You might remember our funny, irreverent look at some of the characters who make farming the great industry it is.
As part of the tongue-in-cheek guide to well-known rural personas, we present some of the countryside’s hardest workers – including Stan the butcher, markets expert Angus Tuppings the auctioneer plus Del Boy wannabe Steve the machinery dealer and farm workshop fitter Spud.
And that’s not mention some other farming breeds who might seem familiar such as Jack the underkeeper, rookie vet Caroline, bearded newt-botherer Martin and God’s gift to salesmen Rich Flashman.
Stan the butcher
Stan’s done pretty well all told.
He’s making a nice little living from his butcher’s shop.
A tidy packet. Not that he’d ever admit it, of course, and he does work hard for it.
In the shop before daybreak, home after dark.
And it’s not easy running a butchery business – not nowadays with the “veggie brigade” and the red tape and the competition from supermarkets.
But Stan can offer the customer one thing the supermarkets struggle with – personal service.
“How’s your hip, Ethel, my love?” he asks one punter as she shuffles through the door in search of cheap liver.
“How’s that old dog of yours, Mark, mate?” he asks the next one to arrive.
All the ladies are “my love”. All the men are “mate”.
When it comes to names and faces, he’s got a memory like an elephant.
And, for someone who couldn’t get on with maths at school, he’s a dab-hand at tallying up the bill.
Angus Tuppings the auctioneer
The auctioneer speaks in a dialect that went out of common usage in the 1840s.
You hear him as he strides around the countryside, looking like some extra from a costume drama, yelling something incomprehensible about “two-tuths”.
He’s understood by other auctioneers, a clutch of farmers within a five-mile radius of his market and an assortment of farm animals.
Not that it matters – no one else needs to understand him. And he certainly doesn’t care if they don’t.
Angus loves market day – all the noise, the people, the hustle and bustle. You can hear him coming across the yard at 100 yards, his dealer boots clicking.
He can tell the conformation of a sheep at 100 yards.
He knows what proportion Limousin a calf is. He knows how much a carcass weighs to the nearest half pound.
“And it is a bloody half pound, I tell you – not one of those kilos.”
Angus loves standing up there on the rostrum, surrounded by familiar faces. Gibbering insensibly. Banging his gavel. Cracking smutty jokes about back-ends and well-endowed bulls.
Steve the machinery dealer
Steve swaggers through the workshop with an inflated chest, whistling Greensleeves.
He stops for a second to pull his fat-knotted tie snug with the top button of his favourite Ben Sherman shirt and runs a hand through his heavily Brylcreemed locks.
“I could sell sand to the Arabs,” he proclaims to the assembled motley crew of recently appointed apprentices.
“Cue a few murmurs of disapproval. A few sniggers. They’ve all got the same effortless, limitless confidence as Steve: they’ll be outselling this bloke in a matter of months.
Steve ignores the “college boys” and bounces into the office for a chocolate Hobnob and a pat on the back from the boss.
A spanking new 150hp tractor and two half-worn, green-around-the-outside tyres, as well as an old weight block that had spent the past five years holding the portable toilet upright, were all making their way to a nearby farm. “Del Boy, eat your heart out,” Steve says.
Caroline the newbie vet
Caroline is not sure why she chose to be a vet.
Daddy was something in the City, and the countryside looked nice as they drove through it on trips out.
At Cheltenham, she excelled academically, so it seemed a logical choice to do six years of veterinary at Cambridge.
Small animal work was easy.
The diagnoses were textbook. It was drips and blood tests for everything, with bills to match.
Farm work proved more of a challenge.
She arrived at the farm in the aged Forester the practice had supplied, and stepped out into six inches of slurry and an even deeper wave of scepticism from the farmer.
Then the puppy she’d bought as soon as she got the job leapt out and got fixed by the farm collie.
By then a small crowd of tractor drivers had gathered to watch her work.
Her first diagnosis of the lame calf was, inevitably, foot-and-mouth. In a slight panic, she called a senior partner.
He rather wearily advised her “common things happen commonly”, and suggested she has another, proper, look in the hoof.
Unfortunately, this was all on speakerphone, and she could only just avoid bursting into tears at the shame of it.
The secondary diagnosis was, of course, lure. A mumble of “I could have told ‘er that” came from the assembled throng.
But then there was the caesarean. Thanks to her man-management skills, she expertly put the assembled willing volunteers to good use.
They’d come so see her strip off and lather up, but ended up doing all the donkey work.
It was a great success, the story spread, and next time one of the senior partners turned up at the farm, Mick the herdsman looked disappointed. “Not Caroline today, then?” he asked.
Clouds of Parfume de Diesel enveloped the yard as the tractors drivers made their excuse and left.
Rich Flashman the salesman
Rich is dead pleased with himself. Fresh out of college and he landed this job as a salesman.
“A junior representative,” as he prefers it to be called.
The money is decent and then there’s the car. The Ford Mondeo – the smart one with the CD, the spoilers and the cloth seats.
It gets a bit messed up visiting farms, but that’s the way it goes. You can’t sell without getting out and seeing your punters.
“I know my patch inside out,” he claims.
The junior representative is full of ambition. He, like his all-time hero Richard Branson, is going to conquer the world.
He’s read a book called How To Be A Winner. He wants to be a winner. “Closing the deal – that’s what it’s all about,” he tells his mates.
The salesman prides himself on having good interpersonal skills.
He reckons the word “persuasive” best describes him. “A cocky little git” is what farmers say when they come home to find him sitting in their chair, drinking coffee, chatting familiarly with the missus and patting the dog (the name of which, of course, he always remembers).
Spud the farm workshop fitter
Spud’s real name is Keith, but he’s long-since dispensed with that, preferring instead a nickname.
Spud’s toiled in the workshop since he was 16. He used to listen to Radio 1 but, as time’s passed, he’s graduated to Radio 2.
He smells of gearbox oil, welding fumes and Swarfega. The overalls – washed once a month, whether they need it or not – are partly responsible for the stench, as are his roll-your-owns.
The fags, according to the battered tin on the workbench, are made from a brand of tobacco that disappeared from the shops 10 years ago. But they’re probably more likely to be filled with something grown in his back garden and mixed 50:50 with sawdust. “Not marijuana,” he insists, “more a sort of dock-leaf.”
Spud, for all his lack of social graces, is brilliant at his job. He knows engines inside out and, given half an hour and a Phillips screwdriver, can convert a sugar beet drill into a buck rake.
His three favourite tools (sledgehammer, club hammer, claw hammer – in that order) are used with vigour and enthusiasm.
If delicate work is needed, he employs less hammering but more swearing. In anyone else’s hands it’s a technique that would simply produce a lot of bent metal, but Spud’s skill knows where to hit and he knows how hard to hit.
Martin the conservation adviser
Martin advises farmers on conservation schemes. Certain butterflies make him very excited. He’s never happier than when crouching in long, wet grass, poring over rare plants.
Martin’s got a beard, votes for a party very few people have ever heard of and holidays abroad once a year.
He’s got a range of different-coloured cagoules and wears wellies for farm visits – but his preferred choice of footwear is the sandal.
“So much more comfortable – they let my feet breathe,” he says, smiling, his round glasses perched precariously on his pointed nose.
He’s got a degree with the word “environment” in the title and a PhD that involved counting small animals, then drawing lots of graphs and repeatedly writing the words “correlation” and “hypothesis”.
His chief area of expertise is the newt. “A much-misunderstood creature,” he says.
The mere sight of one causes his heart to pump faster, his blood to race. He feels his skin tingle. It’s a feeling Martin’s wife, Barbara, hasn’t engendered in him for a long time.
Not since last year’s holiday, in fact – the night they shared two-thirds of a bottle of white wine.
Jack the underkeeper
Jack is underkeeper on a large estate in the home counties.
He’s been in the job for a couple of years, having moved from another estate where he learned his trade.
That was his first job – he did it in tandem with a day-release qualification at his local ag college (or land-based centre of rural entrepreneurship and excellence, or whatever it is they like to be called these days).
You can spot him out on the estate – on his ATV or in the truck, a pile of pheasant feeders and wire in the back, along with a couple of bales of straw, some tools, some spent cartridge cases and the remains of some unidentifiable small animal.
Jack has a complex, sometimes contradictory attitude to his birds.
They’re a source of perennial frustration, but how he wants the little slingshots of meat and feather to prosper and grow through to shoot day.
Shoot day is when it all comes together. When it’s all worthwhile. You should see some of the tips.
And when it’s beaters’ day, it’s a chance for Jack to showcase his own shooting skills. To dazzle. Not many people know: he’s actually a fabulous shot.
“Bravo,” the estate owner cries, having seen him hammer a high left and a right.