Friday 14 May 2021

Stockman of old

 Cannot believe it is only a year ago when I wrote this piece from the top of a mountain ski resort, the glare of glorious sunshine hindering my vision. At the time I was scathing of the doom-sayers who predicted Armageddon and prophesised catastrophic death throughout the world. Even when the extent of the problem did sink in, I never once believed that we would all still be here in lockdown, living in fear and isolation, a year later - but here we are. Thankfully the roll-out of the inoculations has been swift and efficient, and the light at the end of the tunnel beams brighter by the day but even I, a man who normally sees the glass three-quarters full, cannot foresee anything other than financial depression of unprecedented scale before the world gets back on to its feet. And yet, somehow, with stiff upper lip we all soldier onwards and upwards, blinkered like moths to the flame. Whether this a testament to human nature, or just plain foolhardiness, only time will tell? From my cynical standpoint I sincerely believe it's time that good old GREED found a reverse gear for a while, and we start saving our pennies for what could well be a very bleak and rainy day a few years down the line. Yes I am aware that this is not an opinion you expect, nor require, from this column, particularly just now, as the daffodils bloom brightly and the days lengthen towards the sunshine, and it is certainly a rare thing for me to preach sensibility over hilarity. I just somehow feel compelled to caution those who are looking to celebrate a victory with profligate abandon to be careful, as nobody on higher ground seems to have mentioned it?

Ah, that's better now I got that off my chest. Meanwhile, back at Chauffour the lambs are growing. The incessant rain did stop for a week or so while they were born, although it is back again now. We have one more left to go, due next week, and are also still awaiting news of our pedigree Ryeland gimmer who is in someone else's hands in UK just now. There has been an announcement that the Royal Highland show will go ahead this year in a new and closed-door format, but with the subtext that no alcohol be allowed on the premises, which I am pained to say has dampened my enthusiasm for the event somewhat. So, apart from a sortie into Scotland to deal with some well needed property maintenance as soon as we are legally able, we have decided to stay put here in France for another season. The fact that both of us will be celebrating a rather significant birthday this summer, we may expect a few guests to join us, proffering their vax certificates at the tollgate. But therein hangs another issue of ridicule, doesn’t it? Had a vaccination? Put a stamp in your passport to say so? But no, we now get those who refuse this on discrimination grounds. Their argument: 'it may restrict the rights of those who have refused a vaccination!' Er Hello? That's exactly what it's meant to do. Well anyone who has declined the chance to stay alive through modern medicine isn’t welcome at our gaff, sorry! Does anyone else see the irony that those who campaign for human rights are all left!? Or is that just me seeing humour in the wrong places again?

With the arrival of spring we have been embarking on some mild tree pruning, to allow the evening sun on to the front of the house. However, this elicited the interest of our neighbour who turned up in a very smart suit and I suspected he had not come to help. It transpires that he hadn’t come to complain either, but to inform us that we needed to do more - a lot more. Because, since he retired from being our local Mayor, he has now become the big boss of the entire commune, which is roughly the size of Wales, and thus is a man in a position of almighty power. And, as he is working from home like the rest of us, he wants faster internet, by way of fibre optic. However, the new cable needs to pass our gate where the pole is currently overgrown with some massive fir trees. Our trees. And if we move them, we can get fibre-optic too, if we want it? IF WE WANT IT? I have been screaming at our p*ss-poor service for the last 14 years. You bet we do. So, with the help of a pal, some long rope, my 50 year old Ford 3000 and a less than reliable old chainsaw, we have been felling these 60 foot high beasts one at a time. Two down so far, four more to go. It's not a job for the feint hearted, nor for a man with dodgy knees. Admittedly, so far we have managed to chop the existing phone line, came close to plunging the whole neighbourhood into darkness, nearly flattened a passing family car and will need a bonfire larger than Notre Dam, but imagine being able to load a webpage on the internet in under a minute? What speedy bliss awaits!   

In other news this month I have just been inducted onto a roll of honour up North. The Scottish Farmer magazine runs a feature called Stockmen of our Time and this week featured yours truly. In a full page interview I reveal my beginnings showing cattle at Kidderminster Market Christmas show and how I invented the world's number one cow cosmetic in a shed in my garden in Menithwood. I also mention taking cows to Australia, winning Royal Smithfield Show, writing a cattle computer programme and my father's mantra 'win or lose, we'll have some booze!' No wonder the heading read, 'Andy Frazier, he gets around a bit!' Who reads this rubbish anyway! 



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