Archive for the ‘The Black List’ Category

This afternoon Terri and I decided to go to a Christmas craft market at Blackmore Farm near Bridgwater.  The stallholders were local and the farmhouse itself is ancient and interesting.  I treated myself to a willow trug and haven’t stopped admiring it since.  It was made by a lady called Sarah Webb who chatted whilst I made my choice and gave me a card with her website address on when I paid her.  Unfortunately the address doesn’t seem to work so there’s no point in linking to it, but should I find where the website is I’ll let you know.  Here’s my beautiful trug – as you can see, it’s quite large and I love it.  It will be perfect in the summer for gathering my ‘harvest’ from the garden.


Whilst wondering around afterwards I got into conversation with a lady selling Christmas puddings and almost immediately she brought the subject round to how healthy her puddings were, only using good products, etc.  She then announced proudly that “of course, I only eat New Zealand products myself”.  When I asked her why she informed me it was “because New Zealand is the only country that doesn’t ‘pump’ its animals full of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics”.  Terri, sensing an impending storm, moved out of range and left me to it.

I told her that this country doesn’t use any of those things either and in fact I was under the impression they’d been banned for the past twenty years or so.  She rather grandly stated “oh, I don’t think so dear, they’re very much in use here.  I know lots of farmers who use them”.  Now, if I’d have been an average consumer, impressionable and likely to believe such a tale, I could have accepted this as the truth, gone away and told all my friends to only buy New Zealand meat.  But, here’s the thing – I’m not!

I told her that I was in fact a dairy farmer myself and was sure that growth hormones had been banned in this country, and steroids or antibiotics were only used for medicinal reasons rather than to aid growth.  She looked confused, but adamant she was right.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that most New Zealand lamb is now considered halal and killed appropriately so it can be sold to both the Muslim community and non-muslims.  I’m not even sure she would have understood what I meant and I couldn’t face the prospect of going round in circles verbally.

Changing the subject slightly she asked “what kind of cows do you have on your farm?”.  When I told her ours were British Friesian she pulled a disgusted face and said she only really liked Guernsey cows, implying that anything else was inferior.  I walked away before I became any further embroiled in what was turning out to be a pointless discussion.

As I was leaving she turned to her companion and said “do you hear that Mabel (or whatever her name was)?  I can eat British meat again.  They don’t put growth hormone in it any more.”

Where does this misinformation come from?  Is it the British press or had she gathered her knowledge by word of mouth?  The more I dwell on it, the crosser I get because while the farmers of this country struggle to persuade consumers to buy British, rumours such as this abound and people are convinced they’re doing the right thing by buying something with half-a-planet’s worth of airmiles to its name.  There she was promoting her puds and telling me how wonderful they were, that they were produced locally and yet she was prepared to eat meat from a country half the way round the world.

I give up really.  You can’t fix this with a PR campaign.




Read Full Post »

On 10 March I went to visit my dentist in Lympsham.  Her practise is next door to a school and when you leave her driveway, you’re immediately in a 20mph zone.  Three days later Gordon received a speeding ticket, but for my car which he never drives.  It was mine :(.  Apparently I was doing 26mph and held my hands up to this.  Doing wrong, probably while in auto-pilot.  However, since then, things have definitely verged on maniacal.

Firstly, because the ticket was in his name I had to notify them that he wasn’t the driver.  I sent the form back and waited for its return.  When it came back in my name it told me I could either pay a fixed penalty with points on my licence or go on a Speed Awareness Course.  I opted for the latter, sent the form back to them with my choice and waited again.  The reply came on Easter Saturday.  There was a website address included and it said I should go there to book my NSAC20 course – I assume NSAC stands for National Speed Awareness Course.  The website told me the nearest course to me was in Swansea; a three-hour drive into Wales – unless I was a crow of course, because as the crow flies it isn’t that far.  Far enough by road though.

I couldn’t ring them to discuss this until the Tuesday so spent the day trying, but unfortunately ‘all their lines were busy’ for the entire day.  On Wednesday I spoke to someone to ask whether I could go on a standard speed awareness course being held in the next town.  Apparently not.  They’ve introduced this new crack-down on speeding near schools without any appropriate courses being offered countrywide.  We eventually narrowed down a course in Filton, but it was still further than I really wanted to go so I told her not to worry, I’d just pay the fixed penalty if she could send me a form.  She immediately attached one to an email and it told me I could pay my fine online, by phone or by sending a cheque alongside my driver’s licence.  I went to pay it online but it wouldn’t let me so I tried by phone – it wouldn’t let me do that either.  She pointed out in her email that when I sent my licence to them, registered post would be a good idea since a licence is a valuable thing.  I conceded defeat, wrote a cheque, paid for the registered post and off it went.

It came back today.  Not just my licence, but my cheque too.  The letter was clear – since I’d opted to go on a speed awareness course, no payment was necessary at this time.  It came back in a plain envelope by second-class post!  I didn’t even have to sign for it.  I rang the Speed Enforcement Unit again and they were apologetic.  Something had obviously gone amiss on their system and she would rectify it straight away.  Within thirty minutes I should be able to submit my payment online and then I’d have to send off my licence again (she still recommended registered post) and all would be peachy.

I tried.  I couldn’t.  I’m losing the will, to be honest.  I’m a bit of a mouse when it comes to ‘rules’ and have been fretting.  I wish they’d just sort things out.

Read Full Post »

I know I haven’t posted since Christmas and I’ve no idea why, but I promise to return soon when I get myself more organised.  In the meantime, hope you had a great Christmas and New Year and I’ll catch up as soon as I’m able.

Read Full Post »

Thursday 7 June 2012

Several days ago Gordon and I walked down the road after milking to check on the dry cows.  Several were springing-up: their udders were filling in readiness for calving.  The biggest, an old girl called Alexandra looked about ready to pop.  We discussed her for a few minutes and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hmm, she looks pretty close to calving.  Shall we walk her back to the farm?

Gordon: She’s a crafty old bugger.  If we shut her in a pen she’ll probably not calf til the end of the week and she’ll only miss her friends in the meantime.

Me: Will she be alright up here?

Gordon: Yeah, I’ll come and check on her in the morning.  She’ll be alright unless she falls in the ditch or something.

The following day she hadn’t calved.  Yesterday she hadn’t calved.  This morning she started to calf – and promptly fell in the ditch!

I had a phone call from Gordon at 6.45 am, which severely interrupted my much anticipated lie-in by the way, to tell me he needed my help so we set off down the road with the matbro and plenty of ropes.  When we got there she looked chilled as if she’d been there some hours.  We couldn’t tell whether she’d calved or whether she was in the process of calving since she was up to her neck in water, but once we’d got the rope over her head and started to drag her out the calf was clearly visible – two large front feet, a nose and a dangling, swollen tongue.  Gordon gloomily pronounced it dead and since the cow was pretty knackered and chilled, we got the calf out the quickest way possible.  We attached the rope to the calf’s legs and the other end to the front of the matbro which Gordon then put in reverse.  As the calf was slowly pulled out it started to blink and struggle so despite having its nose and mouth underwater for a couple of hours, the umbilical cord had remained attached, saving his life.  The cow was then ‘airlifted’ back to the farm before we brought the calf back in the bucket with me leaning against him so he didn’t wriggle out.  He looks pretty weird since both his nose and tongue are very swollen, but he’s large and spirited so with a bit of luck he’ll make it.

We had to take Tiger to the vets yesterday.  He’s been losing weight for a little while and was gradually losing enthusiasm for anything, but we upped his diet to wet food and kept our eye on him.  By yesterday he was looking decidedly ill so off he went.  The vet said he was amazed Tiger was still alive since he had almost no red blood cells although he couldn’t find any reason for such severe anaemia.  He’s now on a course of antibiotics and steroids to see if that helps.  We have to take him back to the vets next week for another check up.

Now, tell me if this is a tad harsh but yesterday whilst fetching the cows I found a tag, obviously from a balloon which had landed in the field where our herd was grazing.  It had blazoned over the front ‘WHERE DID I LAND?’ as well as the name and address of a school in Chepstow.  I’m tempted to write back telling them it landed in our field, minus the balloon, and should one of our cows drop dead suddenly, be autopsied and the cause of death be as a result of eating said missing balloon, their insurance company will be hearing from ours!  Harsh?  Too harsh?  Possibly, but the amount of crap we pick up from our fields that gets there via balloon or even worse, chinese lanterns, is beginning to rankle just a little.  In my mind it’s glorified littering.  Surely in this day and age there must be other ways of raising money for schools without causing countrywide contamination?  On top of that our land is a seagull’s flap from the landfill site where scavenging birds pick up all manner of plastics only to drop them onto the ground when they find them inedible and alongside the M5 motorway where passing motorists think nothing of opening their windows and flinging their litter out with gay abandon!  We’re picking it out of the hedges almost constantly where the wind blows it to the edges of the fields.

I’m thinking of putting up a large sign – Welcome to our beautiful Somerset countryside.  Please feel free to chuck your McD’s boxes, KFC containers, aluminium tins and other general waste that could quite easily stay in your car until you reach home here.  By the way, don’t forget used nappies and condoms – we just love picking those up!

Seriously, it has been known!

Read Full Post »

Thursday 2 June 2011

Stephanie is home for a long weekend in anticipation of helping us with the silage-making.  She’s pretty good with a tractor and trailer and copes well with the monotony of driving backwards and forwards from the field to the silage-pit for ten hours at a time.  Alex has a full-time job and since she’s only just returned from a week in Kefalonia is unable to take any more time off, but as a hayfever sufferer she’s probably in the right place anyway.  She makes a mean sandwich and is good at ‘back-up’, but I hate to see her struggling to carry on in the face of so much dust and pollen.

Since Steph now dwells in a big town she’s found today pretty frustrating.  The mower is ready to go in the morning but Gordon’s spent much of the day underneath it.  He’s easily found at these times: you follow the cursing and hammering!  To add insult to injury the internet’s been down for the whole day.  At six o’clock I gave in and phoned BT to see if they could mend it.  They seem to have done away with the ‘press 1 for ….’ system and you now speak to it.  “Please state the nature of your problem clearly and slowly” I was told so I told her I had NO BROADBAND, enunciating every letter.  She told me I’d been understood and that I had “no broadband, was that correct?”.  “Yes” I replied.  I was then in a queue for twenty minutes until I got through to a stroppy girl who told me I didn’t have broadband on my number.  I pointed out that I hadn’t today, but I normally do.  “Oh”, she said.  “You’ve come through to Broadband Support Centre, which is for BT Broadband Customers only.”  I told her that was not my intention and that I’d simply followed instructions and spoken to the computer.  “Next time”, she said dismissively “you should say LINE FAULT”.  With that she hung up!  WHAT!  I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes and she couldn’t even redirect my call?

I rang again and this time said ‘LINE FAULT’, which got me through to someone in next to no time – well, actually, it was another twenty minutes.  She grudgingly suggested that she could test the line and ring me back.  “Would you?” I said sarcastically, but I think it was wasted on her.  I expect she hears sarcasm all the time in her line of work.  She rang me back to tell me there was absolutely nothing wrong with my line since it showed a good dialling tone, yadda, yadda.  “It’s probably a broadband equipment fault” she suggested.  In other words, my fault.  I got a bit forceful at this stage especially when she suggested I ring my broadband provider so they could report the fault.  “But I’m reporting the fault” I told her.  “It has to come from your broadband provider” she said.  “Thank you for calling BT.  Goodbye”.  Click.

Since then the broadband has been perfect!  Again.  They did this before and I’m convinced they’re tweaking something at their end.

How else do they explain it?

Read Full Post »

Sunday 5 December 2010

Alistair the vet told Gordon he could take Milly’s stitches out last Tuesday following her caesarian.  Of course we were going to Alex’s graduation ceremony then so it didn’t get done.  Since Tuesday Gordon’s been chasing her around with a knife and a pair of pliers to hold the knots, but she’s refused to stand still enough.  I’m not surprised really: after all, why would she?  It did surprise me that nobody attempted to remove them in the parlour while she was distracted by a feeder full of cattle cake, but this morning when I milked I thought I’d have a go.  She came in at the front so the next cow stood against her to stop her from going into reverse (we have a herringbone parlour), I dragged the steps over (we also milk from a ‘pit’ which means the cow’s udder is at about chest level) and leaned against her to cut the stitches.  Apart from peering around curiously to see what I was up to she was as good as gold and I managed to get them all out one at a time.

After milking I had a visit from my friend Julie (KC’s Court) as her husband and a friend were off to a fair.  She doesn’t drive so he drops her off on the way and picks her up on the way back, which works quite well.  She pointed out a few weeks ago that she’d never actually met any of our cows so she came out with me while I fed the calves, then I took her to meet Ferdinand, the dry cows and the rest of the herd.  The conditions weren’t perfect as the yard is still icy in patches but both of us made it back to the warmth of the house without getting too dirty.  She stayed until about two and we had a good old catch-up.

This evening has been wasted trying to update my mobile phone via the computer, something I’m told is ‘really easy’ but I can’t get it to work!  I went into the O2 shop in Taunton a week or so ago to see if they’d upgrade it for me, but apparently since the EU decreed all mobile phone chargers had to be the same size so they were universal (brilliant idea) they’d “thrown away” all their old cables.  I felt this was a little short-sighted since a lot of people don’t have brand-new phones – well, the non-teenagers in the world don’t – and he suggested that next time I visited I could bring my own cable and they could do it in a flash!  Oh, OK, I’ll just make the forty-mile round trip for that then, shall I?  On the way home from Taunton I thought I’d try the O2 shop in Bridgwater as it is closer to where I live, but according to the girl I spoke to there they’d got rid of their computers so could send the phone away (10-14 days) but couldn’t do it in the shop.  For goodness sake people, all I want is a software update to make it run better.

Read Full Post »

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Opening my post this morning I came across a statement for a credit card.  It said I had a late payment fee of £12, which confused me slightly for a while since I don’t remember NOT paying it.  Then I remembered why.  The damn thing is set up on direct debit.  I rang the number and after being on hold for approximately fifteen minutes listening to what I refer to as ‘galloping’ music (imagine the Lloyds Bank horse on clifftops, Black Beauty or Follyfoot if you can remember that far back) I found myself speaking to someone who I think was called Gupta.  I explained the situation to him and after struggling to remember my password (for added security) he put me on hold (back to galloping music) while he investigated.  When he returned five minutes later he thanked me for being on hold and told me “that would be an error” and that it would now be removed from my account, which means I spent more than twenty minutes on the phone, most of it listening to music until he told me something I already knew but they apparently didn’t.  I thought setting up a direct debit would make things less complicated, but I was obviously wrong.

On a lighter note, a little ditty my dad recited yesterday – I had heard it before, but forgotten all about it:

Twas in a restaurant that they met

Romeo and Juliet

And when it came to pay the debt

Romy owed what Julie ate

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »