1 January 1999

Dad crocked, tribe fine…

As I write this I am sitting with my leg in plaster and my housekeeper has just gone off sick. I am in dispute with MAFF because I was late registering a calf and my bank manager is wondering when the next pay-in is coming from.

But that is just me and my problems, everyone else in the family seem to be doing well. William (22) has just started work for an accountant after getting his BA (Hons) in the summer. Hes a good lad and has been a big help to me, doing the shopping and generally keeping things going when I was in hospital.

Andrew (19) is at art college in Newcastle so I never see him. He comes home on Friday night collects a car and vanishes to his girlfriends home arriving back early on Monday morning for William to take him to the train. His trousers are usually at half mast, his shirt tail is always out and his hair is getting longer. He says he is working hard but who can tell? Andrews idea of hard work is different.

John (17) is working, reluctantly, for his A-levels. He cant really see the point as you dont need A-levels to count dead sheep. I tell him that it is because of dead sheep that he needs to work at school. He is clever and his teachers tell me he can get As and Bs in his exams. Sadly there is no future for him on this farm, he has to look elsewhere.

Thomas at 15 is at the stage of grunting instead of talking. He plays rugby and is now beginning to get mentioned in the local paper when he scores. Apparently he does not need to talk on the pitch. In the autumn he went for work experience at the local caravan site working in reception. We had some fun wondering how he was getting on but he seemed to enjoy it.

Harry (13) has moved to the High School this year and I am told he is working well. He is quick and lively and can disrupt a class in minutes so I have warned the school and I hope he keeps going. Harry also goes to rugby but I suspect it is more for the sweets and coke he can buy afterwards than for the actual sport. Otherwise, during weekends and holidays he barely stirs from his bed unless it is to fight and disrupt Poppy (12) and Rosie (8).

Poppy is another one I hardly see She leaves home as soon as shes up to go to the new riding stables nearby. She came in laughing one day to say she had had a kiss from Toby which worried me until I realised Toby was a gelding!

Rosie also goes to the horses but she is not so keen. She, like Harry, changed schools this year and has gone from being boss at the village school to a little girl at the middle school. She is spoilt rotten by everyone except her brothers and Dad is putty in her hands and doesnt seem to be able to do anything about it. When she left primary school it was 17 years since William started and it was peculiar not to be involved every day. Now I no longer have to go to Christmas shows or sports days. In fact Dad is told not to show up now he is just an embarrassment!