22 January 1999

NOT FIGHTING SUPERMART BUT COPYING

I FEEL a bit of a traitor, even unclean, to be including a well-known "s" word in an entry for a farming magazines competition. All right – dont panic, Im not going to graphically describe presidential scandals or little blue pills or anything like that, but to mention the "s" word which is at present regarded as Agricultures Enemy Number One: Supermarkets.

Yes, whether we like them or not they are with us to stay, and I have to admit that I enjoy doing my shopping at our nearest store, just two and a half miles down the road. Im as gullible as anyone when it comes to special promotions like "Buy one, get one free", "three for the price of two", or "100 extra points" etc. Anything that I regularly use I tend to buy when on offer and I feel quite pleased to see what Ive saved at the bottom of the receipt. (I know there has to be a catch somewhere, but Im not looking too hard to find one.)

&#42 Then join em

Anyway, conditioned to these "Points of Sale" Ive decided that if you cant beat them, you might as well join them.

Gone are the days when we farmers wives kept a couple of hundred fowl to make a bit of pin money – enough to "keep the house" and give us a measure of independence, even if we were constantly reminded that we didnt have to pay for the feed. But times changed, and it became a case of keeping thousands of hens or none at all and if the latter, looking for other ways to contribute to the economy.

In my case it was embarking on taking paying holiday guests, and then later, also getting myself a part-time job at the local school – almost unheard of for a farmers wife in the mid-seventies. In both cases, Ive found the experience infinitely more rewarding than collecting, cleaning and boxing eggs, to say nothing of disposing of the old hens.

As with all jobs, there are ups and downs, and a lot of hard work too, but over the years the holiday trade has brought some lovely people to our home (and the occasional not so lovely of course), and many have become good friends. At Christmas time it is really interesting to get cards from all over the country and abroad with recollections of happy holidays and frequently messages for our friendly collie dog too.

With the increasing uncertainty of farming these days, and the deflated prices for most things we produce, (I heard of one farmer this week who sent three calves to market and made £10 for the three. The auctioneers charge a minimum of £3 an animal to sell, so he ended up with £1), the holiday business is even more vital to our finances, and Ive been thinking of ways of trying to prolong the season if possible. Advertising is expensive, and not always as fruitful as you would wish, so I hit on the idea of copying one of the

present supermarket

gimmicks!

&#42 Leaflet designed

Ive designed a leaflet on my trusty word processor, and despatched a goodly number to previous guests with the offer of four nights for the price of three during the winter months. Ive no idea what the response will be, if any, but Im working on the theory that many folk like a bargain, so you never know.

But I do hope I get some bookings soon; I see smoked back bacon has got 100 extra points, and a well-known breakfast cereal is "buy one, get one free" at the moment.

Muriel Moore