Home & Country: Old irritations still rattle my cage

IT WILL be strange not to tell readers of Country Week about next week’s happenings after ten years of sharing our lives.

Sarah Todd with Tetley, the lurcher
Sarah Todd with Tetley, the lurcher

This swan song snap isn’t entirely appropriate as your correspondent likes dogs but finds them a bit like other people’s children. They’re alright, so long as they don’t jump about and make a lot of noise. Horses, or a field of Hereford heifers - a good dark colour - are more likely to get this writer animated. However, The Lurcher symbolises both the passing of time and the relationship with readers rather well.

The hairy creature pictured - come on now, the dog not me - will be nine in a couple of weeks and it was followers of this column who sent in name suggestions when he arrived at six-weeks-old. The Husband - surprise, surprise - was rather grumpy. He’d wanted another spaniel and yours truly had gone off - via a deal in a pub car park -on this considerably larger, mostly deerhound, tangent.

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Readers wisely reckoned that if the new arrival was named after His favourite beer (it was nothing to do with tea) He might look upon him more favourably. You-know-who came back from the village pub (it’s been open, closed, open, closed and now open again over the past decade) one night and agreed - as if it was His idea - on Tetley.

As an aside, the jaunty neck-tie he is wearing was a free gift at Bramham Horse Trials. There is no way this reporter would buy any kind of adornment for her animals. It suits him, but it makes me wonder what the world is coming to when you see dogs in nose-to-tail outfits. They must be sweltering and uncomfortable; like the thousands of horses that live life sweated-up under £300 rugs when they have what nature gave them; a thick coat.

One of the reasons for finishing the column was an awareness of banging on about the same irritations. Like the new breed of “farmer”; there are significantly more of these types now than there was ten years ago.

Proper farmers are hedge laying, drainage digging, ploughing through Defra paperwork, stone wall mending, cattle dealing, dead sheep discovering… What fun to herd up the whole Escape to the Country brigade and send them out with a real band-around-the-boilersuit farmer. The farming contingent will remember the late Henry Brewis’s cartoon character Sep. A courgette and goat’s cheese tart is much more likely to be found warming-up in the bottom oven of today’s “farmhouse kitchen” than the half-dead lamb from Sep’s day.

There is a decade’s worth of Country Week in a windowsill, gradually getting yellower. It’s time to move on and, hopefully, write a few more serious opinion pieces for the main newspaper.

It would be impossible to cut the apron strings completely as the association with The Yorkshire Post goes back over 20 years. After three of four years on a local paper, it was a proud day to join The YP’s reporting team. The writing bug struck while doing the reports for the young farmers’ club. “We went stock judging and Mrs So-and-So, the farmer’s wife, laid on a lovely tea afterwards…” The job of magazine editor dragged me away; but the connection, as a reader, remained.

Both The Husband and I grew up on farms and were determined to come back to our rural roots. It’s heartbreaking how so many youngsters are priced out of the villages where they were born. The Daughter, who was three when this column was started and will be 14 next week, has a strong agricultural gene running through her. She always adds on at least 20 acres to what we have here. The Husband has - of course - the acreage precisely measured (like those stripes on the lawn) to within the nearest millimetre.

“It’s pathetic,” she says. “I’ll have much more land…”

But how? Council farms have nearly all been sold-off and planning authorities seem to take pleasure in making it hard for bona-fide country people to stay living where they were born. There can’t be many living among farming communities who don’t know somebody who has had a “going on” getting planning permission for a much-needed extra house.

Prince Harry is this household’s favourite Royal. But his father, Prince Charles, is absolutely right in saying the population is losing its connection with the countryside. There’s no wonder people go nuts about farm traffic and having to slow-up to overtake horses; they don’t have it in their DNA like the generation or so before.

The moaning-on about the changing dogs-off-the-lead face of the countryside has been punctuated with plenty of fun though. Getting out-and-about visiting the county’s livestock markets was a highlight. The steak pie at Selby and the puddings at Ruswarp…

Of course, it will be goodbye from the whole of our family. The Son was a baby when the first column was written and his now teenage big sister has been increasingly complaining “Oh, you didn’t put that in the ‘paper did you…?”

The one person who never seemed to mind was The Husband. Everything from his short-pockets to record-breaking sprout eating prowess has been recorded. Best buy Him a pint or two of Tetleys...

To keep up with Sarah, follow her on Twitter where she can be found tweeting at @Sar4hTodd or visit her website, www.sarahtodd.info