Zero compound interest, thanks…

24 January 1997


HOME Farm, Long Sutton, Lincs, is all arable these days and the 162ha (400-acre) holding has no full-time staff. Instead farmer Tony Piccaver engages contractors or casual labour when necessary.

But things were very different back in 1955 when he was a little lad going to the fields with his farmer father Peter and skipping about the fringes of the operations as his father recorded them with his 16mm film camera. That was at a turning point in the farms history, a time when both a combine and a threshing outfit had a job to do on the holding.

This Fenland farm was a mainly arable operation in those days too, of course, but it also carried an award winning herd of Lincoln Red cattle and a flock of sheep. The farming year recorded by Peter Piccaver starts sometime after lambing, the range of crops is wide and the work recorded involves half a dozen tractors, a similar number of working horses and 21 employees.

Its fascinating to see the ways in which these resources fitted together. For example, while the preparation of the land for potato planting and the covering and ridging that follows was a tractor powered operation, horses drew cart loads of seed potatoes to the fields and men placed them in the drills by hand.

Hauling muck was another mixed operation. It was brought out from the buildings and led up onto the manure heap by horse and cart in the spring, and the horses stood patiently in autumn as the carts were refilled using the tractors fore-end loader. After the manure had been hauled to the stubble fields and deposited in the traditional rows of heaps, men with forks spread it by hand.

But this was hardly the most taxing of the hand operations recorded. That honour must go to the number two man in the beet hoeing team. While the first man worked with a hoe to space the plants as efficiently as possible, his mate followed behind, bending and snatching and making sure only one seedling was left to flourish.

However, it was probably the chap who acted as a marker for the aerial crop sprayer whose health was most at risk from his work. This white boiler-suited figure dodged across the crop to show the pilot where to turn but hardly fast enough to miss a good gasp of chemical en route.

Farmer Peter Piccaver took the opportunity of a ride in the sprayer helicopter to help complete the picture of his farm with an overview. And his film records would appear to confirm what everyone always says about the past – that the sun shone a lot more in those days!

All this valuable farm history, which has special appeal for the classic machinery enthusiast and the social historian, has now been recorded in video* by Primetime Video Productions. Fenland Farming 55, as it is called, was produced by Steve White in association with Lincolnshire Film Archive and agricultural journalist and broadcaster Alan Stennett contributed a fine narrative.

"I was brought up on a south Lincolnshire farm and it just shouted memories at me," said Alan when he first saw Peter Piccavers film. AR

*Fenland Farming 55 – bygone farm machinery and skills preserved on film – is published by Primetime Video Productions and available from Alan Stennett, Woodhall Junction, Woodhall Spa, Lincs, at £16 inc p&p. Credit card orders to Primetime (01205-270397).

1955 was a turning point on this Lincolnshire farm, a time when new machinery was introduced but many jobs, such as riddling the first potato crop (left), were still

done by hand.

It was also the last year that

corn was cut and stooked at Home Farm.

Zero compound interest, thanks…

More holiday companies are selling all-in food, drink and accommodation packages. A startled James Evans came across the phenomenon on a Greek island trip

last autumn

Take an all-inclusive compound holiday and you, too, can avoid pretty

fishing ports and empty beaches like these.

WE had never seen so many young children at an airport check-in before. It was rather worrying if, like me, you adhere to the W C Fields philosophy on infants. ("Do you like children, Mr Fields?" "Yeeeeerse. Fricasseed…")

While we stoically awaited our final boarding call for Lemnos, the young folk swarmed at our feet. Jameses screamingly chased Emmas; Glenns wrestled with Tarquins under the seats; Felicitys snatched at the dolls of Kirstys; Thomases dismantled toy police cars and Ann-Louises smeared chocolate over their clothes and faces.

On board, the whine of the turbines was almost overwhelmed by the decibel salvos of excited young throats. Fortunately we had taken seats in the smoking area of the plane. Even though we dont smoke, what are a few lungfuls of tobacco if you can avoid a pair of lusty young feet kicking the back of your seat for four hours? Not only that, smokers usually drink more and tend not to look pityingly when you order a second gin and tonic.

Once through the customarily lethargic Greek customs, to our relief the massed infant army and their well-to-do parents all piled into spanking new unGreek-like coaches and disappeared.

"You wont see much of that lot. Theyre all with Carters Holidays round in the bay," a seasoned rep told us, gesturing dismissively with her clipboard.

Before too many retsinas had been uncapped, we discovered that the "Carters" – as they were universally known -had paid an all-inclusive price for their holidays and were billeted in a complex where they ate, drank, slept, ping-ponged, karaoked, surfboarded or whatever. They rarely, we were told, impinged on island life, preferring to remain in the environs of the stockade where, of course, batallions of nannies were also available to tend the tots.

One overcast day, we scootered to the bay of the stockade just to satisfy our curiosity as to what manner of person would come to a beautiful Greek island like Lemnos in the neck of the Dardanelles and skulk in a compound rather than see and experience the diversity of beaches, countryside, wildlife, tavernas, coffee-houses and bars.

Our curiosity went largely unsatisfied. A few Carters listlessly wind-surfed and played tennis on the other side of the fence, but the stockade had an oddly deserted feel to it.

Did not these unworldly barbarians realise the colossal value of a five-year-old blonde cherub in the doting arena of a Greek taverna? Eureka. My brainwave, fuelled by lunchtime ouzo, was to rent a child from the stockade for an evening. A fee of, say 5000 drachmae, could be repaid four or fivefold using the cherub as bait. An endless procession of delicious free fish and kebabs, complemented by rivers of on-the-house raki and retsina, flashed across my minds eye.

Unsurprisingly the idea was vetoed.

On our return flight, the Carters and Carterettes duly arrived at the airport looking bronzed and well. Had they been using the same sun as us, or did they have a sanitised non-Greek version, flown in from Stockholm and positioned above the compound indoor swimming pool?

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