13 October 1995

Write on, dear diarists

THE search is on for a new diary writer and it is no reflection on our current one – Herefordshire farmers wife Ruth Watkins who has been sending us lively copy since the beginning of the year and letting us enjoy a reflection of her life on a hill farm close to the Welsh border.

Though farm families everywhere have much in common, each is also very different and farms vary enormously. Changing our diarist year by year reflects this variety, gives readers an insight into more lifestyles and gives us an opportunity to run a writing competition in memory of Veronica Frater, our long time diary writer who died from cancer in spring of 1993.

Besides caring for her husband and seven children, welcoming bed and breakfast visitors and letting a holiday cottage, this Northumbrian farmers wife wrote two books, based on her farmers weekly diary entries, They all run after the farmers wife and Summer Holidaze*, both of which were published by Farming Press and are still available.

Contributors and purchasers of farmers weeklys own book, The past few weeks** which contains about a third of the 300 entries in our first Veronica Frater Memorial Competition, will be pleased to learn that this summer we were able to forward a cheque for £1150 to the Institute of Cancer Research in memory of Veronica. This sum represented £1 for each copy sold. The book, which offers a taste of many different kinds of farm life, is still available too.

While "The past few weeks" was the theme for our first Veronica Frater Memorial Competition and "Farm Christmas" the theme for the second, the challenge we set this year is to write no more than 700 words on the theme "Window into my life".

Of course you may interpret this as you chose so long as you produce a "good read" for other farm families giving some insight into your life – there are few Farmlife readers who are not curious about other peoples lives.

The idea came to me at home in the kitchen. The wide window in this room looks on to the cherished garden of a 1930s estate-type house built at the edge of a large village. The items ranged along the windowsill include the weights for the pressure cooker (so that I know where they are) and a cactus given me by a farm workers wife in the throes of moving from the Dorset farm where her husband had lived all his 71 years and worked for 56 of them.

Theres a Christmas cactus that belonged to a reluctant farmers wife – my late mother whose principal advice to me was "Never marry a farmer", and an attractive glazed pottery chick drinker bought with a lot of old metal chick drinkers in a farm sale. This is a relic of my own brief spell as a farmers wife. (I didnt marry a farmer, the farm came later.)

By expanding on the bones of the story laid out in these two paragraphs, it would not be difficult to paint a pretty full picture of my life. No doubt you could write reams about your life taking your lead from a window (any window, not necessarily a kitchen window or even your window), a view, or a collection of items on a sill – even the curtains or blinds. The difficult bit will no doubt be limiting the words to 700.

The prize offered is a cheque for £100 and a six-month contract to write a diary column for the Farmlife section of farmers weekly. The authors of any other entries published will each receive cheques for £50.

Entries should be typed or clearly printed and addressed to: Veronica Frater Memorial Competition, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS, to arrive no later than Fri, Nov 3, 1995.

Ann Rogers

*They all ran after the farmers wife and Summer Holidaze by Veronica Frater, Farming Press (£4.95 each). Available from farmers weekly special offers, PO box 261, Slough, Berks SL2 3RU. Add £2.50 per order for p&p.

**The Past Few Weeks – Farm life as recorded by farmers weekly readers is available from Farmlife, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS, at £5.95 plus £1 p&p.


THE RULES:

The contest is open to female readers of farmers weekly resident in the UK and Eire. The prizes must be taken as offered. If a winner is unable to accept the prize it will be forfeited to the next best entry.

No responsibility can be accepted for any entry lost, delayed, or damaged in the post. Proof of posting will not be accepted as proof of receipt.

The judges decisions and those of the Editor will be legally binding on all matters affecting the contest. No correspondence will be entered into.

The winners will be notified and the results published in farmers weekly.