Monday, December 30, 2013
Tony Archer and the Disneyfication of the countryside
But Hey Ho as long as Victor is happy.
Everyone’s a winner!
Despite protestations by the lady who sleeps on my left, the wind that blew earlier in the week across these environs has not been as voluble or strong for quite some years. Panel fences inevitably lay prone and wheelie bins wobbled over as peak wind speeds in this county were recorded at over ninety miles an hour. We lost power for half a day, not in a tin pot state coup kind of way; rather the lights wouldn’t come on. The neighbouring village was out for twenty two hours eventually hooking up to amps and ohms on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, a pole had bit the dust in the middle of the field behind our house and all the village’s electricity was piling into the earth. Ever helpful, the gamekeeper of the neighbouring estate who own the field was reluctant to provide access to the field in order that the gallant knights of Scottish and Southern Electric resurrect their poles and lines, but emboldened by the spirit of Christmas, said gamekeeper relented and drove the few miles from his home and flung open the gates allowing the power to return to the village,
Oh for a jolly farmer!
The power outage, as power cuts are now known, was relatively brief compared to the one that Mdme and myself experienced during the nineteen eighties. Michael Fish has squeezed many miles out of his performance, pre-hurricane in 1987, but for me The great storm of the last century was the winds of early 1990 which would undoubtedly be etched on our memories had Fish’s zephyr of 1987 not done for most wobbly trees. In 1987 I was living in Winchester as a student and subsequently slept through much of the blow waking in the morning to a call from my mother asking if the block of flats in which I was living was still standing as she had just seen a similar looking building on the BBC news lying on its side. The lights were still working so I got up, got in the car and after negotiating a few blocked roads I wiggled my way out of Winchester and returned to the North West of England as I had several loads of washing that needed attending to. Six months later I paid rent on a flat through weekend work in the middle river and spent many hours with a wizard of a riverkeeper planking up exotic wood that had been toppled in the estate’s ornamental garden. Slicing trunks of two types of walnut and a banana yellow acacia into inch thick planks for seasoning in his garden before assuming the shape of elaborate cabinets and chests during his retirement, he was quite a keeper and a very clever man.
Funny feathers are starting to visit this parish. For the first time we have blackcaps on our birdfeeders and with the thistles and diddy seeds done for in the wood we have today been invaded by goldfinches and siskin. A Boxing day bumble down on the common revealed the Short eared owls in fine form and eager to display their hunting routine late in the afternoon, laying water has concentrated the mice, shrews and rabbits in tight and high areas and the SEO, who are happy to hunt in the daylight, are relatively easy to locate to record their performance on camera.
Over on the Itchen, after four months of funny pills, Otis was reintroduced to the shooting environment with a twenty minute bumble about the meadows, flushing a dozen or more birds significantly raised his pecker and after four figures of purple pills he is almost back to the dog he was. At home flashes of water on the meadows are irresistible for dibbling ducks and few are currently visiting our pond.
Returning to cricket, I caught the end of a bizarre first test match between South Africa and India. In which South Africa had reduced a world record second innings target of 448 to 18 from 20 balls with 4 wickets remaining. Unwilling to push gently for a win they shut up shop and played out for a draw with the final ball of the game being hit for a six. If it had been a team drawn predominantly from the Hindu Kush questions would have been asked.
Of England I despair, each morning Mdme and myself have turned on the radio around 5am. Short of a death in the family overnight there cannot be too many depressing ways to start the day. Ian Bell is the best bat in Britain with weakest mind, Nathan Lyon has just taken his first five wicket haul and passed a hundred test wickets yet he wouldn’t bowl his full quota of overs in our village side. There is one Antipodean bowler who can bowl at over ninety miles an hour and he has wrought havoc, England have four who can hit the ninety mark but none have been able to do so this series. Time to take a look at those diet sheets perhaps, if this performance is a reflection of a surfeit of mung beans, to quote some old french tart:
"Let them eat Cake"
In all my life I don't think I have ever met anyone called Shula, did it not catch on?
Sorry, another intermission:
Just googled “Shula” turns out there is a chain of steak houses across the pond bearing her name, good to know she turned out ok.
Anyway, I took in the Archers well into my mid twenties until the levy broke one summer when Tony Archer took himself off to wash his Landrover one afternoon in the middle of harvest.
At harvest time dirty Landrovers can wait.
I pushed the button on the radio and never visited Ambridge again.
How on earth Radio 4's Farming Today has survived is anyone's guess, shame it's only ten minutes long? For all those needing a field sports fix on a moving screen give "The Field Sports Channel" on Youtube a go, a regular and informative half hour slot on country sports and the environment in which they take place.