Welcome to a spring edition of life on the farm down South-West-France way! Rain, rain and then some rain pretty much sums up our few months this year so far. The pond is flooded, the fields are flooded, the wine cellar is flooded and I think our sheep flock are suffering from trench-foot! At time of writing we have yet to have lambs, as we pushed lambing back 3 weeks, to accommodate what we thought may have been a couple of spring months in Scotland. Sadly, that is not possible, so the wellies have been second best option this year, but at least the lambs will have some daffs to eat when they arrive.
I have still been occupied with my regular podcast and even got to interview one of R&DN's previous writers, Clive Davies, a few weeks ago, about Hereford cattle and the great Captain de Quincey from Bodenham. You will be glad to know Clive is fine and well. It certainly seems to take up my time and now I am wondering how I can wriggle out of it once the outside jobs start calling my attention. But I expect, as with most of my life, I will just have to juggle on the unicycle for a while.
Today we are taking a last jaunt away in the camper down to the Bay of Biscay for a couple of nights before lambing, as the sun is supposed to be shining down there. From my experience, the weather in that part of the coast is about as predictable as a British Rail timetable, but we live in hope of a walk on the beach with our two ageing dogs, without the hoods up on our kagools. We will still need to take our BBQ though, as there are no signs of any restaurants opening in France this side of summer, as yet. And what is this ridiculous nonsense about pubs opening in UK but NOT selling alcohol? That's the social equivalent of sight-seeing in a blindfold? "Mine's a pint of Ribena" are not words that you will hear this author saying in the Rock Cross any time soon!
On the subject of the old neighbourhood, I am sorry to announce the loss of my dear old Aunt Joan, my father's sister. Born at Fernhalls Farm, on The Greenway in Rock, she was stationed in Egypt during the war and then lived in the lovely Link Elm house in St Johns, Worcester. When her husband died suddenly, in the mid-eighties, she moved back into Fernhalls and nursed my grandfather, Harry, in the last years of his life. Some of you older Rock-ites might remember her gorgeous navy blue MGB GT? Joan lived in Sandbanks in Dorset for the later part of her time, and more latterly in a nursing home. Sadly she was a victim of bloody Covid, aged 97.
Incidentally, on the subject of soft drinks, it was actually my grandfather who invented said Ribena. I didn’t know that until yesterday while providing some research on my aunt for her rather lonely funeral. It wasn’t just him on his own, but apparently seven fruit farmers who got together to create the brand which they later sold to Beechams. Some of you may remember the blackcurrant bushes growing down The Greenway, along with all the other fruits that Harry planted and maintained, when he would employ upwards of 100 local pickers during autumn. Funny how times change, as the land now would barely financially support one person, let alone half the village, yet you can still buy a pack of mince and some spuds for under two quid!
Whilst we are reminiscing about the old place, I found some photos the other day from 1982 showing snow drifts down the Greenway up to the level of Highfields House bedroom windows. I recall I had a morning’s shovelling with the farm digger to clear the road and, with the stock all fed, we were all in the pub by lunchtime! And that was a mild winter compared to ‘63 and ‘47 before it, so I’m told. They don’t make things like they used to, do they? Not even the weather!