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The car glissades off the road bucking and lunging across a frozen buckled verge unexpectedly stalling on a ridge of iron-hard mud only a whisker away from the pole…I can scarcely believe it, I’ve stopped, I’m unharmed, the car’s okay, and, because of the freezing conditions, not even stuck – as far as I know. My gods were with me. I’m shaking so much I can’t get the car into reverse let alone co-ordinate clutch and accelerator. Eventually I manage, and after some manoeuvring, dislodge the car from the ridge and gradually inch backward onto the lethally icy corner. I limp home at a snail’s pace overwhelmed by emotions. I creep into the house trying to avoid being heard or seen, but Ben finds me and engulfs me in a hug – it’s too much, I burst into tears. I mumble about the animals and scrabble around for my overalls.

“No mum, no! You don’t have to go out there it’s dark, it’s cold. Rob will do them. Hey, look at me…it’s not been a normal day, look at you- you’ve had it. The animals will be okay. You’re ill. It’s freezing. Hey mum, don’t.”

I look at him and feel overcome – my son, so concerned, so gentle, so caring and he doesn’t even know about the might have been accident, his love is breaking me up. “Pip, I know it seems stupid, but I want to. I think, just for a moment I need the space, the peace. Please. I’m not being difficult. I promise I’ll stop when Rob gets back. Are you coping with the New Year’s Eve meal? The goose, all the bits? The pudding?”

“Yes, everything’s fine. Not probably as you’d do it, but it’s just fine. Don’t worry. But please, don’t do too much out there. Come in soon, won’t you?” Reluctantly he lets me go.

I stumble out to the animals and, as I know they would, they calm me, ground me. They sense my anguish and even though it’s way past their normal feeding time, they don’t bawl and jostle, they don’t even demand.  Instead they’re quiet, conciliatory; concerned liquid-treacle eyes follow my every movement, dew-dropped noses and rasping tongues tentatively nudging and exploring my hands, arms and hat. Gentle reassurance. I curl up on the straw where Robert finds me. In a couple of hours it’ll be time to welcome in the New Year!

The following few days passed in a haze of phone calls, journeys and doctor-nurse-hospital arrangements on behalf of my mother. Clamouring, pleading, demanding; questioning, challenging, probing. Eventually I was persuaded to take her to the main hospital in Plymouth in case the local cottage hospital could not provide all the treatment needed. Also, I was assured that return transport would be far quicker from there.

Her triage treatment in A&E was excellent and in a couple of hours we found she’d fractured her knee cap. From then on it was a nightmare. Treatment was to be ‘conservative’ – in other words nothing would be done, not even pain relief. Mobilise, I was told, get her moving (with a fractured knee cap? with nothing to help?).  It was obvious they couldn’t wait to pass the problem back to her home, her GP and community services. If you’re old and demented you don’t stand a chance, even if yours is a ‘mechanical’ injury, time and money will not be wasted on you. After a seven hour wait for return transport we arrived back at her home at 9pm – my mother was past all reason – frightened, confused and irrationally furious at everything, including me.

So here we are, frustrated and banging our heads against several brick walls.  Trying hard to find her some form of pain relief that won’t exacerbate her mental condition. Trying to get a response and hurry along the re-enablement team so we know how best to mobilise her without causing her more injury (but referrals, don’t you know, have to be processed through proper channels before a visit is allowed). Trying to encourage her to eat and drink (at the moment she won’t). Trying to explain to her what’s happened (she has no idea of why she hurts). I don’t know how she’s going to cope; her body’s fast becoming a random muddle of irrelevant, awkward bones.  But I know I still see that spark of  fighting spirit flashing in her eyes, and until that dies I will do everything I can.

hartland - new year's day 2009

hartland - new year's day 2009

crede boutique

crede boutique

A few of you have asked if I’m still working at Crede, my friend Pavla’s boutique in Exeter, as I haven’t mentioned it recently.  Yesterday I had an email from Mary (thanks) who brought the subject up, prompting this update.

Yes, I am still working there in between my farming, business and writing commitments. But since that fateful Black Monday at the beginning of October I have only been helping out occasionally, whenever Pavla has to go away on buying trips.  She can no longer afford the luxury of everyday staff.

Recession, hype, panic and worldwide financial mayhem has severely affected shopping habits making it a hard and rocky road for retail businesses. Six independents have gone into liquidation in Exeter in as many months. It’s pretty frightening if you’re a small business out there at the moment.

Crede's November window full of sparkling winter promise

Crede's November window full of sparkling winter promise

Pavla’s worked hard and relentlessly over the last nine months.  As she notes, there are benefits of being an independent in times like these. You have the ability to respond quickly to feedback from customers, and to adapt quickly to changing economic circumstances.

Pavla says “I read a lot about ‘credit crunch’ last January and February so adapted my buying accordingly. I sourced a wider range of well priced, interesting everyday items as well as  keeping the more unusual investment pieces.

“I looked at what overheads to cut, again I have the flexibility to make cutbacks where necessary – but unfortunately that meant Paula’s hours!  I really miss her contribution to Crede – as someone who has run her own business she understands all about customer service – again something that independents can offer that high street can’t – personal service, as well as an enthusiastic love of clothes!

“Although mostly I have been looking to where I can reduce costs, one area I didn’t want to cut back on was advertising and marketing. I need to balance out the fact that my customers have less spending power at the moment, I just need to find more of them!”

enticing

gorgeous clothes, bags and jewelry

Apart from making the shop a special and enticing place to be in she has joined forces with neighbouring retailers to promote Castle Street as a good shopping area.

“We are all independents in this area which despite being very close to High Street some people are still unaware of.  Rosie (of Violette) and I worked together on some ideas and have come up with a Christmas leaflet design. We are all contributing to the costs of printing and my mum is doing a leaflet drop in Exeter.

It may be difficult times, but in a positive way this can generate ingenuity and creativity.”

the Christmas Flyer designed by the independent retalers of Casle Street

Christmas Flyer designed by the independent retailers of Castle Street

chaffinch-locks-park-24-dec-07-reduced.jpg

In the last month I’ve arranged my posts and pictures so they an be scanned and read on the front page.

Previously I had the the opening paragraph, maybe an image and the click to ‘read the rest of this entry’.

Would you be kind enough to let me know which you preferred, or if you don’t care one way or another. You can click on one of the categories in the left hand column to compare.

Thanks in advance!

When I walk I think and when I want to think I will always walk. I find it meditative, inspiring as well as organizing. My movement, the air, the rain, the wind or the sunshine, it stimulates my thoughts and allows them to gain form and sequence. Today I was walking and thinking about an article I was writing. I was totally engrossed, not fully aware of my surroundings.

Coming over the brow of a field I startled – I’d stumbled across the red deer, not just a few, but the whole herd, spread over two fields. I stopped with a jolt, the dogs and the deer too. We were all, so it seemed, completely surprised by one another. I waited as the realization of human and dogs sunk in and after a few stops and starts as one they moved in a rapid surging wave back into the forest. I walked on, across the culvert and along the stream bordering the forest. I felt a movement, turned and saw the outcast, moving slowly and hesitantly back into the forest, way, way behind the others. A fully mature ‘white’ hind though a murky dirty dun colour. She drags a withered hind leg. Perhaps an injury from a rifle shot or from being caught up in barbed wire. She seems to have no fear, watching us closely, staring intently. Is this because she hopes for companionship or because she wants an end to her sad life? I don’t know, I’m not sure. Eventually she moves slowly into the shadows…alone.

Locks Park Farm

Thanks for visiting my blog. All entries are presented in chronological order.

I have a small organic farm on the Culm grasslands near Hatherleigh in Devon, with sheep and beef cattle. I've been farming in the county for more than 30 years. I've set up this blog to share views on farming and the countryside - please do give your thoughts.

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England has helped set up this blog. We want farming to thrive in England, and believe that it is essential that people understand farming and farmers better in order for that to happen. Paula's views expressed here are her own and we won't necessarily share all of them, but we're happy to have helped give her a voice.

Find our more about CPRE and our views on food and farming at our website, www.cpre.org.uk