Monday 17 April 2017

Mile-high mumblings

Here we go again, writing this column at 30 thousand feet, I seem to be making a habit of it lately. This time I am leaving behind the blazing sunshine in France, heading north for a few weeks work on my latest building project in East Neuk of Fife. Having battled with the local council we at last have the plans and permissions approved in triplicate to take it to the next phase, that of knocking through a few walls and windows in my hard hat. Leaving Wendy at home tending the flock - which I am happy to announce has expanded by a dozen lambs over the last 3 weeks - I am travelling with a pal who is lending me a hand in Scotland. Together with a couple of tradesmen, we are hoping to have a good kick of the ball and get the new house into something livable by Easter, including 3 bathrooms and a kitchen fitted and tiled. Of course this will marginally rely on the appearance of our ever elusive plumber, but I suspect he will turn up at some point to complete the job, if only so he can collect his paycheque.
   Don’t tell my shepherdess but hopefully it won’t be all work, as we intend to get a visit to Edinburgh to take in a Six Nations rugby match and show my Aussie pal a few sights. He is also a keen golfer so it would be rude of me not to get a cheeky wee round on St Andrews Old Course, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, I do feel that I have earned some rest since I have been up with the larks every morning checking sheep, and then toiling by day in the fields since I last wrote. After nearly 10 years at Chauffour I have finally gotten around to erecting some proper fencing instead of the few dilapidated strands of electric wire we have around the perimeter of the farm. This, along with the odd piece of corrugated tin blocking up a sheep-sized hole in the hedge, has now all been replaced with shiny new netting and 2 metre wooden posts, topped off with deadly high-tensiled barbed wire. I could forgive my neighbours for suspecting we may be loosing a herd of giraffes out on to our grassy plains, such is the height of the wire, but in reality the extent of this precautionary security is to keep out stray dogs on their nocturnal visits. Although we have not lost any ewes to these predators recently, one of our best ones is empty this term, having slipped her lambs early on after being chased around by an Alsatian. The new fence is also handy for cordoning off Skippy, Wendy’s past pet lamb who is now 4 years old and as fat as a whale, while he gorges all the food from the needy ewes and lambs, shoulder barging his way to the trough like an English rugby forward in a Calcutta cup match (oops, sorry, could resist that analogy!). Now the redundant critter has to watching in foaming salivation from behind his Colditz-like prison wire, saving me a few quid in the process. As well as two weeks fencing, bramble-clearing and tree felling, there have also been all the other springtime chores to tick off before I depart, such as mowing, pruning and weed irradiation to tire my aching bones.
   On the subject of the latter, I popped into the local agricultural store to pick up a litre of Round up yesterday, only to find it is now securely locked up behind a bullet-proof glass door. On questioning this I find that this is the latest round of bureaucracy to be conjured up out of Brussels with zero regard for common sense: that crop-chemicals can no longer be left on open display. I can only assume that this is an attempt to hinder Darwin’s theory that stupid people be left to their own self destruction, by drinking the stuff? But how, I have to ask, will this do anything other than instigate a price increase? Surely if folks want to have a weed-killer aperitif or a binge drinking weekend of insecticide, locking it behind glass at its point of sale will not deter them, will it? But then it got me round to wondering if this madness had yet permeated into UK, the country who has a track-record of adhering more strictly to the EU rules more than any other? Because, since Brexit, it no longer has a Lord and Master to administer such ridiculous laws on its inhabitants. Does this mean that, over time, the death-rate by stupidity will rise in Britain? Will Mister thicko from Wickham soon be allowed to accidentally cut his own head-off with a Stanley knife because the blade didn’t have a warning sticker? Or, heaven forbid, alcohol and cigarettes no longer have lurid photos of half-dead people on the front, and bacon rolls carrying the ‘lardy-bloater’ logo, leaving me in peace? If so, you Brexiteers, I salute you – even if your moronic vote does mean my euro is now worth little more than a chocolate button.

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