten winter’s nights when frankly they’d rather stay at home. They’ll go and hear concerts of music they’ve never been all that keen on, watch plays that they wouldn’t watch if they were on telly, and smile grimly as somebody else’s ‘delightful’ child struts and frets their hour upon the stage. Yes, they’ll admit that they enjoy a lot of the stuff rather more than they expected, but still, they make the effort.
Then to cap it all, there is the sheer weight of regulation that can weigh down on your entirely amateur village hall committee. Health and Safety, environmental health, building regs, fire regs, forms from local authorities doing surveys of diversity; you name it, these people have to cope with it.
There are people who can help, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is one of them, working through thirty eight rural community councils (sometimes known by other names) to provide support to rural communities in all sorts of ways. Perpetually strapped for cash, these community councils do what they can.
Once you lift the lid on this world you discover an amazing amount of work done to provide support to rural people who are struggling to help their community catch up with the rest of the country. These community councils cannot do things for communities, but they can give communities the support they need so they can do things for themselves.
Many rural communities are still struggling to get decent broadband; most are struggling to get accessible medical services. What’s the point of having a brilliant hospital thirty miles away when there’s no public transport and your medical condition means you cannot drive?
It’s not just me who’s keeping busy. Rural communities are full of people trying to ensure that their communities aren’t just abandoned, as banks, retailers and the post office pull back into the towns.
So I look at the paperwork I’ll need to be on top of at the next meeting, and suddenly it’s dark and looking like night. I really ought to have a shower and have a quiet hour or so with a good book, but it has gone 8pm, I’m still wondering it the cake wagon will turn up to blow in a load of cattle cake (the latest one appeared was 9pm) and, almost inevitably, there is a cow who will almost certainly calve tonight.
(Edited to add the feed arrived at 9:30pm and I’ve just landed in at 10:40pm, time for another shower and bed)
Did I mention a quiet hour with a good book? Hot of the press, metaphorically speaking, we have
Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.
It even has a review!
“Runaway Poet, Flat Boat Sailor, Master Gunner, Flower Arranging Judge, Adventurer and Escort of a beautiful young Lady, are only a few of the skills exhibited by Tallis Steelyard in this extraordinary story.
In my opinion, the world and characters from Jim Webster’s mind would make a wonderful TV series, starting with this one.”
Leading TV companies, take note, you heard it here first!