Tag Archives: slurry

Funny Old World

There are times you have to ask where all the grown-ups have gone to. I won’t say that the lunatics are running the asylum but there are a lot of people setting out the rules who obviously haven’t a clue how the world works.

I know a chap who is going into hospital for an operation. He has to self-isolate first. For a fortnight. Apparently they expect him to sit at home for two weeks, with no income because he’s self-employed.

He was chuntering about this and somebody he does do some work for came up with a solution. He has a lot of slurry that needs carting. So this chap is going to self-isolate, carting and spreading slurry. As he said, he’ll be working on his own, in his own tractor, with his own slurry tanker. Nobody will stop to chat with him and he’ll spend much of his time in the middle of fields with nobody within several hundred yards of him. On the positive side, he is still earning money.

The interesting thing is that it’s pretty much his normal life anyway. Obviously if anybody asks, he is ‘self-isolating’. But given the utter lack of understanding he met from the pen-pushers, he’s decided to be vague as to details if it ever occurs to them to ask.

The other day I was talking to a chap who works for a ‘fallen stock’ company. In the good old days we just called them knackers. (English definition. “A person whose business is the disposal of dead or unwanted animals, especially those whose flesh is not fit for human consumption.”) Anyway, as he was filling in the form that accompanies the animal, he was quietly reading out the questions as he answered them. Now the form he was tackling isn’t a form I’d ever be called to fill out. The farmer doesn’t normally see this one. So he put in the date of death, which was the previous day. Then he came to ‘time of death’ and just put down 5:45pm.

You may have to be in the industry to understand how facile that question is. Unlike hospitals, we don’t have anybody sitting at the bedside of the animal. Indeed in many cases an animal that was a bit dodgy and the vet had seen, will just be found dead next morning. Not only that, but even if the farmer knows the time, there is no reason why he will see the chap from the knackers. The knacker will know where any carcass will be waiting, and will just collect it.
So the form is usually filled in by somebody who has absolutely no information as to what happened. So animals normally die the day before they were collected and apparently, 5:45pm is a common time to die. I’d love to see a statistical analysis of the figures.

You can see the seriousness with which the lads driving the wagons accord these figures, I’ve been dealing with knackers for I forget how many years. I only just discovered that recording time of death was actually a thing! None of them have ever thought to ask me. Their attitude seems to be ‘somebody asked a damn silly question, so just give them an answer to shut them up.’

But on the positive side, I have finally done a job that I hold qualifications for. I was helping to move some cattle. The easy way to do this was to walk the cattle to a loading pen which is on the side of the main road. Any cattle wagon can back into the pen access and we can load them. However since they built the pen, wagons have got bigger. The wagon can still fit in, they’ve grown longer, not wider. Some of them are a bit longer than others. So they stick out onto the main road a touch. It doesn’t quite block a lane but it would mean that the people travelling in one direction would have to go into the opposite lane.

So my job was standing across the road from the wagon where everybody could see me, waving traffic past and occasionally stopping traffic coming one way to let the others through.  

It has to be said that the motorists were great. There was only one muppet who seemed to think that I’d just escaped from an aerobics class. Indeed the biggest issue was, counter-intuitively, the motorists who slowed down to be careful. When you’re directing traffic you factor in the speed of the two converging streams to try and work out whether south bound will be through before north bound get to you. So when people slow down, you have to hastily recalculate.

But somebody asked me afterwards about what I’d been doing. So I pointed out that, actually, the police had trained me, they’d shown me how to do it.
The person seemed quite impressed until I added that it was back in 1968 when I did my Cycling Proficiency.


It struck me that you might want something a little different to read.

As a reviewer commented, “I know, without any doubt, I’ll thoroughly enjoy any book written by this author – especially if it features Tallis Steelyard and Maljie collaborating to right any wrongs.
The blurb gives some hints but if that’s not enough to tempt, add three capering Prophets, a ‘demonic’ attack, a hair raising egress from a rapidly descending balloon, creative bureaucratic archiving practices and … more … MUCH more.”

Does the pit need stirring?

There are more ways of stirring up a slurry pit Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Parking a tractor with a slurry stirrer by the side of the pit suddenly seems so pedestrian. There again, at least with the tractor you’ve less chance of an early bath. The picture is a still from a video available on Facebook but it won’t let the link be shown here.

Now you might ask why the need to keep a slurry pit well stirred should remind me of social media? It’s just that three organisations I’m involved with have been agonising about their internet and social media presence. The embarrassing thing is that when they discuss their website, I haven’t looked at it for months, years, or in some cases, for ever.

Why? Because the websites are worthy, have a lot of very useful documents and suchlike on them available for those who need them. But I’ve never needed them. Why would I go to the website? Anyway, I know who to ask in the real world.

If I want to know something, I’m afraid I go to google or some other search engine and start my search there. Yes, the search engine will probably bring me to one of the websites I know, but a search engine will also take me to other websites which might give me an interesting angle on the issue.

Some websites are just notoriously bad. They’re huge, and the internal search function doesn’t work too well. Gov.uk is a bit like that. It can be faster using a search engine that drops you to the right page faster than the website does.

But the thing about all this is that it’s work. You go on the webpage when you need stuff. So I was asked by somebody if I’d seen something on the Rural Payments Agency website. The answer was ‘No’ because I go on that website perhaps twice a year. When I go on, I’m doing a specific job, I’m busy, I just want the information I want. So I’m not going to wander round the website ‘whilst I’m there’ seeing what else they’ve go.

It has occurred to me that we have two internets, the ‘worthy’ and the ‘fun’. The organisations that have the most reach are the ones who realise this and have the courage to go out there and be ‘fun’. In case you’ve not come across them, the Orkney Library is an example of how you do this. They have 73.9K twitter followers. Given that the population of Orkney is just over 22K it’s obvious that they’ve got a large international following.
They tweet with a photo of the queue waiting for the library to open (a duck), and you get a running update of the two doves who’re building a nest on the drainpipes. As well as this they have updates on local archaeological excavations, news on fun new books that the library has acquired (Dancing with Cats) and knitted hats for a project they’re running. All profusely illustrated.

The problem with social media is that it’s the clash of two different worlds. There are people who want to have fun and keep in touch with friends, and there are people who want to sell them stuff.

I confess I’m probably in the second category. I joined Facebook back in about 2009 because when doing freelance journalism, searches would take me onto Facebook. So I set up an account and a Facebook page. Facebook even ended up with an old email address that died when I changed ISP and it was six or seven years before I had to give them one that worked. My Facebook page was specifically set up so nobody could find it or post to it. It wasn’t until 2011 when I had a book to sell that I started posting stuff on Facebook.

You soon learn that screaming ‘buy my book’ is never going to work. I would suggest that 99.999% of people who come onto Facebook do so with no intention of ever buying books from people haranguing them on the platform. Indeed I understand this entirely because I too am irritated by adverts that appear on my news feed. But then I tend to deal with this by rarely looking at my news feed. When I come on to Facebook, I’ll check for messages. Various friends and family members tend to prefer to contact people through messenger. In the past I’ve had to explain, slowly and carefully, and in some cases multiple times, that the only time I see Facebook is when I’m at home on the PC. I’ll check the notifications, perhaps skim a couple of groups I follow and then I’ll leave Facebook and do something more interesting.

So if you’re going to the trouble of having a ‘web presence’, perhaps that’s the answer. If you want people to take any notice of you, you’ve got to be more interesting, you’ve got to be fun.

Which brings us back to our video, it was posted by drijfmesttechniek.nl who specialise in slurry technology. If you go on their Facebook page, you’ll see the video. It has to be admitted that they got my attention in a way that a page of slurry pump specifications would never have managed.

So whenever any organisation asks my opinion of their website now, I just ask them how pious and worthy they intend to be. I am coming to the conclusion that if they are on the worthy end of the spectrum, they’re wasting money spending a fortune on a web designer.  Frankly I suspect that all their website needs is a real world address, a phone contact number, a brief guide to the organisation and an email address. Because who is ever going to look at more?


There again, what do I know? Ask the expert, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook,

or from everybody else but Amazon at


As a reviewer commented, “Another gentle and entertaining read about the pros and cons of Farming, ably assisted by Sal the collie dog and Billy the feral farm cat.
As always, I’m amazed Farmers make enough money to keep their farms and families going, given the ‘guidance’ given by the ‘experts’ in government and the Civil Service…”

Muck flies to the midden


This phrase has always irritated me. The meaning is simple. Somebody with a bad character will always end up hanging round with a lot of other bad characters. Yet given that I’ve spent a large part of my life shovelling muck, I know that while the phrase might sum up people pretty well, but it shows a distressing lack of understanding of the dynamics of muck.

Nowadays we tend to use contractors to cart slurry. They’re the ones with the big tractors pulling the big kit. It may seem counter-intuitive but these big machines with their wide wheels and carefully designed tyres make a lot less mess when they travel across the field than the old, smaller tankers used to do, pulled by the lesser tractors I remember from my youth!
Not only that but if you want a lot of slurry spread quickly, these machines are the way to go. Indeed in our modern, environmentally conscious times, I’d hope that people keen on recycling would pull to the side of the road and applaud as a slurry tanker goes past.

Indeed we are seeing far more use of human sewage as well. When used properly it’s both safe and useful. It also means that our human population becomes so much more sustainable. But a plea here; don’t drop anything down the toilet that you wouldn’t want to see spread on your own vegetable patch.

This sort of leads me back to slurry tankers again. A long time ago now, before we ever had to deal with slurry, we used to have to call the local council in to empty our septic tank occasionally. This they did. They sent a wagon with a vacuum tank on it. Looking back it wouldn’t hold a thousand gallons, perhaps five or six hundred. This wagon would come, fill up from the septic tank and then drive down to the sewage farm two or three miles away to unload. It would then come back for another load. It used to take them two working days to empty the septic tank and we’d be billed for that.

Anyway my father realised that the way the farm was evolving we’d have to move to a slurry system so we would need a slurry tanker. Given the size of our tractors and what they could pull, he bought a second hand, four hundred gallon tanker. Nowadays you’d barely use it as a water bowser, but back then it was just on the small side of industry standard.

One of the points raised in the discussion as to whether to splash out the money for one, was that we could empty our own septic tank and the money saved by not paying the council to do it could go towards paying for the tanker.

Anyway we’d had the tanker a year or so before our septic tank needed emptying. My Dad reckoned that as his tanker was smaller than the council tanker, it might take him longer to empty the septic tank. Also he could only fit in three or four hours a day for the job because he had to milk, feed young stock, and do all sorts of other jobs, So his plan was that he’d  just take a couple of loads every morning for a week or so. If work got in the way and he didn’t have time to finish it, well we could always phone the council to get them to do it, and we might only need to pay for one day’s work rather than two.

What actually happened was that on the first morning he emptied our Septic tank in two full loads and one half load. It took him about an hour and a half. Needless to say, we have never used the council service since.


As a special treat for you, I’ve got not one new novella for you, but two!


Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.


No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him

Now you’ve got broadband, text me.


Some years ago, I got an email from a mate which said “Now you’ve got broadband, send me a text.”

I just stared at the email on the screen of my desk top computer before finally emailing him back the one word, “Why?”

I’m afraid I couldn’t understand his answer, but it seemed to boil down to ‘because you can.’

I felt my comment still stood, ‘Why?’

It’s just that yesterday I was talking to a chap, he’s a decent bloke, competent, useful, and if fate has led him to becoming an office wallah, it’s not really his fault and nobody holds it against him.

He was saying how he’d ended up taking a fortnights holiday because he hadn’t managed to get all his days used up before the year end. The day his holiday started a farming friend of his was rushed into hospital with a suspected stroke.

Our office wallah showed his true mettle and for ten days out of the fourteen he worked full time (so we’re talking about twelve hour days here,) alongside his friend’s son and they pitched in and not merely kept everything fed, but got sheds cleaned out and tidied up so that when the friend came out of hospital (fortunately it wasn’t a stroke) he didn’t have any catching up to do.

The reason the chap mentioned this to me comes in the punch line. He said, “I had ten days mucking out sheds, feeding round, spreading slurry, and my phone never rang once. It was heaven.”

Now I realise I’m really blessed in that we don’t have a mobile phone signal here, so my phone, an elderly nokia, lives switched off in a drawer. If people want me, there’s the land line.

When I go out, mostly I remember to take the phone and sometimes I even bother to switch it on. But it doesn’t matter, if people want me, there’s still the land line. If I’m out and they phone, my lady wife will take a message, and I’ll get back to them on my return.

If I’m out and she’s out, well try ringing later.

Why do people have to be able to be in constant in touch?

Now I can see the advantage of a mobile phone. If I’ve got a problem, or I’m running late, then I can switch the phone on, ring home and let them know. Sometimes if I remember I’ll leave it switched on, on the off chance home want to contact me (I don’t think there’s more than six people have the number.)

I have a friend whose use of the phone I admire, it’s a genuine tool of his trade; he can see something, price it, buy it if it’s worth buying and have it sold before he’s even left the shop. That is something that couldn’t have been done ten years ago.

His phone also holds an inordinate number of books so he always has something to read with him. This is possibly the one use that would tempt me to getting a more up-to-date phone. (Even nokias fail eventually, especially if they’re jostling in your pocket with your car keys. At some point I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a new one, this will probably happen this decade.)

But at the moment my phone costs me about £15 a year on pay as you go, which isn’t bad for a phone that cost £25 with £20 phone credit. Looking at the price of contracts for a ‘decent’ phone, given I spend less a year than these contracts cost a month, I might just keep on sticking a paperback in my jacket pocket.

Edited to add that since then I have acquired a ‘smart phone.’ I switch it on far more often to use the (admittedly mediocre) camera than I do the phone. Actually it’s even cheaper than the Nokia and didn’t cost any more. I’m down to spending less than £10 a year. Still on pay as you go, have it set up not to use data because it was burning through the money just updating apps I never use and I haven’t sent a text this year or last.


And if you’re looking for  a good paperback or ebook, try


As a reviewer commented, “I am a keen reader of the fantasy genre and looked forward to reading this book. The story is engaging and there’s lots of action, some humour and a little pathos. The characters all worked well for me, especially Benor, Cartographer (and much else!) The story deals with a land which has its own races of people, its own herds of animals and I found it interesting to imagine this other world which is in many ways an equivalent of our medieval world. There’s plenty of intrigue here and the story has potential for a sequel.

Jim Webster has an engaging story telling style and a good knowledge of this genre. His writing has a gentle humour which comes naturally from the characters and their dialogue. It’s not played for belly-laughs but is very effective. There were some real gems, which I very much enjoyed. ‘He spat on the floor and missed’ really tickled me! I look forward to more of the same.”


Corruption is like slurry. It trickles down from the top, staining everyone on the way and pooling around those at the bottom who’re forced to wade through it to the contempt of those at the top.

Frankly it stinks. It’s not just the world of kickbacks and favours, the charity bosses who feel that they should be paid over 100K ‘because they’re worth it.’ It’s the world of the BBC where apparently a quarter of executives got payoffs that there probably illegal. Why that particular quarter? Are they the ones whose faces fitted, who did the right courses at the right universities, sat on the right think-tanks and floated on the edge of the correct political parties?

But we see if everywhere, the degradation of society. People who cannot be bothered to do the job they’re paid to do; people who seem to get their kicks, not through their own achievements but by stopping other people doing things. (Have you noticed, the ‘precautionary principle’ is only ever used to stop ‘them’ doing what they want to do; it is never used to stop ‘us’ doing what we want to do.)

And of course when you stir hypocrisy into the mix, then it really does stink. The BBC had great fun tearing into senior clergy about child abuse, and now, slowly and painfully, their own squalid idols are being dragged out of retirement and thrust blinking into the spotlight.
And it’s the spotlight that we need. A bright light shining into the murk; the stone turned over so the bloated things wiggle and squirm to get out of the sun. Let the light in, let the truth be seen then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Let’s see how much these people earn, let’s see how much of our money is being poured into their gaping maws. Let’s watch them wallow in the world of Christian Louboutin footwear bought on Civil Service credit cards.
Let’s turn the light on them.

And where does the light come from? Well I’ll give you an example. I know a lady who is a teacher. The school she’s teaching at got involved, peripherally in an ‘incident’ that made the national newspapers.
The local education authority piled in, blamed everything on the headmaster and harried and hounded him into retiring. The lady was one of the few, along with the school secretary, who stood by him. Who drove him home the day he broke down in tears in his office; who told various ‘worthies’, various members of the ‘great and the good,’ both authority staff and union reps, exactly what she thought of them. Of course she hasn’t got a career, but sometimes it’s good to remember the words;-
“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.”

And this is where the light comes from. It shines out of the Sikh train manager I saw comforting a lost old lady, it shines out of the policeman who sizes up the situation and defuses it, giving two lads a chance to patch things up and avoid a criminal record; it shines out of the teacher who works endlessly to try and get her charges to just behave decently.
It shines out of the paramedic at the side of the road who’s done too many hours already but isn’t quitting until this person is safe. It shines out of the taxi driver who stops the meter before he carries the old dear’s shopping in for her, and puts it on the shelves; because that he does in HIS time, not the company’s time.
It shines out of the accountant who at the end of a long day sits down with a young couple and shows them how to get their books in order so that their little business can grow, and all for no more that a clumsily muttered thank you.

You see, these people and the light that shines out of them set a standard, a benchmark. They draw the line in the sand that we can look at and wonder. We can ask ourselves whether we’ve got the guts to cross the line and get out of the slurry. They are the ones who shine like stars amidst a twisted and perverted society.
And it’s by their light that we can grow. It’s their light that helps us set our direction. But have we the courage they have, have we what it takes?
Or are we happy to wallow in the stench provided we get our share?


Never mind

In paperback and on kindle from Amazon


and from everywhere as an ebook from


When somebody shoots down a documentary maker, what are they covering up? Haldar Drom of the Governor’s Investigation Office on Tsarina finds himself dealing with illegal population control drugs, genetic engineers, starmancers, and the risk of brushfire wars. Who knows how far up the chain of command the corruption reaches?
You use what you can get, allies in unusual places, reconnaissance by journalist, or a passing system defence boat.

As a reviewer commented, “A short way into this book I realised I had read it before a few years ago. This wasn’t a problem. It was a good read this time too. Jim Webster tells a good story.”