Funny what sticks in your mind

I remember the lyrics,

“All good things around us,

Are paid for by the bank,

So don’t forget, oh don’t forget, the manager to thank.”

I read them in a copy of Farmer and Stockbreeder many years ago. A farmer’s wife had sent them in as suggested new words to ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ which were more appropriate to the industry of the day.

Another strange thing that sticks in my mind are two lines from a song written for the satirical radio show, Weekending. It was a spoof lament, supposedly sung by the Scottish football manager after the team’s performance in the 1978 world cup. The only bit I can remember is

‘Willy Johnston’s like a lark

He’s high and on the wing.”

There again, I do occasionally remember stuff which might be useful. One is a comment made by John Cherrington, farmer, agricultural journalist and broadcaster who was in a fair way of businesses. Back then the arable men were king and he was something of a ‘barley baron’, although he grew a lot of wheat as well. But unusually he still kept a flock of sheep and he also had quite a big pig enterprise. On a programme (or perhaps in an article) somebody had asked him why he kept on the sheep and pigs, because compared to grain at the time, they weren’t all that profitable.

It was his answer that stuck with me. I’m quoting what he said from memory so it won’t be word perfect.

“You see, I have the pigs because I’m a bad farmer. All my neighbours produce fabulous crops of high quality wheat and barley. They never produce anything that the buyer turns his nose up and will only pay a pittance for. But being a bad farmer, I do produce some of that stuff, but I can sell it to my pig unit at full price and the pigs don’t care.

As for the sheep flock, you can sell sheep pretty much at any point of the year. You can sell them when they’ve just lambed and have lambs at foot, and you’ll have a good trade. You can sell them when they’ve run with the tup and they’re scanned and can be given out as in-lamb. You can even sell them when the lambs have been weaned and the ewes are now dry, because people are always looking for some more ewes to tup.

Now the value of my sheep flock is the same as my maximum overdraft. So if the bank manager ever plays silly beggars and starts talking about putting charges up too much, or wants me to reduce my limit, I simply sell the sheep, pay off the overdraft and shift banks. He knows I can and will do that.”

But looking even further back I can remember there was a programme on the BBC called Tonight. It was hosted by Cliff Michelmore and ran up until 1965. They’d often have a singer on it who would sing a song that was hopefully topical and comic. I remember the words to one verse, sung to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing

“Hark the Harold Wilson Sing

Blame George Brown for everything thing.

Peace on earth and pint of mild

God and Mammon reconciled

See the cost of living rise

Freeze the price of all mince pies

Hark the Harold Wilsons Sing

Blame George Brown for everything thing.”

Back then a comic had to be able to get a laugh out of all political parties, but also all professions as well.
I remember the verse from another song, sung by a folk singer who was taking a poke at all those people who looked down on him because he was a mere folk singer.

“Doctors and teachers, exams must pass,

If ere they want to rise above the working class.

And if perchance, they just scrape through.

I’ll give you ten to one that they look down on you.”

There are times when I wish I could remember something useful. I suppose one piece of advice that did stick was from one farmer a lot of years older than me. I was collecting a weigh-crush. Milk quotas had just come in and we’d decided to start finishing some bull beef, and because of handling them, we needed a crush. Then because the weight you sold them at was a bit crucial, so we might as well get a crush that could weigh them.

As I collected it from the agricultural engineers this old chap was watching me and then asked why I was buying it. When I explained, he just said, “When I was a lad, I was told that if a bullock had shoulders like my father, and a backside like my mother, it was ready to go.”

I suppose that is correct now as it was then. And then there was another old farmer who told me, “You can be too busy working to make money.”
He was right as well.


There again, never confuse me with somebody who knows what he’s talking about, try speaking to the experts.

A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.

As a reviewer commented, “
This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”

Tagged: , , , ,

25 thoughts on “Funny what sticks in your mind

  1. Jack Eason December 11, 2020 at 5:14 am Reply

    Nice one Jim 😉

    • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 5:47 am Reply

      It is funny what sticks in mind 🙂

  2. jenanita01 December 11, 2020 at 9:10 am Reply

    Life is becoming more hilarious every day, Jim…

    • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 9:48 am Reply

      Not sure whether its hilarious or just ridiculous 😉

      • jenanita01 December 11, 2020 at 7:14 pm

        I know what you mean, Jim…

      • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 7:28 pm

        At least we’ve avoided the sublime 😉

      • jenanita01 December 12, 2020 at 8:40 am

        Sssh… there’s still time for that…

      • jwebster2 December 12, 2020 at 9:09 am

        True enough, and if we’re quiet about it, probably nobody will notice 🙂

      • jenanita01 December 12, 2020 at 7:13 pm

        Good plan!

      • jwebster2 December 13, 2020 at 1:25 pm

        The best 🙂

  3. Stevie Turner December 11, 2020 at 11:56 am Reply

    Lol, I love the Harold Wilson verse, Methinks the cost of living will be set to rise sometime after December 31st. Got any sheep to sell?

    • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 3:10 pm Reply

      Prices have already risen, mainly because the supermarkets are doing far fewer promotions,

      And other firms are putting prices up to cover their increased costs and shorter working hours because of covid……

      • Stevie Turner December 11, 2020 at 3:28 pm

        Yes, my Morrisons bill today came to more than it usually does. I’m not doing any Christmas food shopping until the Wednesday before Christmas.

      • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 4:03 pm

        Yes we’re seeing dislocation because of coronavirus and transport issues. An amazing amount of food especially fruit and veg, used to be flown in in the holds of passenger airlines and these aren’t flying. Also sea transport is screwed because there are tens of thousands of containers in the wrong place because countries just abandoned merchant seamen, refusing to allow them to come ashore etc

      • Stevie Turner December 11, 2020 at 4:22 pm

        On top of a no-deal Brexit…

      • jwebster2 December 11, 2020 at 7:27 pm

        To be honest I’m not sure if it’ll make all that much difference. We’ve so many ports stacked high with containers they cannot get rid of the people who need the containers to send us stuff in cannot send it anyway
        Too many governments and local authorities treated merchant seamen trying to get home or to join their ships like dirt 😦

      • Stevie Turner December 12, 2020 at 9:58 am

        Queues at Felixstowe go on for miles.

      • jwebster2 December 12, 2020 at 10:25 am

        Apparently, and don’t quote me on this, Felixstowe is so full of containers they shifted trade to Southampton which is now so full they’ve shifted to Liverpool

      • Stevie Turner December 12, 2020 at 10:39 am

        Oh, I hadn’t heard that.

      • jwebster2 December 12, 2020 at 4:39 pm

        I did read that because we’re a major importer we cannot move for containers

      • Stevie Turner December 12, 2020 at 10:40 am

        Navy boats are on standby to protect UK fishing waters. I predict a riot.

      • jwebster2 December 12, 2020 at 4:39 pm

        I suspect that all you need to do is take the numbers of the fishing boats and then freeze the bank accounts of the companies that own them 🙂

  4. robbiesinspiration December 13, 2020 at 5:21 pm Reply

    This is brilliant, Jim. It gave me a good laugh.

    • jwebster2 December 13, 2020 at 5:24 pm Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, it never ceases to amaze me the stuff I remember. Fortunately Tallis Steelyard can use much of it 🙂

  5. Jack Eason December 28, 2020 at 8:55 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Jim wants a word…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: