I would never have believed that I could have been quite so out of touch and inconvenienced by not having access to broadband for the past month.
Things started to go wrong just after Christmas when I requested an upgrade which I was assured would speed up my notoriously slow computer. Since then the line has been disconnected, the telephone number lost and communications with the outside world via the internet shambolic. Hours have been wasted talking to countless operators of all manner of nationalities, which in most cases was pointless and infuriating. Fortunately last week BT dedicated three days to my problem and now ‘normal’ service has resumed. Has this ghastly experience speeded things up? The simple answer is no! Living a mile from the centre of Burgess Hill the farm is considered to be ‘isolated’; God help those living out in the sticks!
If it were not for my magic Blackberry I would have been in serious trouble, though I suspect there are many emails and documents floating around in cyber space which I shall never track down, and there are those who will consider my lack of response to be decidedly tardy.
Modern technology is remarkable until it fails; it is therefore vital that we never lose the ability to communicate without these gadgets upon which we increasingly rely. There must always be the alternative; we must not create a society reliant on technology 100 per cent of the time.
As increasingly our lives and businesses are governed and controlled by computer technology including the NHS, banking, HMRC, and for farmers record keeping, support applications and livestock movements, we are increasingly susceptible to chaos, financial hardship and many difficulties besides, caused either inadvertently or intentionally.
I dare say this problem is being addressed as a priority by men in white coats; it is hard to believe that those whose problem this is, both nationally and internationally can ever really sleep soundly at night.
Any arable farmer who left the country last September and returned this week should be congratulated. Crops planted in the autumn which have survived the slugs, rabbits and waterlogged soil are now ready for some TLC and will hopefully respond once the soil temperature warms up. At Ote Hall we started drilling at the weekend as the conditions although still cold, were about perfect. We like many others are growing spring barley and if the weather continues to improve, the lupins will be drilled before long.
We now need sun, warmth and perhaps a little rain in due course to get the crops and grass to growing. These cold nights are not helping, the fields still look brown and stressed; they should by now be greening up and starting to show some growth. Livestock farmers are almost out of hay and silage and need to turn out before the end of the month, at this rate it looks doubtful.
However hard it is for our hard pressed farmers, we are certainly better off than our cousins up north who are still having to cope with 20ft drifts which have caused terrible loses of cattle, and thousands of sheep and lambs.
Spring is when sheep farmers should reap their harvest of gambolling lambs which should grow and thrive as the shepherds have tended and cared for the ewes since tupping last autumn. Farming is notoriously harsh in the Welsh and Scottish hills, the uplands of Cumbria, Derbyshire and other Northern counties, and the bleak peaks in Northern Ireland.
Farmers expect to be challenged by the elements and the unexpected. The extreme weather conditions they have faced this year has surely stretched them to the limit not only physically but the mental strain and the distress of seeing flocks destroyed, new born lambs freezing to death or suffocating under snow drifts is intolerable, we can barely imagine their despair.
Some farms will never recover, others will struggle but those brave farmers, who have faced the devastation which for many of us is just yesterday’s news, will remain scarred and traumatised by the experience.
Charities such as RABBI and the Addington Fund, and the NFU, and the Prince of Wales are doing what they can to give financial support to struggling farmers facing this crises.
These funds will help to buy food for livestock and in some cases families who are facing financial hardship. Farmers across the country who have not been so badly affected are reaching out to their fellow farmers by sending donations, offering hay and items for auction, the proceeds being given to the appropriate charities.
Perhaps the government should be reminded that sometimes it is fitting to consider that ‘charity begins at home’. If just a fraction of the funds destined to support third world countries were diverted to struggling farmers trying to cope with this disaster, it would surely be appropriate and perhaps make the difference between farm businesses surviving or having to sell up. I think now is the time for the Government to show support and commitment for British agricultural, at present it would seem farming and food production is near the bottom of its priority list.
Corola Godman Irvine