30 March 2001



AH, no, no, no, what other words are there? Well, to be honest, there were plenty of words used in this farmhouse when we heard of the smuggled sheep which brought the foot-and-mouth disease into Northern Ireland – but none of them are printable. All that hosing and cleaning, bedding and clearing out was for nothing – the gates to Streamvale Open Farm are firmly shut and protected with disinfected straw. So what next? Well, there are no answers to that one, and there are certainly no answers to when we might open again, or whether the Department of Agriculture will give the Department of Education permission to start school trips this school year (currently all out-of-school activities are suspended in Northern Ireland) or if all the schools we have had to cancel will bother to book again for next year. Or indeed if our townie visitors will really believe that foot-and-mouth is not a risk to them or their pets. Do I sound fed up? Well, yes I am, just like everyone else whose whole source of income has been snatched from beneath their feet and can do nothing about it.

However, I once heard there are two sorts of people, those who wring their hands and those who roll up their sleeves, so Jennifer and I have been rolling up our sleeves and getting on with any other work we can find, particularly telephoning schools and doing the best PR job we can. However, with foot-and-mouth this year, E coli scares last year, cryptosporidium and newcastle disease the year before, we are beginning to think our arms arent long enough for much more rolling.

Anyway, Ive moaned enough. Sure, havent we our health and strength and three beautiful teenage daughters to keep us going? The calving is nearly over and the daffodils are out and when you look at some disasters in the world, like the earthquakes in India and El Salvador, our troubles are nothing.

With my extra spare time I have been typing up my father-in-laws memoirs. Physically reading his written word has proved a challenge at times, indeed I feel as if I am struggling with a crossword with no clues – it has an s in the middle, ends with "ed" and has about seven or eight letters. The tales are ones my generation are familiar with, as Addie is a keen storyteller, but our children dont know them, and I was certainly one of the people who encouraged him to record all the characters and stories of his childhood as a gift for his grandchildren. I am particularly enjoying his recollections of his mother – she and I shared the same name (my middle name is May), lived on the same farm, in the same house. But my goodness, what different lifestyles. I knew her very well in the last years of her life, but she was already suffering from the early stages of dementia and so the person he describes is barely recognisable to me. Yet she lives on – bright, energetic, thirsty for knowledge denied to her in her short education – through Addies stories, not just for those who knew her, but also for the generations who will only recognise her name on a family tree.

Im off to watch EastEnders now – I am an avid fan of this particular soap. Not for me the green fields of Emmerdale, or the rolling hills of Ballykissangel. No, I like the grim streets of cockney London, where country life and farming matters dont get a mention, vets dont even make cameo appearances and no one ever wears wellies. For the next half hour I wont worry at all about such mundane matters as foot-and-mouth and no income for the foreseeable future – who shot Phil Mitchell will be at the forefront of my mind!

Judith Morrow

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