Ramming home a point
THERE has been a quiet revolution in farming – or at least in programmes on TV about farming. For a long time, the inclusion of the word farm in a title was a surefire indicator of an hour of misery. BSE, Foot and Mouth, some of the big supermarkets, the fox hunting ban and the EU all seemed to be conspiring against the rural way of life. If you saw a farmer on the telly, he was likely to be facing ruin or the barrels of his own shotgun.
Even jaunty shows such as Jimmy’s Farm were little more than a parade of obstacles and sorrows ( small wonder they dropped the deadly word from Emmerdale). More recently, though, perhaps because of a renewed interest in our food, there’s a new view of country life emerging. THIS FARMING LIFE ( BBC2), like the recent documentary Addicted To Sheep, celebrates farmers, farms and farming, without going all Darling Buds Of May on us.
The stunning Scottish landscapes are a given and those farmers being filmed in this week- long documentary series show no small appreciation for their workplaces. Principally they’re concerned with making a living. The responsibility of shepherdess Mel’s job weighed heavily on her, as she took four and a half grand of her boss’s money to the auction to buy rams.
As autumn began, John Scott faced the unappetising task of inspecting 16,800 sheep hooves in a week. A fifth of his 4,200- strong flock would be marked for slaughter for no reason other than they had bad feet. Meanwhile Mel’s intended, Martin Irvine, had little time to drink in the sunset. With rain on the way and an ailing combine harvester, it was a race to get his barley in before light failed.
The key thing about the episode was balance. Martin and Mel treated a day at the sheep auction as a break from the hard work, John took obvious pleasure in hosting the World Sheep Dog Trials, and Bobby and Anne Lennox enjoyed hearing about the exploits of their young Canadian exchange student. If their farming life was one of cowpats, debt and pestilence, then they all looked pleased to be living it.
You could be forgiven for expecting VET ON THE HILL ( More4) to be another, uplifting show about rural life. But the hill is in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, the vet looks like an extra from Home And Away and the animals aren’t the kind you milk.
You’d be wrong if you thought work was easy for Australian vet Scott Miller though. In this affluent, south- west London suburb, Scott’s principal struggle was with human pet- owners, rather than pets themselves. Buppy the chihuahua’s owner, Victoria, came to the surgery dressed as a dog.
She left her tiny companion there for blood tests with a flurry of cuddles and kisses, making no secret of the fact that the dog was her family. Unsurprisingly Scott took this at face value – a great number of his clients had similarly strong bonds to their animals.
When Buppy’s test results came back with bad news, he knew how devastating this was going to be for Victoria and so delivered them with patience, honesty, kindness and compassion – qualities many a human medic fails to master.
Watching him handle tiny rabbits, distressed dogs and elderly cats, it was clear Scott had a deep love of animal life.
Crucially, though, he seemed to feel the same about people.