A lesson which works well

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, October 19, 2012 - 11:15


A lesson which works well

Chester, pushing his luck at the kitchen window.

THIS ISLAND LIFE MY late father’s advice when it came to dealing with strangers was fairly straightforward.

Speak to everyone as you would wish to be spoken to — but if they are rude, feel free to respond in kind.

It’s an approach I’ve always favoured and it came in handy the other Sunday morning while taking one of the dogs for a walk over the downs.

Chester got spooked by the sound of a shotgun, slipped his leash and ran into a nearby field of sweet-corn — so I went after him.

The field’s on a slope and when I looked round it was like a scene from the Alamo, with armed men as far as the eye could see.

But there was no way I was leaving my dog in an environment he would have found terrifying, so I stood there until I could spot him (not easy in a field of sweetcorn) and get him back on the lead.

Before long, a 4x4 came bouncing up the track containing two blokes, one of whom kept bellowing 'Oi you!’ at the top of his voice in the fond, but profoundly mistaken belief, that I might actually respond to such a salutation.

Thus ignored, he was then obliged to trudge across the field towards me and I turned to be confronted by a little chap decked out in the garb he clearly felt defined him as a country gentleman — wax jacket, flat cap, shirt and tie (you know the sort of thing).

I later learned he was the designated 'shoot captain’ for the day.

He asked what my problem was, so I told him it involved an innate aversion to being summoned by someone who had clearly mistaken me for one of his labradors — or Anglo-Saxon words to that effect.

I then walked over to the 4x4 and there, behind the wheel doing his best not to smile, was an old friend, Mick Sivell.

"Lost your dog, mate?" he asked. "I think I saw him down the far end of the field.

"I tried to get a lead on him but he looked a bit bewildered and wouldn’t let me get near."

I thanked Mick for his help and added: "Incidentally, this gentleman could do with a few lessons in how to address people." Or some more Anglo-Saxon words to that effect.

Fortunately, Chester was eventually found safe and well, thanks to a real gentleman called Euan, who works in the nearby White Lion pub and was kind enough to put him on a lead and bring him back in the direction from which he had clearly scuttled in a frightened state.

There’s a lesson in common courtesy there for 'the captain’ — and while he’s in the mood for learning he might also care to consider the lack of proper warnings for a shoot which took place in an area with several rights of way in the immediate vicinity.

Wartime Farm reaps a harvest of discontent from someone who was there

The trouble with programmes which attempt to replicate recent history is that they are invariably watched by people who lived through the real thing and therefore know what they are talking about.

The latest one, Wartime Farm, is more like an episode of The Darling Buds of May, as rubicund yokels amble around the place pretending to keep British bellies filled in 1940.

And the trouble with being a modern historian in this celebrity-struck, dumbed-down, easy-learning age is that he or she always wants to live history rather than merely study it.

One of the three involved in this programme, Alex Langlands, has a degree in mediaeval archaeology, which hardly qualifies him an expert on the cultivation of sugar beet.

Another, Peter Ginn, lists his primary research interest as Egyptology, which is probably why he wanders around in a military great-coat, the like of which did not become available to labourers until after the war. And the woman involved, Ruth Goodman, is one of those domestic idealists who consider fridges, food-mixers, and cooking ranges powered by anything other than wet logs to be inventions of the devil.

Watching them has all become a bit much for Edgar Calloway, who told me he can barely resist the temptation to put his boot through the television screen — which would be quite a trick for a 94-year-old gentleman, no matter how sprightly.

Edgar farmed at Arreton during the last war and described Wartime Farm in four words: "A load of rubbish."

He gets particularly irate about some of the machinery, especially the Fordson Major tractor which chugs around the place.

"That particular model never came in until well after the war and as for that contraption that was supposed to dig up beet and cut off the tops for silage at the same time, well …"

It was only the intervention of his family that prevented Edgar from getting on the telephone and giving 'they television fellers’ a piece of his mind.

If you really want to learn about farming over the past 70 years, talk to Edgar. It’s far more informative and entertaining.

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