26th April

Cold night; very chill this morning. So much so I broke my pre-beltane fast by making nettle tea this morning; I really did crave a hot drink.

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There is so much crap nonsense spoken about ‘meat farming’ the livestock industry in this country. For example the spread of Bovine TB in cattle. This, according to government ministers, is the fault of badgers: a cull of badgers is essential to control the disease –

Last year the number of animals slaughtered in England’s badger cull soared to more than 10,000, and while ministers claimed the results a great success, a leading scientist said there was ‘no basis’ for suggesting the cull was effective. Half the badgers killed in 2016 were shot without first being trapped, a method rejected as inhumane by the British Veterinary Association in 2015.

Claire Bass, director of the Humane Society International/UK, said: “Badger culling is a costly distraction from the real solution to TB in cattle. It’s a disease of cattle, primarily spread by cattle, and it’s cattle-focused control measures that will stop it. But the government has sanctioned large-scale ‘badgercide’.”

The National Farmers Union on the other hand claimed the latest cull results a success – although it takes two years for the effects to feed through the system.

According to Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Prof. Christianne Glossop, incidence of bovine TB in Wales have fallen by 28%; the number of infected cattle slaughtered has fallen by 45%; and 94% of Welsh herds are TB free. This achieved without culling a solitary badger!

The largest-ever study conducted to examine whether culling badgers would reduce bovine TB in cattle, a ten-year, £50m study called the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, concluded in 2007 that: “… badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain.” See HERE.

I’m so reminded of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. Then mass slaughter was perpetrated by Nick Brown and his Ministry of Agriculture officials, aided and abetted by Sir Ben Gill of the NFU. Between February and September that year 2,030 cases of foot & mouth were confirmed, resulting in the culling and incineration of about 6 million animals – 4,900,000 sheep, 700,00 cattle and 400,000 pigs.

The officials and farmers’ leaders refused to countenance vaccination, as practised effectively elsewhere. All this despite the facts that the disease is very rarely passed to humans, who have to be in close contact with the beasts, and that when it does it’s not serious. The last human case in Britain was in 1967. The mass pyres of carcasses were still more bizarre. The virus is sensitive to stomach acid, and so cannot be passed by eating infected meat. If the meat could have been frozen there was no reason to keep the carcasses from the market.

Of course TB in cattle can be passed along the food chain. But it is the similarity in solution to these problems (all of which are funded by the tax payer) of unnecessary mass slaughter – of livestock on one hand, and badgers on the other that I find disturbing.

Days of wine and roses

April 24, 2017

Diary 23rd / 24th April

Visitors. Daniel R and his strikingly beautiful wife. The weather bright to begin, then overcast, with a cold wind. Sheep on the moor. Back in the eleventh century a fleece might well have been worth the equivalent of £50; a ewe and lamb would have cost one shilling – say, £130 in today’s money. In the middle ages sheep were the principle wealth of England. Wool money built the great churches and created those beautiful country towns and villages from the Cotswolds to Suffolk – places now dependent on tourists for their survival. No money in wool now, of course. No money to speak of in sheep either.

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Over indulged this weekend. Again. Fasting from today onwards. One week of fruit and water. Already looking forward to a huge tray of roasted vegetables at the weekend. Greatly missed my morning coffee today.

Glory Holes

April 23, 2017

I love Bees

April 22, 2017

Place of note

April 21, 2017

excitement in living

April 6, 2017

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

Rachel Carson
The Sense of Wonder

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself, in his cities of steel and concrete, from the realities of earth and water and the growing seed. Intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into more experiments for the destruction of himself and his world.

There is certainly no single remedy for this condition and I am offering no panacea. But it seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.

Rachel Carson ,
Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson,
edited by Linda Lear

Diary 21st / 22nd March

Lots of criticism of the concept of grammar schools lately. They’ve always been anathema to the socialists. And yet an entire generation of writers passed through them: Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, William Golding, John Carey, Tony Harrison, Alan Bennett – Angela Carter even went so far as to suggest they helped create a genuine British intelligentsia: ‘’a class of people who didn’t believe they were born to rule, who had no stake in maintaining the class-bound structure of British society but who made their livings through dealing with ideas.’

Carter, unlike other socialists, didn’t believe in ‘throwing the educational baby out with the bathwater.’

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A weather forecast, or rather pastcast: rain, rain and more rain; mostly this miserable soaking drizzle. For two days last week the moor was clotted with fog (low cloud), its granite slopes melting into white; its ancient hidden secrets further obscured, and the sheep and cattle became simple shapes in the murk: bedraggled and pissed off, no doubt – probably suicidal, even: but of course lacking hands they cannot take a razor to their throats, unlike us.

Then, on Tuesday, a cold front rolled in off the Atlantic. The rain turned sleety. It’s s’posed to be the beginning of spring…!

On a more hopeful note, last Sunday I heard a lark singing. It probably wasn’t ascending, but the sound brought a smile to my face.

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Some people have desires that can only be hinted at…

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As I grow older I become more forgetful. I’d give you some examples but I’ve forgotten them already.

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Notable events over the past week: lunch at Notter Bridge last Friday (this after an unexpected telephone call from my sister which I finally, rather rudely had to interrupt after almost an hour’s conversation, saying: ‘must go, we’re meeting friends for lunch…’)

Drinks with Henry B Saturday. He has an unending repertoire of anecdotes and a spontaneous humour that is the envy of us all. He is also currently persona non grata with the local BDSM group after last Christmas, and that unfortunate experience with D F. Still, his shoulders are broad and he handles his ostracization with casual good humour. He is, in short, unrepentant and imperturbable. For my own part, I have this indelible memory of Henry two years ago in lurid lycra, being flagellated mercilessly by an Asian lady in John R’s sitting room at St Mabyn.

Sunday I became quite intoxicated by the end of day. I managed to prepare food for us all. But afterwards fell asleep on the living room sofa.

Monday I finished my short story “Rats”. It’s a tale of a woman with a deep-seated fear of rats. It has a very unhappy ending. In part, I s’pose (and this with hindsight), the idea behind the story originated with a news report two or three years ago which concerned a woman who had a terrible fear of monkeys. This phobia meant she could never visit a zoo, and never even watch a wild life documentary on television if monkeys were involved.

She decided to seek help. She attended sessions with a therapist weekly for most of that year. Then she visited the monkey house with her family at London zoo. All okay. Her fear was gone, dissipated. She was cured.

The following year she went on holiday to Kenya with her husband and children. On the second day of this vacation she was attacked and torn apart by a group of angry baboons.

Tuesday was a hospital appointment and then shopping. Sleeting like mad when we left the hospital; peeing down with rain at the supermarket; bright sunshine on arriving home. All the seasons in the one day.

Talking, too, about the moor: how it can give substance to your dreams and nightmares. Ghosts on the moor, for certain. But then who’s to say that one or more of the people standing with you at the bus stop aren’t ghosts? That woman in a white raincoat and headscarf, for example?

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I was reminded yesterday of a party in Hampshire ten years ago. A young man taking the part of Nijinsky, dressed as the faun in ‘L’Après-Midi’, dancing behind his shimmering gauze, cock stiff and swaying for the delectation of all. What a wild, unruly night that became.

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‘Real artists are not nice people,’ W H Auden once wrote. ‘All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue.’

So let that stand as a warning to us all.

Los Dinamos Creek

March 20, 2017

In the scratchy grass, I slept until the sun
burned my forehead and thumped my eyelids.

I dreamed that sugar skulls lined up on vendors’ countertops
for Dia de los Muertos, winked at me, stuck out their red jelly tongues.

Stones held the light underwater, only allowed it to surface
when evening came calling for it.

Minute life – spiders, small beetles – marooned,
dog paddled on the water’s surface (so to speak),

waited for a lazy bit of bark or clump of grass
to allow board and passage.

In the scratchy grass, I woke and saw that the clouds were
gray and nasty – a promulgation I could not ignore.

The end of the world was at hand – my hand.
The dead were rising and it was time to choose sides.

Paper leaves found me, whirled ‘round and rested finally
as the land grew dark and unpromising.

I rose to go home (home being the safety of the city,
the fallen angels, the concrete stars I adored).

I rose and, full of warnings, said goodbye to the creek,
what would be left of the creek after the world ended.

Martina Reisz Newberry

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Edna St Vincent Millay