“RUBBISH!” as the late Eric Morecambe might have said in answer to the question: “What do you think of the weather so far?”
With the briefest occasional interludes, that description – the best printable one available – applies now to almost three months of wet, cold, days and lack of sunshine.
All that has varied is the type of rain. Some days have been steady drizzle, others have produced downpours. Some days have seen steady downpours.
By my reckoning it’s the most miserable summer since 2008, and before that 2004, although not forgetting that 2011 wasn’t much to shout about either. Climate change, global warming or simply a poor summer quite similar to some of the ones we used to get in the good old days, such as 1985?
Grass is lush, but the grazing value low because it’s so wet. Lower quality silage is also a problem, no matter how sophisticated the equipment, not helped by soft and muddy conditions and the problems of soil contamination. As for those still intending to make hay, then best of luck.
Trying to organise and carry out shearing of dry sheep has not been easy and, according to medium range forecasts, won’t get any easier in the next week or two with more of the same weather on the way. A cheery thought.
Yet, one way and another, the necessary farm work gets done as the wet weeks grind by with animals and crops more susceptible to diseases and infections. Or perhaps the unseasonal cold, wet, and grey skies just make it seem that way as we reach two unvarying landmarks in the year – midsummer day and another Highland show.
The show starts its four-day run today and, in spite of the weather, and the financial squeeze that everyone except the chief executives of banks and some big companies is experiencing, I expect attendance to be well up to the recent average of more than 180,000.
The past three years have been record-breaking – 176,522 visitors in 2009, breaking a record that had stood since the Dundee show of 1949, 187,644 in 2010 and 182,984 last year.
Methods of counting attendance have varied over the years, but there’s no point in quibbling about that. The encouraging point for organisers who seem to have got the formula right is that so many are prepared to pay £25 for a ticket – £22 “early bird”, but you’ve missed the chance of that by now – to visit an agricultural event.
That’s good value compared with £40 to £60 for a musical or an opera in Edinburgh or Newcastle, or £50 upwards for a one-day cricket international.
Re-reading that sentence, I realise I’ve come over all Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, stopping just short of promoting their show as providing “something for everyone” and excellent value for money.
But by today’s standards, I accept that it is and that a day at the Highland might be therapeutic for farmers, comparing thoughts on crops, livestock and politics as we do and consoling ourselves that we’re not alone with our problems.
If the Highland show is a heightened version of farming reality, with every animal and machine bigger and glossier than back on the farm, it’s hard to know what to say about the vision of farming planned for the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
As far as I, or anyone else, could tell from the model of the planned ceremony shown last week it’s a vision of the countryside – English countryside, that is – as it was about a century ago or ago.
A rose-tinted version at that, a long way from the modern countryside and modern farming methods that would have been a better advert for modern Britain.
Danny Boyle’s idea of how to spend about £27 million has been criticised from several angles. What has the countryside to do with the Olympics anyway, a London-centric event? What are the stock movement rules for a sports arena? Why didn’t the Olympics organisers just ask the NFU to put something together and save a large consultancy fee? If it’s going to be farming and the countryside, why not be up to date?
And so on. I think Boyle’s idea is as ludicrous as the Olympic torch commercial circus that passed through the Borders last week. I realise that some of those who carried torches were genuinely moved by the experience and that many, by their efforts for others over the years, past achievements and bravery in the face of illness and injury, deserved recognition.
But a cavalcade that included more than 20 policemen on motorbikes, police cars and vans, sponsors’ buses, dancers, professional whippers-up of crowd frenzy and tacky flag distributors left me cold. Every time I think there must be a limit to how gullible we, the public, are I realise there is no limit.
My only hope is that Boyle’s countryside opening ceremony is a spoof and that, come the day, something completely different will appear. Something along the lines of Highland show main ring entertainment perhaps?