Wednesday 23 March 2022

High speed draft

 As a farmer I am conditioned to moan about something, so the fact we have far too many lambs this year is unsurprisingly a headache. Six ewes had sixteen lambs, how ridiculous? And to cap it all, the final set of triplets only has enough milk to feed one of the little blighters! I am getting too old to be feeding pet lambs so we have hopefully found someone to do that duty for us.  At least Daisy is managing her twins quite well, although she is never too far from the over-priced feed bag.

Thankfully the weather was fairly kind through lambing but the wind has since turned into the east and that always catches us here at Chauffour, with a harsh cold blow catching the field, shed, lambs and draughty side of the house. My grandfather always said "when the wind is in the east, it's neither good for man nor beast!" He wasn’t wrong there.

The same wind also took our satellite dish but, in a simple twist of fate, this happily coincided with the installation of our new Fibre-optic internet cabling. Yes, after over a year since we chopped down a row of huge pine trees to make way for its entrance, we finally have download speeds I could only ever have dreamt of. So it's goodbye sketchy Sky, hello internet TV, all 300 channels of you. Admittedly, 295 of them are complete rubbish, unless you count the red-hot Dutch ones, but at least we can watch Pointless of an evening without Zander Armstrong sounding like a Dalek! Of course, with it comes a whole direct-line to depression. War, fuel prices, bombs and dying babies don’t make for uplifting viewing, as they tug my frayed heart-strings in a dozen directions, while the world watches the horror with helpless indignation. One can't help but wonder where this post-apocalyptic apocalypse will end but, as sure as eggs is eggs, the supply and demand rule will certainly apply to the price of food. In a year when we will be away for a couple of months of the growing season, I had decided not to grow any vegetables this time around but it may be time to rethink that process, even if I have to give them away in our absence. At least we may have extra lamb on the barbie, come summer!    

The beginning of our travels will see us rock up in Lincolnshire to my number two son's wedding. As a gift, I promised to provide French wine for the event but, since the B word, this poses less of a hurdle and more of a five-bar-gate as we are no longer allowed to bring in more than a dinner-party's worth of alcohol without facing tax, duty and a host of other invisible charges. Our other option is to 'ship' it in, but with all the above charges, a three quid bottle of claret lands in UK at around a tenner. Coupled with all the other taxes we are now forced to pay when buying UK goods back into France, has Brexit really been a worthwhile decision? Asking for a friend!

Continuing on the above theme, I had hoped to import our small flock of Ryeland sheep from Scotland back here to Chauffour this year but again it seems that what were, just a couple of years ago, perfectly healthy animals now have to undergo so many unrealistic tests you would think I have bought them from a leprosy enclosure. In a period where restrictions of travel have been lifted so people can come, and go and refugees and immigrants are welcome, isn’t it time someone took a look at these ridiculous livestock rules with their sensible-specs on? I can of course import stock from Ireland to France without so much as a veterinary inspection, where obviously their animals are apparently free of everything from Scrapie to Spud disease. Yeah, right! Pull the other one, it rattles!

I mentioned a few months ago that we had applied for, and received, residency in France which means we are allowed to stay here more than three months per year without being deported. Seemingly that too is not without its Brexit implications, and we now are duty-bound to fill in an annual fifty-page tax form here declaring everything we have bought, sold, visited or seen in UK over the previous twelve months, down to the last half-pint of warm beer. Maybe I should mention that while in Scotland we have to pay upwards of eight quid for a bottle of New World wine to get anything better than stuff not fit to pour on our French fries. Would that get me a rebate? Non, Monsieur, just pay your double-tax, or bugger off back to your land of Rosbif. What a fiasco!