Never having been a particularly big fan of either cars or public schoolboy humour, I admit that I was sceptical when I read that Jeremy Clarkson was making a farming programme.
“Oh God, here we go,” I thought. “Prepare for every outdated stereotype about us in the book.” But as I began to see more and more comments on social media proclaiming it to be the greatest thing since tractor GPS, I wondered if it might be worth watching after all.
However, it was only when I spotted a one-star Guardian review of the show entitled “Jeremy the ignoramus rides again” – a line that was so sneeringly contemptuous – that my mind was conclusively made up. I quickly reached for the remote.
What followed over the next few hours was quite simply the most relatable representation of what it’s like to be a farmer that I’ve ever seen on British TV.
Yes, parts of it are clearly hammed up and exaggerated for the camera, and yes, most of us haven’t got the luxury of time or money to waste having a go at various “experiments”. But despite all that, it’s just so incredibly, well, real.
Who among us hasn’t jumped for joy after spending hours trying to get a water system going, or stood back and watched with quiet satisfaction as a lamb stands and drinks for the first time?
Who of us hasn’t raged about the vagaries of the British weather and the chaos it can cause with our best-laid plans, or wanted to bang our heads against the wall in frustration because of some absurd piece of government red tape?
And who of us hasn’t brought a shiny new piece of machinery home and felt like a kid at Christmas? Come on, you know it’s true.
But it’s the laughs that are the most important part of the programme.
Not so much the slapstick stuff (though people falling over or getting kicked in the nuts will never not be funny, of course), but the interactions with the superstars that are Kaleb, Charlie, Gerald and Lisa.
Because farmers are funny. Go to any livestock market, show or country pub, and you’ll see farmers roaring with laughter together about some joke or piece of local gossip, or more often just about what’s gone wrong that week on the farm. It’s one of my favourite aspects of our community.
To be honest, I haven’t been enjoying the job as much lately. I don’t know if it’s the ever-rising rents and input costs weighing on my mind, or my complete lack of faith that the new UK agriculture policy will be anything other than disastrous in the long term, or if it’s just that I’m a bit burnt out after a very difficult and emotional few months.
Whatever it is, the smiles haven’t been there as much as they should be.
So Jeremy, if you should read this, please accept my sincere apology – I was wrong.
Thank you for so accurately highlighting the many challenges that farmers are facing, but mostly, thank you for reminding me that farming, this “life less ordinary” that we’ve all chosen for ourselves, is supposed to be, above all else, fun.