Flindt on Friday: Proper farming too ‘real’ for a bestseller

I hate to go on and on and on about my book (actually, that’s not true at all – it has been a joy in a fairly joyless 12 months), but I’ve finally worked out that I’ve done it all wrong.

I know this from the numerous books that people have offered me in return for reading mine. “You must read this one,” they kindly say. “It’s a brilliant book all about farming!” And I read it, and realise it’s not like mine.

Let’s start with the name: Sweet Home Hinton Ampner is just wrong. It’s what the Thomas Lord Old Gits used to sing when we mashed the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, back when Carrie told Boris we could have gigs.

See also: Read more from Charlie Flindt

The book’s name should instead conjure a rural idyll, or misplaced nostalgia for the good old days. Hinton Bramble Cows in the Meadow Buzzy Bee Ampner would have been far better.

Then there’s the cover. A glorious shot of some English landscape should have been selected, or an Arts and Crafts-style semi-primitive woodcut.

My big mistake was to choose my sister-in-law’s picture of Hazel and me having harvest tea on some bales. I thought it was fantastic, but the Malinois licking its bum is hardly going to win the Countryfile photo competition.

Language barrier

Another huge mistake was to use plain language. If it came on wet during the course of a day, I foolishly would write “it came on wet”.

What I should have written was: “Slowly, steadily, leaden clouds crept across the once-clear azure bleakness of sky, like two-tone aerial sheep.

“Tiny birds cried for their mummies, as brilliant twinkling drops of sacred moisture tumbled groundward, pulled lovingly into gravity’s deep and unarguable Newtonian embrace.

“‘Don’t worry,’ cooed the mummy birds, wrapping their gentle wings around their wide-eyed babies…” But that’s not my style, thank God.

It’s not my style to write huge porkies, either. I couldn’t possibly claim to plough a field only uphill with a conventional plough, as one bestseller does.

You would never find me telling tales of sharing a tractor with my grandfather while he used a six-furrow plough in a 12-acre field, as another darling of the Guardianista set does.

Why, it’s almost as if those writers never intended real farmers – who know about real farming – to read their books. Their readers wouldn’t know a trash board from a tail piece.

As for the talking cows – “she [the house cow being brought in to calve] flew over to her friend, and told her where she was going and why, then trotted back”, says another million-seller. I don’t know about you, but if I had talking cows, I’d give up farming and join the circus.

Keep taking the pills

Probably my biggest mistake was to write glowingly about modern farming – “paracetamol” farming, you might call it. Using all the latest chemical and mechanical technology to feed lots of people perfectly healthily.

I talk of going out spraying, when I should use “pouring on toxic chemicals”. I apply fertiliser to boost yields, when the “correct” phrase is “drenching the fields with artificial nitrogen”.

And every day for the whole year, I found all my soil was exactly where I’d left it, and your average woke reviewer is never going to like that.

However, despite all these glaring errors, my book has sold astonishingly well. A couple of thousand copies have winged their way to farmhouse tables across the UK – and I’m very grateful.

I’ve cleared my tab at the Jolly Flowerpots and bought some new boots – with laces, now that the new hip’s mostly broken in. It’s a good thing I allow myself paracetamol.

Charlie’s book is available on eBay, Amazon and Farm Marketplace.

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