Nuts — Teachers, lambs, slaughter, compassion for animals

16 February, 2010

Alex Renton writes in The Grauniardian

I remember noticing a story in the news a few months ago about a head teacher vilified and threatened for attempting to teach children that the lamb on their dinner plates comes from the cute wee woolly things in the fields surrounding their school. There was more to it than that, of course, but that seemed to me to be the gist of it.

This morning I received an email from Peelham Farm in Berwickshire drawing my attention to an article in last Friday’s Guardian, all about the issue.

Peelham Farm is dedicated to producing organic pigs, sheep and beef as compassionately/respectfully as possible. They attempt to reconcile our desire to eat animals with the right (my word) of farmed animals to be treated as well as possible while they survive, and our responsibility (my choice of word again) to provide that sort of treatment.

They started a scheme last year whereby up to 12 families/individuals at a time can own a Tamworth pig, which will eventually be slaughtered and turned into the yummy pork products of the owners’ choice. This scheme was drawn to my attention by the multi-talented and ever-vigilant Mango Terrier (who may also have had a paw in the creation of the Peelham website), and after some discussion it was agreed that Piglet, Piss-Piss and I could join in but on a slightly different basis. We now have a pig–Philomena–but she’s going to be a breeding sow rather than a bacon sandwich. I mentioned all this in a couple of postings some time last year.

Anyway, Peelham mentioned the article because they, in turn, were mentioned by the article’s author, journalist Alex Renton. He and his family had a pig from Peelham last year, and I think they may have another one there now. In the light of his experience he was interested in the case of the primary school head teacher, and so that’s what his article is about.

On all sorts of levels the way the teacher has been treated seems to me to be crazy. I wouldn’t mind betting that the parents so opposed to allowing their children to know that burgers come from live animals, and concerned at the harm that might be imparted by the sharing of that knowledge, would have a great deal in common with the other bunch of nutters parents who made special journeys to their children’s schools, during Jamie Oliver’s attempt to introduce some real food into school dinner menus a year or so ago, in order to pass them processed crud through the railings so that they didn’t have to come face-to-face with a vegetable.


Sainsbury’s this afternoon – Ugh!

1 February, 2010

I had to go into town, earlier, so as I was passing I dashed into Sainsbury’s to get a few bits and pieces. I have to be opportunistic about supermarket visits, since I can’t go in when I have Piglet with me, which is most of the time.

While I was there I noticed a smartly-dressed young man lurking at the head of an aisle, and wearing some sort of badge. As I was passing somebody asked him where the Marmite was, and he explained that he couldn’t help because he was only there in relation to some sort of in-store promotion.

When I passed again a couple of minutes later I saw him cross-examining a rather shabbily dressed elderly woman about what seemed to be her gas bill. She seemed to be trying to politely brush him off, but nonetheless she’d stopped. “Do you get a bill?” he was asking. She replied in some way, and he went on, “Well, how much do you pay?”

Well call me over-sensitive (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that recently), but I think it’s really disgraceful that Sainsbury’s allow salespeople to stop and cross-examine vulnerable people in that way about utility bills, presumably in the hope of persuading them to swap providers. I don’t know whether it was a Sainsbury’s product that he was pushing, but if it was then ISTM to be even worse. A quick Google on ‘Sainsbury’s’ +’gas’ brought this page up. A coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I went to the Customer Services desk and complained. The woman there acknowledged my complaint and said she’d pass it on, but I’ve no idea whether anything was/will be done about it.

A number of years ago my own father swapped gas providers (NB: Sainsbury’s weren’t involved), but having done so he continued to receive bills from the old lot, and then demands, and then final demands and threatening phone-calls and eventually a Summons. He spent hours on the phone to the old provider trying to speak to a human being who would/could sort it out, but he got absolutely nowhere, and spent a lot of money in phone bills that he couldn’t afford. In the end I had to go to the local Magistrates’ Court on his behalf to have the case that the old provider had ludicrously brought against him dismissed.

It was clear when we got there that the provider was in chaos, and they threw in their hand. That was no compensation, though, for the trauma that Daddy had been through in worrying about the whole horrible, threatening mess, and heaven help the defenceless people who don’t have family members or friends who can go along and speak on their behalf. Daddy certainly couldn’t have done it for himself.

Treating potentially vulnerable people in this way is simply *wrong*, IMO. Allowing it to happen constitutes a smear on what’s meant to be our evolved and civilised society. After what happened to Daddy, I feel strongly that elderly people shouldn’t be exposed to ‘hard sell’ tactics by utilities providers, and certainly not when they’ve just nipped out to buy a jar of coffee and a loaf of bread (or whatever it was that the elderly woman was after, this afternoon).

I won’t be returning to Sainsbury’s. They’re probably not alone in this sort of thing, but thus far I’ve not observed it anywhere else.


21 January, 2010

Baby PW -- My last good night's sleep!

I have to get a new bed.

Now that Piglet, Piss-Piss and I share sty space, my existing bed is no longer large enough. Nor is it comfy enough. And the duvet is too small.

I keep waking up with Piglet lying right in the middle of the bed, hogging the covers, and having to try to drape my legs around her. As soon as I get comfy the cat comes to lie on my head on the pillow, and drools on my hair!

*rubs eyes*

I’ve been up since 3am. This has to stop!

I’m now thinking of buying an ultra-comfy bed to last me years and years and years. Once I have it I plan to get in and stay there. Quite possibly permanently, if I don’t catch up on sleep soon…

I’m thinking Vi-Spring. Any other recommendations, peeps?

This was quite a good one too

Real food–easy, cheap, delicious, healthy…

1 November, 2009


I get a bit fed up hearing/reading on the television/in the press the oft-repeated mantra that “Oh, I have to buy ready meals because I can’t afford to do otherwise,”.

I don’t buy ready meals because I love delicious food and enjoy cooking, and ISTM that ready meals would be likely to fail on both counts. Being curious, though, and liking to stare at food of almost any hue whenever given the opportunity, I sometimes take a scan through the things on offer when I’m at the supermarket, and I have to say that it all looks extremely expensive to me. Added to which, the portions definitely aren’t large enough…

This evening I wasn’t sure what to have for dinner, so I made a v. simple soup from a couple of carrots, an onion, a teaspoon full of a cunning soup base that I made a couple of months ago (recipe culled from the River Cottage Preserves book–see ‘Souper Mix’–delicious and lasts (literally) months in the fridge), some handfuls of orange lentils, green lentils and pearl barley and a handful of new potatoes that I found lurking in the bottom of the fridge. Oh, and a handful of toasted and ground cumin seeds, just to add interest.

It all came to a huge pan for hardly any money at all, and in fact it only takes an hour from having the idea to tucking in (though it’s possible to leave it to simmer for longer, if you want to get all the sticky loveliness out of the pearl barley). I ate it with a yummy wholemeal roll that I made earlier, at a fraction of the cost of what I’d have needed to pay in a shop.

I understand that some peeps don’t cook from fresh ingredients because they don’t have the time, or (in some cases) wrongly believe it takes longer than it does, or–basically–because they simply don’t enjoy cooking. All of those are perfectly fair enough. This crap about it being more expensive than buying tubs of additive-filled semi-toxic gunk at hugely inflated prices is just ridiculous, though!


It’s a conspiracy! :(

18 October, 2009


Bloody Hell!

I spent £30 yesterday on print cartridges (!) so that I could print out maps, and now the *&^£%A” printer has broken down! The red isn’t working: all red things are coming out in a dirty sort of mauve colour. It started happening just before I changed the cartridge, but changing it has made no difference.

A quick look on the web suggests that the problem is likely to be the printer (HP Deskjet F4280) rather than the cartridges. I bought it at Tesco a couple of months ago. Maybe this is why it was reduced. It seems to have a lot of unhappy users, though, who have too much red/too little red. Needless to say, I’ve not got the receipt any more.

It looks like I’m going to have to take the 4 x 1:25k OS maps after all.


Quo — Major Niggle

16 October, 2009


The more I use Quo, the more I like it.

However, there’s a major drawback, IMO, which is that–incredibly–it doesn’t come with a Help file. There’s a User Forum where it’s possible to read basic User Guides, and ask questions, and it’s also possible to ring the Helpline and ask for guidance, but naturally the Helpline isn’t available 24/7, they don’t know the answers to all the questions and it’s very annoying to have to wait for answers on the Forum, even though they tend to be good ones when they arrive.

It’s hard to believe that a product that purports to be a major competitor in the digital mapping field doesn’t come with a Help file. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used *any* significant application, of any sort, that didn’t come with one before. I really hope they plan to bring one out, but it’s looking to me as though maybe they think they can get by without one 😦

Does backpacking comfort now come at too high a price?

19 September, 2009
Temporary Roclite 315 fix in Pyrenees

Temporary Roclite 315 fix in Pyrenees

Browsing around in Google Reader just now, I saw that my pal Andy Howell has posted some thoughts on the new Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers. He had the chance to fondle some at the Paramo Store in Covent Garden last week.

The new pants are apparently more tailored than Cascadas, and made from a combination of Paramo’s (i) standard and (ii) lightweight Nikwax Analogy fabrics. Andy says they feel considerably lighter than Cascadas, and certainly the ‘average weight’ figures produced by Paramo suggest that they should be, the blokes’ Cascadas weighing in at 572g whereas the Velez trousers apparently bound off the scales at a sprightly 398g.

All this sounded very interesting to me, and so I shot across to the Paramo site to check up on the pricing. When the price hoved into view, though, I made a bit of a strangled gasping sound and reached for my inhaler. £137.50 is the RRP for the Velez trousers, as opposed to £110 for the Cascadas.

I’m still wearing the Cascadas I bought in Braemar on the Chally in 2006, but even though I’ve not worn them loads (I didn’t do the Chally in 2007 or 2008, and naturally I didn’t take them to the Pyrenees or Corsica) they’ve already each developed a small hole near the bottom of the inside leg. I’ve never used them with crampons or knowingly caught them on anything, and I wash and proof them regularly. It seems to me that they’ve simply worn through, as a result of ordinary and inevitable rubbing as I walk. That may be partly due to the relatively baggy nature of the lower leg that Andy refers to in his post.

Wear holes in my Cascadas

Wear holes in my Cascadas

Before I bought those Cascadas in Braemar I bought a used pair on Ebay. They were made from the heavier materials that Paramo used to use, and I still have them somewhere in a drawer. Sadly, they soon split at the crotch… oops… but I put that down to operator error and happily bought the second pair in Braemar.

To be honest, I’ve been a bit fed up to see my second pair develop little holes so quickly. After all, Paramo purports to be fairly hard-wearing stuff, and it’s quite expensive. Until now I haven’t though of asking Paramo to repair them free of charge, though, probably because I’ve simply been too idle to contact them about it. Seeing this morning, though, that their new and considerably more expensive trousers are made from *even lighter* material I’ve been spurred into action.

Casting my mind back, since I bought them in 2006 I’ve worn the Cascadas (i) for the last 3 days of the 2006 Challenge, (ii) on the Coast to Coast in 2007 (12 days), (iii) on the Pennine Way in 2008 (I only did 10 days of it) and (iv) on the Dales Way a few weeks ago. I’ve also taken them on some weekend backpacks, and if it’s raining I wear them in the woods when I’m walking Piglet. All that doesn’t seem to me to add up to a great deal of use.

I’m going to email Paramo to ask them how durable their Cascadas and Velez Adventure trousers are meant to be. I need to send the Cascadas back for a repair in any event, because one of the side zips has broken (a problem that I also had on my Viento jacket), and I’m going to ask them to take a look at the wear holes at the same time.

The Lifetime Guarantee as it appears on the Paramo website is worded as follows.

I have a problem with my Páramo garment, what does my Lifetime Guarantee cover?

1. Any manufacturing defect such as stitching, poppers, zips, drawcords, Velcro cuffs – these will be rectified free of charge indefinitely.
2. Damage to the garment by accident or normal ‘wear and tear’ can be repaired by Páramo at reasonable cost.
3. The weather protection systems employed by Páramo, maintained correctly, will outperform membrane and coating based systems.

Clearly the wear holes constitute ‘normal wear and tear’, but should it be normal for Paramo Cascadas to develop holes in each leg after the equivalent of no more than 2 months’ continuous use? I don’t think so; and at the prospect of being invited to spend £137 replacing them with an even less robust pair of trousers I begin to feel that things are getting out of hand.

Did the old-style heavier Paramo materials begin to disintegrate quickly in this way? I can’t say, because I’ve only been using Paramo for a few years. I’d be surprised to learn that they did, though, because if they had then I can’t see how Paramo could ever have built up the reputation it currently enjoys for producing not only effective but also hard-wearing kit that has the potential to last a lifetime.

It’s not just some Paramo products that seem to me to be distressingly flimsy. I still use Inov8 Roclite 315s for much of the year, because ultimately the most important thing about a pair of shoes is that it has to fit, and the Inov8 Roclites do fit my rather weirdly shaped feet quite well. As many others have observed, though, the Inov8s are not as robust as some of the other trail shoes on the market.

I think I started using the Roclites for walking in 2005/6, and I’m now on my 4th (or is it my 5th?) pair. The sole began to peel off the pair pictured at the top of this post within days of my first starting to use them in the Pyrenees in 2006. That struck me as dangerous, considering the ground I was walking on. When I got home I sent them back, and eventually Inov8 replaced them. I was told that there had been a design flaw, and that it had been fixed, but although the new pair didn’t develop the same problem the brand new pair I bought for the GR20 in 2008 went exactly the same way. I intended to send them back for a replacement, but in the end I had too much other stuff going on when I got home, and so I didn’t get round to it.

I’m prepared to pay a bit of a premium for comfortable walking, and I certainly don’t expect trail shoes or waterproofs to last forever. It’s beginning to feel to me, though, as though we’re entering an era of almost semi-disposable kit at vastly inflated prices. I’m still regularly using some bits of kit that felt expensive when I bought them almost 20 years ago–a couple of Helly Hansen T shirts, some Sprayway fleece pants, a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap and a Lowe Alpine Contour Runner day sack, to name just a few–but is it likely that I’m going to be using the things I’ve bought recently if I’m still walking in 20 years time? It doesn’t currently look that way to me.

Cumbrian woman awarded over £250k for trampling by cows

16 August, 2009
Cows blocking public footpath on Dales Way

Cows blocking public footpath on Dales Way

Scanning through some websites earlier today, I was delighted to see that a woman has been awarded an interim payment of £250k for massive injuries she sustained in 2003, when she was trampled almost to death by a herd of cows in a field near her home in Penrith. I hope this will cause the farming community, and walkers’ representative bodies, to take a long, hard look at the very real dangers to walkers–either with or without dogs–presented by cows–either with or without calves–in fields containing public footpaths.

There’s an article in the North-West Evening Mail here, and another from The Telegraph here.

Miss McKaskie, who had been walking with her dog on a public footpath, was tossed around by a herd of Simmental-cross cows, each of which apparently weighs approximately half a tonne. She needed emergency brain surgery, and was also left with a broken arm and ribs.

A judge at Preston County Court found that the farmer had been negligent in failing to erect any sort of warning to walkers to alert them that the field contained cows with calves. It was also found that he’d failed to mark the line of the footpath, making it difficult for walkers to know precisely where to go. The report states that the farmer is planning an appeal.

It’s important to note that this decision doesn’t establish that farmers mustn’t graze cows in fields through which public footpaths pass. Clearly farmers have a living to make, and their livestock must have somewhere to graze. What it does recognise, though, is that cows with calves do represent a danger to walkers, and that farmers therefore have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of members of the public passing legitimately across land on which they’ve chosen to graze their stock. According to the report the judge concluded that the farmer could reasonably have been expected to post a warning, and in failing to do so he acted negligently, as a result of which Miss McKaskie suffered devastating injuries.

I’d be very interested to see a copy of the whole judgement, because it’s not clear from the reports referenced above precisely how Miss McKaskie’s case was put. The North West Evening Mail report states that the judge concluded that a warning should have been given, but I’d love to know whether it was suggested that the farmer should actually have gone even further than that: for instance, by fencing off a narrow path around the edge of the field, or even in choosing to put the cattle in a different field if, in fact, he had such a field available. Had I been arguing the case (in my former life as a lawyer) then those are arguments I’d certainly have considered raising.

If the case does get to the Court of Appeal then it’ll be very interesting to see what the judges there make of it. For what it’s worth, it does seem crystal clear to me as a matter of the simplest common sense that cows represent a significant hazard, and that farmers owe a duty of care to those traversing public footpaths across their land.

What a farmer needs to do in order to discharge that duty of care should depend upon all the circumstances of the particular case, including such factors as the availabiity of alternative fields for grazing, the ease with which it would be possible to fence off part of the field through which the footpath passes, and the cost involved in doing so, and the degree of risk presented by the livestock in question. At the very least, it seems to me that clear warnings should be posted at entry points when cows are present in fields, and taken down when the cows have been moved. This sort of thing…

Old and redundant sign

Old and redundant sign

…doesn’t cut the mustard. There were no cows in that field, and nor were there last time I saw it. If signs aren’t current then people will naturally learn not to rely upon them.

As walkers, I feel that we should all be breathing just a little easier if this judgement stands, because finally it’s going to be necessary for some thought to be given to how best to strike the necessary compromise between the rights and needs of farmers and those of walkers on public footpaths. Sad, isn’t it–albeit predictable–that it’s likely to be significant financial damage to an insurance company that finally kicks this debate into gear, rather than the regular deaths and injuries caused by cows to walkers on public footpaths?

Anyway… this whole issue of public footpaths running through fields containing cows is something I’ve been concerned about for years, now. My mother, who was brought up on farms in Ireland, taught me as a toddler not to be afraid of cows, but as I grew older and started walking alone I realised that had been bad advice. (I now wonder whether she was trying to get me killed…) Indeed, a few years ago one of my cousins took me through a field in Ireland containing a group of bullocks, and when we got back to the house his father (i.e. my uncle–a dairy farmer) was very annoyed with him, pointing out that they’re bloody dangerous.

Lots of the reports that get into the papers concerning walkers chased by cows refer to the presence of dogs, but it’s not necessary for dogs to be present for cows to constitute a menace. I’ve been threatened and/or chased by bullocks on a number of occasions, and these days I’m very reluctant indeed to pass them in the same field. I’ve taken many detours involving a lot of barbed wire and precipitous ascents/descents of rickety fences and dry-stone walls over the years. It’s all very well for people to say bullocks are simply curious, but their motivation is largely irrelevant when they weigh as much as a small car.

Cow-confident people also say that it’s easy to move them on by waving a stick and/or shouting and/or assuming a confident and commanding demeanour and/or mouthing warm endearments like “Cush cush, Daisy m’dear!”, but I’ve found that none of those tactics works with determined knots of malignant bullocks. Maybe they detect my fear, but that’s not something I can do anything about. Those pesky little fear pheromones are impossible to control.

On the Dales Way last week I was very anxious about encountering cows, because for the first time I was going to be walking with a dog. I read up on all the dog v. cow advice I could find before I collected my puppy in January, so I knew that The Word is to let the dog off the lead if cows become aggressive and start to approach.

The first cows we encountered were hanging around in fields just outside Grassington. I was very nervous, and I decided to pick Piglet up and tuck her under my arm, in the hope that the cows mightn’t spot her, or might possibly imagine that she was just some sort of semi-animated furry handbag. I also unfastened her lead in case I needed to put her down in a hurry–the dog walkers’ equivalent of undoing the backpack waistbelt when crossing a fast-moving stream, perhaps. Anyway, the cows watched as we passed through the field but didn’t grow agitated, or attempt to follow us. Save for the fact that my heart-rate rose to a dangerously high tempo, no damage was done.

That’s how it was all the way through Yorkshire, in fact. When we did have to walk through fields of cows they showed little or no interest in us. There was a potentially nasty moment when a ram out walking with his ewe decided to try to butt Piglet, but I was quite glad of that as a warning to Piglet not to assume that all sheep are cuddly and taste of gravy bones.

The problems began for us when we left Sedbergh and set off towards the M6. In a field near Beck Foot (the GR was approximately SD 611 962) we encountered bullocks. Once again I was anxious, but I reminded myself that we’d survived all previous encounters and set off cautiously into the field, Piglet tucked under my right arm and unclipped from her lead, just in case.

The bullocks were about 100 metres in front of us initially, and spread around a bit, so that it wasn’t possible to take either a higher or lower line through the field to avoid them. When we got to about 20 feet away a group of 5 or 6 suddenly began to walk quickly towards us. I tried to look commanding and stare them down, but that didn’t work. I shouted, and although they stopped for a couple of seconds they then came on.

By that time they were only about 10 feet away. The ground was sloping and uneven, and the bullocks formed a very threatening semi-circle to my left. I was frankly very frightened indeed, and Piglet was completely silent under my right arm. I didn’t want to move too suddenly in case I precipitated a charge, but at the same time it was clear that the bullocks weren’t going to lose interest and drift away.

I spent a minute that felt more like an hour yelling at the cows, while with my left hand I frantically struggled to get one of my walking poles out of the elastic fastenings attaching it to my Exos rucksack. Having finally managed to get the pole lose, I somehow managed to extend it, and began to wave it towards the bullocks. They didn’t back off at all, though. In fact they continued to creep closer all the time, in small lurching movements, as long as I wasn’t actively screaming at them or waving the stick. Each time I tried to move forwards they came closer, and so eventually I began to back away along the path. At that point they stopped following me, and I was finally able to escape with Piglet into the next field.

When I put Piglet down she was cowering and scared–hardly surprising, what with all the yelling, let alone the bullocks–and I had to give her a biscuit to perk her up a bit. I’d have preferred a Valium myself, but unfortunately I didn’t have any with me. When we’d both recovered our breath we retraced our steps to Beck Foot and followed the road to the point at which we were able to cross the M6.

Bullocks blocking the Dales Way last week

Bullocks blocking the Dales Way last week

(I took the picture once I’d escaped, by the way, and from a distance.)

I’d thought that maybe we’d just been unlucky, but that wasn’t the end of it. A little later in the day we were crossing fields near Holme Park Farm when we encountered the bullocks pictured at the top of this posting. They weren’t immediately visible, in fact. I’d decided (thank God!) to stop for a wee cigarette break at the stile, and it was as I was sitting there gazing out at the field in front of me that I was almost frightened out of my skin by the sound of galloping hooves behind me. When I got up and turned round a bullock had rushed across to the stile, and it was soon joined by two of its pals.

Bullocks blocking access to public footpath again last week

Bullocks blocking access to public footpath again last week

The reason we’d stopped for a break, incidentally, was that Piglet and I had been attacked only about ten minutes earlier by a collie and two huge Alsation dogs, who came rushing out of the yard at Holme Park Farm onto the public road and began to bark frantically. One jumped up at me while the other went for Piglet, who cried out in fright since she was trapped on her lead. Fortunately the farmer heard the commotion and came out to get them. As he was leading them away he told me that this had happened because a cyclist using the public footpath that runs through the farmyard had once kicked one of the Alsations. I wonder why on earth that can possibly have happened!…

Anyway, it was quite obviously not safe to try to continue into the field, and so once again Piglet and I had to go back and take a detour round the road. For reasons that are probably obvious I didn’t want to go back through the farmyard with the bunch of savage dogs, and so we skirted up the side of the field to a point where I was able to climb over a fence. The bullocks followed us all the way, snorting and stamping up and down in the muddy grass as Piglet and I negotiated yet another batch of barbed wire to escape out onto the road. By that stage what was left of my wits almost entirely deserted me, and I managed to get us both comprehensively lost. That’s another story, though…

We did have to pass through another two fields of cows the following day. When I saw them I thought seriously about taking the road to Kendal and getting an early train home, but I decided to give it just one last try. Once again I was very scared, but on that occasion the cows left us both alone. If I ever do the Dales Way again, though, I’ll definitely be finishing in Sedbergh. I can hardly think of a less impressive introduction to Lakeland than the one that Piglet and I had last Thursday. If I’d not walked there almost all my life I’m pretty sure I’d not have wanted to go back.

I thought quite a lot about this whole cow v. walker issue as I was walking, and it seems to me that the only really safe solution is for farmers to be provided with grants to fence off a narrow track around the edge of grazing fields so that walkers–and, if necessary, dogs–can pass safely through. We did actually pass through several fields with that arrangement earlier in the walk, and it worked well. Finance is always an issue, of course, but even if it’s not feasible to protect all public rights of way in that manner then surely it should be possible at least to cover the National Trails.

In the meantime, I wish the very best of luck to Shirley McKaskie in recovering her damages, and from her injuries. She must have been very seriously injured indeed to have been awarded an interim payment of £250k, and as I read through the reports this morning, and also those relating to the recent trampling to death of vet Liz Crowsley, and Graham Dugdale‘s letter in the Lancaster Guardian about his own recent very narrow escape, I really was thinking that any one of those reports could very easily have been talking about me. Or then again, it could have been you.

Edited to say: sadly, I read today of the death this week of Harold Lee, trampled to death by his own herd of cows which had been startled by a fire engine. See here for the BBC report.

Some advice from The Ramblers

HSE Information Sheet for farmers

Finished Day 9 — 5 more to go, plus intro and journey home…

24 June, 2009


Aagh… will it ever be finished?

(That’s not me, by the way…)

Going to watch some telly now 🙂

Beautiful wee tune, and stupid BBC

18 September, 2008

What a performance it is, trying to get even the simplest of information out of the BBC!

I don’t watch a great deal of television these days, and when I do I’m frequently more interested in the music than the action (unless it’s a cookery programme, of course, in which case I sit with my snout pressed to the screen and my right crubeen poised on the Repeat button).

Bored the night before last, though, I took a quick scan at Tess of the D’Urbervilles, partly in a sort of half-hearted homage to A Level English Lit, taken all those thousands of years ago, but mainly because I was trying out the cunning thing the BBC now has which enables us to watch television programmes on our computers. I opened a second window and browsed off somewhere else as it played in the background, but a sublimely beautiful piece of music somehow broke through the various mental barriers I’d erected in order to be able to look at a couple of other web pages whilst half-listening to Tess, and here it is.

*happy sigh*

D’you think the BBC might have any idea of who wrote the music for what’s currently their major costume drama, though? Well, no. Of course they haven’t. Or if they have, they can’t be bothered to make the info available to the people on Customer Services so that they can pass it on to plebeian, licence-paying piglets like me. When I dared to persist beyond the initial “Oh, sorry: I’ve absolutely no idea!” they behaved as though I was some sort of dangerous lunatic who, if provided with the name of the composer and/or producer and/or any person in-any-way-howsoever-peripherally connected with the series and/or even (really pushing the boat out here…) an email address for Customer Support at the BBC, could be expected to jump on the first train to London and hide with a semi-automatic rifle in the bushes outside Television House (or whatever it’s called) in order to execute the musicians! When I explained that I just really loved the tune, and would like to know whether it’s possible to buy a copy, if I could only find out who wrote it, they didn’t seem to be equipped to understand. Maybe Paddy has confused them *g*

This lack of interest in who writes the music, and what it is, seems to me to be very odd, and extremely short-sighted. Try watching any of that sort of stuff with the sound turned down and you’ll soon drop off to sleep. The music is what brings it all to life!

By way of illustration, who amongst us can possibly have forgotten the utterly heart-stopping moment in Pride & Prejudice when Darcy and Elizabeth’s hands finally came together in the dance, to the beautifully haunting strains of the rather uneasily entitled Mr Beveridge’s Maggot? (On reflection, I think perhaps that’s the name of the dance.) Anyway, I’m almost sure I read afterwards that that first touch was immediately followed by a nationwide wave of happy, female squeeee-ing so loud and reverberant that it registered a 5 on the Richter Scale, and caused flood damage all the way up the coast from Bognor Regis to Blackpool!

Hmmm… well, just in case there might be somebody out there who doesn’t remember it, here’s a little reminder. (Please ignore the sub-titles half-way through: written in Piglettish. It’s the beginning that’s likely to knock you off your seat again.)

Darcy & Elizabeth — Netherfield Ball

*pants a bit at Colin Firth*

(Actually–and although this is a side issue–I also particularly enjoy the sight of Jane Bennet in the background, during the introduction, tossing her head around in ethereally slow-motion, like some sort of restive horse.)

Please add me to Paddy’s list of people profoundly dissatisfied with the BBC…

Anyway! Google eventually revealed that somebody called Rob Lane wrote the music for this production of Tess, and I’m still pursuing the beautiful tune. Here it is again, in case you didn’t click first time round. Lovely, lovely, lovely!