Farmer and holiday – two words that you don’t often find in the same sentence. The workload involved in harvest, haymaking, lambing – or even trying to juggle dates to suit school holidays – means the two do not typically go hand in hand.
When I was flat-out contracting, my father would always tell me to take some time off – basically, so I could take a step back. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to see the wood for the trees.
Trying to get away from the farm is difficult, but when we do get away we don’t make the best of tourists. Here are some of the traits and characteristics that farmers display on holiday.
See also: I’m addicted to sheep
1. The hermit
Being isolated on your farm, or spending hours in a tractor cab with just your own company, can bring on hermit syndrome.
This is when you get worried about leaving and interacting with the wider population. The shock of arriving at an airport or getting off a train in a busy city centre, with hordes of other people, can send you into a frenzy.
2. The mechanic
Once you have managed to get on to the aeroplane (apprehensively, in my case) or some other mode of transport, you start looking for rusty bolts or grease nipples that have been missed (because farmers have a vast knowledge of working parts).
This is especially true if you have a window seat near a wing. My father was a hobby pilot, so I am particularly familiar with this behaviour. I remember my wife taking me to London for the first time and persuading me to go on the London Eye. I spotted some re-welds on the structure, which did not make me feel very easy.
3. The tourist farmer
En route via the bus to the hotel, a farmer will always find fault (to the annoyance of their other half) with their overseas counterparts’ crops – whether it be a field of oats in Italy or a crop of maize in France.
What our farmer probably doesn’t realise is that they are dealing with severe weather patterns and infertile soils. Wherever they are, farmers just can’t stop farming.
4. The barterer
Farmers are, of course, past masters at this art form, but holidays don’t mean a break from using this skill – instead, they go into overdrive. Obviously it’s a skill that can be put to good effect abroad and the farmer likes to show off, haggling the market trader down to a rock-bottom price.
5. The food critic
As soon as you have reached your destination – a nice hotel abroad, say – your inner food critic starts to assert itself. Most farmers will have a great choice of locally produced food and probably a freezer full of quality home-produced lamb, beef and pork.
If you are anything like me, you instantly start quizzing the waiter on where your steak has come from. Because you are not a very adventurous eater of spicy food, salads, rice and pasta, you will probably stick to steak and chips and a pint of lager for seven nights on the trot.
6. The interpreter
British farmers are the worst for not attempting to speak other languages. For example, when they order from a waiter abroad they expect them to speak perfect English and be able to produce a meal with the precision and efficiency with which their local dealer would order a part for their combine.
7. The beach model
It’s fair to say that most farmers stick out like a sore thumb on the beach. It could be something to do with their tan lines – their bright red face, forearms and hands, which produce a great two-tone effect with their lily-white chest, torso and legs.
After years of the white bits having no exposure to the sun, the after-effects can be quite painful for us chaps.
8. The scarecrow
Farmers’ beach attire is not normally up to spec either. Their straw hat has been worn at hay time for the past 20 years.
In the case of the guys, their wives may have prised their check shirt and Schoffel gilet off their backs, but the T-shirts – normally free gifts from reps selling tractors or promoting products – remain.
The only remotely fashionable thing in their beach wardrobe is a pair of Oakley sunglasses that were probably purchased duty-free on their last holiday.
9. The scholar
While everyone else is reading crime or romantic novels on the beach, farmers can’t help themselves – bringing their work with them in the form of a copy of Farmers Weekly.
If ever they do branch off from this topic, it is normally the wife’s Hello magazine, carefully disguised by an FW over the top of it.
10. The sceptic
If a farmer is abroad, they can be highly critical of their fellow holidaymakers from other European countries. They spend most of their holiday moaning about their arrogance and lack of manners towards others.
11. The fan of home
You are back on the plane, relieved that you are on your way home. The plane wing dips as you are approaching the airport and you get a glimpse of the beautiful, green, patchwork fields.
For a few moments, you are reminded that the British countryside is the most beautiful on earth. You touch down safely (phew!), you look out of the window again and – guess what? You are at Manchester Airport and it’s pouring with rain.
James Read farms sheep and arable crops on 400ha on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds at Louth. He and his wife, Sally, have a young son, Tom. You can find James, who also trains and trials sheepdogs, on Twitter at @jimreadfarmer