Bad Start Good End

I wanted to insert my letter to the phone provider EE so that it would appear immediately here,

For reasons -I’m sure- of  stupidity I can only add it as a file for you to click onto

Click here EE

It represents a bad start to the week.

Incidentally I see Terry Pratchett quoted in The Week magazine; “Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time” So I cannot be deemed really stupid.

Anyway lets focus on the Good End

The eclipse! We woke to beautiful clear  skies and dodged between the television and our pinhole camera out in the farmyard. First images from Newlyn where I once lived made me pleased for Cornwall. Often forgotten and nearly always last in the queue when money trickles down from London it was first in line on this occasion.Civil Servants cannot control the alignment of the planets.And we really did experience the light decreasing to a purplish hue, a chill breeze, the birds silent. And the birds the first to announce the second new dawn,

Later that evening on the television Stargazing gave us chapter and verse on the days events. Hosted by Dara O Brean and Brian Cox and featuring Buzz Aldrin (AKA Buzz Allbling). There is a perfect chemistry between the two hosts which is developing each series in a wierdly cosmic way. All-consuming Dar O B is large and getting larger while Prof Brian is looking a bit overwhelmed and almost………engulfed. A celebrity collapsing Star . When he tries to remind Dara that certain cosmic happenings could be apocalyptic for Planet Earth he is subject to a withering ridicule partly arrested by a complex formula on the back of an envelope which he waves at your man. For a second there is equal respect. What would Terry Pratchett make of those two?

And as a bonus ball Tom Robinson serves up a 90 minute Bob Dylan special on 6 Music. In the course of Stargazing we were told that the sun spot clearly visible on the  images from Newlyn is roughly the size of Earth! It occurs to me that Dylan is the sun in the world of music with the rest just orbiting. A bit OTT in retrospect.Yet weirdly, towards the end of the music special a photographer describes how – for the album sleeve of Bringing It All Back Home – he created an image of the world spinning around a clear image of Dylan in the centre of the picture.If you get Dylan you will understand this. Many don’t get him but love him or hate him could this be a religion of the future developing in our lifetime.


Since we installed a new shed we have been interested in solar panels.They would fit on the roof and be barely visible. There are adverts everywhere, but I feel ill-informed and so an ad in Mole Valley Farmers magazine offering a free pass to an energy information day catches my eye. I ring for a place.It contrasts with an invitation to the AGM of the CLA which thanks a couple of members for opening up their country pile and extending a welcome to other members for the day and then announces a £30 ticket charge! I don’t expect a free lunch but that sits a bit uncomfortably.

We have a cash account with Mole V F and it confers a 2% discount so I book my free seat with one eye on the calculator. £200 FOR 10,000 SPENT.. I have to cancel at short notice and rebook for the next event but they ring me back and give me a seminar on the phone.I am impressed and interested enough for them to take details of my supplier and meter serial numbers. I know the one but not the others -if you are ever in this dilemma they are not the numbers engraved on the meter(!!) but a different PAN number which appears on the bill.Anyway we get there and I am promised a phone back from a member of the “team”. He starts off by asking my supplier and my meter serial numbers.I ask if he actually works for Mole Valley Farmers and tease out the fact that his independent company has been passed on my details by MVF. When he says details it turns out to be my phone number!.So I refer him back to them and we try again 30 minutes later. He quickly decides to come clean and tells me it’s his first day at work; it gets better from then and I let him cut his teeth on my project. Eventually I sign up but – you guessed – the contract is not with Mole Valley Farmers. So no discount. I shall ask what commission they have taken for passing on my name.Whatever the amount it proves what we all know from our elders- there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Nonetheless,the scaffolders don’t work for MVF or the Solar Panel company and the safety netters don’t work for the scaffolders MVF or the Solar Panel company. So if somebody falls through the roof I can yet expect an invitation to a free fact- finding lunch at the solicitors.

The panels are to be installed tomorrow. 4 days later there is an eclipse of the sun!

An undiscovered gem

Today a mechanic came – by recommendation – to fix the brakes on the dumper.He turns out to be A SHOWMAN, A POET, ASTUTE and a good mechanic.

The showman first; he listened attentively to my description of brake failure and then – just as I was embellishing the detail of NO resistance when I put my foot to the brake pedal he waved his hand and said ” I shall be very surprised if this isn’t what I think it is”. It was his way of silencing me but also pure theater in its delivery. That movement of the hand , that derogatory glance at the truck as he moved onto something more interesting….”.Why is your farm spelt differently from the village?” Lamanver Farm in the village of Lamanva. Now that’s the ASTUTE bit. I’m not sure anybody else has picked that up on first visit.It really is a fab question and has an interesting answer but that’s for another day.

Because the best bit of this is that IT WASN’T WHAT HE THOUGHT! But that didn’t deter him. Having stripped down the front axle, unperturbed he dropped into his POET persona.When I questioned “so what is that stuff in the brake cylinder?” his reply was completely derailing; “obnoxious sliminess”.Excuse me but where have we got to so far? The front axle in pieces and as yet no cause identified for the brake failure.And yet he inspires confidence.And commands a healthy hourly rate which I shall pay happily. I’m beginning to think this guy could make a General Practitioner.

Today I put up a sign Eggs for sale  £1- 1/2 doz

I shall build an honesty box and another sign. This honesty box is under constant CCTV surveillance.I shall be intrigued as to who gets the joke.


Digital technology

A trip to East Kent to visit my father. He has a complex illness and I use my i-phone to Google an Australian medical website whilst waiting with him for an outpatient appointment with his consultant.And marvel for a moment at the technology that enables such access to such information. I then go onto the Nat West website to check he has money to pay his carer.Later that afternoon and 12 miles from the hospital I speak to his GP who has no details of his medicines sent home with him a week earlier.

I set out for Cornwall having achieved much and enjoying the late sunshine of a perfect March day in deepest rural “old” Kent.It’s weird how things can change. On the M20  a warning light flashes up on the dashboard of the Range Rover Evoque but it is driving OK.Part of the warning is Drive Carefully.That’s slightly intriguing but I take it to mean “no need to swerve onto hard shoulder” We had a similar problem with the same car in Spain 4 weeks after purchase new.After many sweltering hours a mechanic disconnected the battery leads, reconnected them and the car came back to life.Via a mix of Spanglish and hand gestures we agreed (I think) that it was like turning a computer off,then on,when it is not working.He gestured that the car was a computer on wheels unlike his tow truck. Which was a large hook on wheels.So I drive (carefully) into the next service station, turn off the ignition wait 5 minutes and drive away with everything back to normal.But it leaves a slight doubt. The M25 is a horror show and a lorry directly in front of me swerves out into my lane without indicating. Not because forewarned I am driving carefully and have a safe distance. I glimpse the car that he has swerved to avoid. Spinning across the hard shoulder and up a bank. It doesn’t turn over but there is a lot of smoke and it’s at quite high speed.And suddenly it’s 100 yards behind you and there is nothing you can do. My            I phone is not  bluetooth- enabled so I cannot even phone it in.Later in the night I get a different series of warning messages flashing up on the dashboard but this time I have lost cruise control and the speedo. 45 miles North of Exeter on the M5 I pull into services but know where this is heading and it’s not home for the forseeable future!.The AA recovery man cannot comment and feels it is probably a software issue. That’s honest. He tells me we have to head back up the M5 to Bristol Airport to collect a hire car.He says it’s only a 20 minute trip. It takes 40 minutes with the speed cameras etc.Another 40 minutes (and 30 to check out the hire car) and I am back to where it all started on the M5.Bizarrely the attendant in the hire  office wanted to see my paper license as well as the photo-card.Even more bizarrely I had it folded up in the back of my wallet! I think of the people in the car on the M25 and make it home at 0415.

Over the weekend I get over that bad vibe. We watch a judge (who is overweight) pull out the top 3( who are all sleek and underweight) in one of the Crufts classes.I decide that I may do better betting on the first three home in  dog shows than the forthcoming Cheltenham races.

Poldark is back as a new series. Donna says the original is dated. I thought that was the whole point -1780 to be precise.

On Sunday we meet friends for lunch. It is warm and gets warmer. This was not forecast and by the time the coffees are served we are sitting outside basking.I have decided that the first day of Spring is no longer to be defined by the calendar but by the group act of first basking.








At The Races – UK and Irish Horse Racing video, form, tips, odds and news – Race Card

Today. I heard a soundbite of Paul Gambuccini on Radio 4 Today proggramme .He was featured  in reference to a  protracted accusation of sexual assault (a single accusation eventually thrown out) during which he was on bail and that bail was extended on 3 separate occasions in a manner he would not accept as co-incidence.” If something happens twice it’s coincidence but three times is a trend.” Yesterday our mare ran her race and came in third for the third successive time.Now that seems to be a trend.We went up to watch and met up with friends. Guy described the ground as squidgy – a term I shall try and introduce alongside the standard good soft or heavy. And Paul worked out the fractions and decimal odds with the speed of a man who might just get the bug if his fathers advice wasn’t guiding him.“Pop into a bookmakers and you will notice that everyone looks rather poor!”

In the final race on the card is a horse owned by The Hartnol Hotel.Paul had his wedding reception there and I gave the Best Man speech. Now that’s a coincidence!


Spring. Time marches on

Yesterday was Sunday 1st March St Davids day and the first of Spring. I watched the Wales team beat the French in the rugby the day before. Many of them were dressed as daffodils. I wonder if those costumes just come out for the St Davids celebration or if we will see them in the remaining games..

More locally the fields planted out for the daffodil market are getting ahead of the pickers.Once in bloom they have little commercial value; they need to be opening just as they are sold over the counter.Despite endless rain very little sun and a biting wind the fields are showing more yellow patches each day Those patches are lost profit.So the word has gone out and I mean out. To Eastern Europe in particular.The local grass verges are dotted with old cars vans and even a redundant 30 – seater coach.all with European number plates. And in the fields themselves are dotted  the teams of pickers ,heads down and in all weather. They never stop – including Sunday. Perhaps yesterday they had their own personal celebrations- not least they had the sun on their backs for the first time this week.On Saturday I passed by in the Defender and noted that their waterproofs were sodden.and stuck to their underclothes.If they stopped working they would get very cold very quickly.  I reached forward and turned up the dashboard heat to Max.

In Kent my father is suddenly very ill. He has 2 or 3 really complicated and quite rare medical conditions. Different consultants come by and focus on their specialist area in terms he cannot understand..When they are out of earshot he says”it’s anno domini” . They could learn from him. In their defense he tends to forget a lot of what is said anyway. He uses a diary for the important stuff. On the phone he reads out his scrawled entry for tomorrow 3rd March 2015   Lady Of Lamanver Exeter 2.30.



Yesterday a nine hour round trip to collect Lamanver Odyssey from Somerset. The Defender is more comfortable when towing a load but despite that the journey was way too much for my back.

She is so-named because the stud manageress refers to her mother( Lamanver Homerun) as Homer and Homer wrote the Odyssey which Meriam Webster free dictionary defines as a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune. It seems perfect for a filly doing so well until found terribly lame in a stable for no discernible reason, who was put on “box rest”  for 12 weeks only to go stir-crazy half-way into “the sentence”,rear violently and come down on her pelvis.Then get back up on her feet cured! Now home for summer grazing.

The number of roadworks on the A30 and M5 increases almost daily. The 50mph carriageway restrictions are well-laid out and it is perversely pleasant to see everybody sticking to the speed limit. There is no choice since no room to overtake.But the stretch at the very end of the M5 still has 50mph signs which are ignored by everybody. There are no roadworks at that point,the signs have been there for months -almost forgotten. Nobody local takes any notice, But it must be frustrating if you are visiting from afar and conscientiously slow down only to see others screaming past .I stuck to 60 since “haulin hoss” .

This morning I watched Channel 4 Morning Line. Depressing to hear Jamie Lynch stating that he and some other Racing Post Timeform pundits had “laid off” a horse they owned which I thought meant betting against it to all intents and purposes. Which I thought was disallowed under the Rules of Racing.Glad they got stuffed when it won under a young conditional jockey.French prize-money increasing- note to self brush up on the French.


How strange that last night Donna mentioned casually that she had noticed a toad on the granite flagstones in the lounge earlier in the evening ! Given yesterdays blog – posted much earlier and unknown to Donna – I found that weird in a charming sort of way. Witches of course use various frog and newt parts in their spells.Toad as well I imagine! Am I being watched? Can I summon help in the betting market next week when Lady of Lamanver races over hurdles for the first time? Or is Donna onto my blog.

So that visitor was unexpected. Less so the Retired Professor who delivered a local newsletter this morning. He told me his name when he first came to the farm but I only remember that he is a retired professor of quantum mechanics I think he said. He is unnervingly bright; he denied any knowledge of horses then described one as having noticeably long canon bones. I had to be told that three times before I could just about convince myself I could see it and here comes RP and notices it at a casual glance. Perhaps it’s his mechanical eye. However I think he is slightly adrift in the common sense disciplines because the real purpose of his visit I think was to announce that he is considering running for UKIP. I think fear of failure has him trying to test the water. Certainly we are a VERY marginal seat; George Eustice won for the Tories last time with a majority of 66 which the Retired Prof convinced me today is really only a majority of 33.If one party has 100 votes and another party has 34 the majority is 66 but a swing of 33 would bring both to 67 he explained. So I conceded that. But apart from Nigel Farage UKIP are a bunch of outspoken fools and racists I countered. Maybe, but they are honest and he emphasised the word honest and for that they surpass the current parties who tell you what you want to hear not what they are thinking.And he has a point. Honesty has gone out of politics and we have barely noticed it.So he went on his rounds with encouragement from me. Just for the record my exact words were “I would never vote for a candidate who I considered dishonest”. But he has got me thinking.

As he left he noticed a spirit level and some tools next to a horse trailer in the yard. “Make sure the trailer is level to the ground before you fit those shelves!” Too late – so that’s me sorted out for the rest of the morning. Level the trailer then refit the shelves. They look OK but once it’s pointed out that sort of thing niggles.

“Toodle Pip” said the Prof

“Don’t you mean Toodle UKIP?” says I . No response. So it must have been quantum mechanics. There’s no room for humour in all that dark matter.


A Visitor

The unexpected visitor remains- in most cases anyway and I include the Retired Professor – a welcome interruption to the routines of life around horses.And if ahead of the routines a chance to down tools from the repair and servicing that soaks up the remainder of short winter days.And sometimes these are the briefest interludes.The fox passing across the paddock in front of me as I write (not always welcome and not always unexpected). The heron that once chose to walk up the lawn from the pond with a strut of such purpose that I never fathomed. The red deer that appeared one late summers evening and was gone again at dawn.

And today a newt.Found by Donna on one of the stable floors looking slightly dry and probably disturbed by my hammer drilling in the stable.Living in one of the old stone walls I imagine.So you may say not a true visitor passing through. Just a visitor to our daily life. And only the third newt seen in 22 years. The other two episodes bizarrely on the granite flagstones in our lounge, years apart but  on both occasions a lone newt passing across the floor from one wall to another.Those sightings had  suggested a low population doomed to extinction at least on the farm. But today I am reminded that Nature does not let go easily.And that a lot goes on in those walls that we never see.

And I am reminded also that we are long-overdue a visit by Archie Springer. Last seen late-summer by David setting out for a convention on The Lizard. He is usually back for the daffodil picking and that is well underway. I shall make inquiries.