Toy badger and hedgehog in a shop window© Matthew Chattle/Rex/Shutterstock

If you are a livestock farmer prone to high blood pressure, as it seems some are, it would probably be best to avoid the Christmas TV ads, especially the John Lewis one.

This features a range of creatures including two foxes and a badger bouncing on a trampoline, presumably designed to look like cute little furry animals to the average viewer.

To many livestock keepers, however, this just looked like a bunch of predators and pests taunting them.

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John Lewis only needed to add rats, moles, rabbits, magpies and crows to achieve the full set.

Ours cannot have been the only rural household where someone’s initial reaction was to reach for an imaginary shotgun and shout “bang”.

Elizabeth Elder and her husband Jake run sheep and cattle on 235ha of hill ground in Northumberland.

The advert ends when the frustrated dog who has had to watch all this from inside the house is freed, but it doesn’t want to chase after the predators, it just wants to bounce on the trampoline.

Perhaps we’ve all had dogs like that.


Our border terriers are being tormented like the dog in the advert, except by pheasants.

I understand the collective noun for pheasants is a bouquet.

This strikes me as wrong.

I think a “flaunting” of pheasants would be a more appropriate description in our case.

Ten to 12 of them are hanging round the garden, strutting about as the dogs get worked up into a tizzy from the other side of the living room window.

As soon as the door is opened, the pheasants take off, leaving a pair of border terriers looking confused.

These particular pheasants are very savvy.

They were bred by the local shoot, but have successfully stayed alive by taking cover in the steading and the garden, especially on shoot days.

Only recently, one of the guns mentioned that there didn’t seem to be many pheasants around this year.

Perhaps it just depends where you look.

Not so festive

I suppose I’m just not feeling particularly festive this year anyway. For one thing, our daughter will not be with us for the first time.

She is unaccountably forsaking the joys of frozen Northumberland for a working holiday in Australia.

I know this will be exciting, fun, good for her, just for one year and part of life’s rich tapestry.

It may also, technically, have been my idea in the first place, but still things won’t be quite the same without her.

Winter is coming

There is also that creeping feeling, assisted by dire warnings in some of the more excitable elements of the press, that we are in for a bout of severe winter weather.

Even if we don’t end up with what The Daily Mirror described as a “long, cold Game of Thrones-style winter with up to THREE MONTHS of snow”, any major snowfall will result in a significantly increased workload on the farm and all travel and social activities will be severely curtailed.

We have been invited for Christmas lunch by my sister, who lives 15 miles from a main road in an uphill direction.

She has already warned me to get other provisions in, just in case. This is very sensible.

The trouble is that in previous years when the weather has been this bad, it has also resulted in a loss of power.

So, we could be looking forward to a festive meal of sandwiches and some very cold drinks.

A flaunting of pheasants in the garden will remind us that we’re not having a roast.

Still, things may turn out OK.

My mother always used to advise us that we would enjoy it when we get there.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t always right.