Letters to the Editor - June 2010
I spent the best months of my life in a house on the slopes of Pen Dinas, Aberystwyth.
There was debate between me and the landlord about the merits of travelling and generally questing into the depths of the unknown. One day I talked to him about an article I had read regarding the exploration of space and insisted that this sort of exploration and discovery must surely hold some merit and curiosity.
I am a naturally restless person, perhaps too willing to satisfy the whim to leave everything behind and walk to somewhere new with my life in a bag, and I couldn’t understand how or why he could be content to remain in one place. We rolled cigarettes and he ushered me outside where he picked up a large, drying stem.
“This is from a sunflower. The core shares some properties of cork but
We walked to the beehive where he extolled the many values of propolis. Then he showed me a shoot under the roses.
“This is garlic. It grows better under roses — I don’t know why yet but the other garlic I planted with the vegetables hasn’t sprouted.
“Now, you introduce me to a scientist who knows all that has been discovered about the stars and I will take him to my doorstep and show him something new and wondrous.
“Why would I put myself in an unfamiliar environment where I know nothing of its workings when I still have so much to learn about my own back garden?”
I could have argued but there was something so profound in what he said that I felt like a fly who, getting caught in syrup, can suddenly appreciate the world from the perspective of a different place. To argue would have been like the fly closing its eyes, and flies don’t have eyelids — although my thoughts at the time were on the ocular structure of insects.
The last I heard of that man, he was touring eco-villages and communes in Europe, sharing and compiling knowledge (I like to think as a new-age Jethro Tull although for all I know it’s just sex, drugs and compost toilets) and I am educating myself to work the land as a horse logger.
Finally, our differing attitudes on nature and exploration made their impressions on the other, and hopefully for the better, one way or another.
Bryn Charles, by email
Many years ago — 1940 in fact — when I married an Oxfordshire farmer, I went to live in an old farmhouse.
In the attic I came across various cardboard boxes, some containing animal medicines and one box contained dozens of large reels of black cotton. On making enquiries as to their use, I was told that my father-in-law had used it to ‘cotton off’ the birds from eating the nearly sown corn seeds.
I accepted the explanation but now I am wondering how on earth he set about it. Would he have arranged a quantity of sticks to support it? Do any of your readers remember this being done as a way to safeguard the newly sown seed?
I also wonder if the expression that some one has ‘cottoned on’, meaning to comprehend or understand, comes from this activity.
Dorothy Wise, Clanfield, Bampton
Reading ‘Laughter Lines’ (March, p100) my attention was drawn to an Oxford student who had given an answer to a question about poetry. The answer she gave was ‘Albert and The Lion’ by Marriott Edgar.
Now this is where my interest lies. In my childhood days I knew some
I would appreciate it very much if someone could put me out of my misery with the ‘full monty’.
W Salmon, Nantwich, Cheshire
I am prompted by Mr Kenneth Tabor’s letter (April) and am surprised, being a Countryman reader, that he subscribes to the premise that the countryside is God’s gift to the urban walker and dog owner, rather than that of the country’s workplace for food production, and if it were not for the grazing animal, and those who tend them, there would be no pastoral England and the visual amenity he and his ilk enjoy.
Edwin S Phillips, Birmingham
How right is Humphrey Phelps’s article (April) saying that changes for progress in our countryside aren’t always for the best?
Our countryside was far more interesting in variety, with many smallholdings producing a variety of crops and livestock. Gone are many of our wildflower meadows, our farms and barns and rural churches.
Even the country folk are fast disappearing, and urban dwellers are buying up small country cottages and making them into mansions. Security gates keep out visitors — even delivery vans.
Instead of people walking the lanes and crossing footpaths to get to the bus stop in the village, we now have large new vehicles speeding along at fifty miles an hour killing wildlife crossing the lanes.
In the past one would see men cutting the hedges by hand and clearing up the brash but now the hedges get slaughtered by cutters and are so low that animals have nowhere to shelter in the rain.
Being in the EU brings with it an even higher population, forcing our councils to give up more of the Green Belt. Roads and developments are spread ing everywhere, causing ancient woods to go, and farms where farmers’ families have lived for generations can now be compulsory purchased by councils for other ventures.
Rural services have suffered because Government and councils have made wrong decisions and yet rural dwellers are expected to pay extortionate council taxes.
During the last two years councils have only gritted or used the snow plough during lengthy spells of ice and snow on motorways and A-roads. They have refused to grit steep country lanes so that people could get out to hospital, doctors and shops.
They never minded when dairy farmers had to throw their milk away because tankers couldn’t get to farms. And these public servants are supposed to care about the economy and people’s lives? I think not.
Yes, things were better in the countryside in the past. Work may have been harder but there were less regulations and dictatorship. Salt-of-the-earth farmers were valued more.
H woodridge, Worcestershire
Not a shaggy sheep dog story: its owner was a sheep dealer who had a holding field, near a Yorkshire weekly market town.
One market day when he went to collect his sheep for the sale, there was a thick fog and he simply could not find them in the field. Even his dog had disappeared into the murk. He returned to the gate again, closed it and went down to the market on his own.
There were the missing sheep. His dog, from force of habit, had rounded them up in the fog, taken them through the open gate and safely down to the market, all on its own.
Alan Moore, Warwick
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