|Carting through the River Esk|
Review by Alan Cleaver
As a townie, I've always dreamed of the romantic life of the Cumbrian farmer; that secret world full of its own mysteries and own language. So when I heard the reminiscences of Lamplugh farmer Bob Jackson were being published I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. I wasn't disappointed.
OK, so there's harsh reality alongside the romance but I'd swap even that for my lifetime stuck in traffic jams and staring my life away into a computer screen.
It was Rev Jim Marshall who persuaded Mr Jackson to put pen to paper and contribute a regular article to the parish magazine; this book is a compilation of those articles.
The style of writing echoes the dialect of West Cumbria and the themes of the article reflect the farming year in this rural part of the county. Mr Jackson paints a picture with a fine brush and highlights the details us 'townies' would miss, be it the different rare flowers in the meadows or the ploughing of the land and sowing of seed at the start of the year.
Where I see a hedge, Mr Jackson sees the hedge, the dyke it's on and a kest that needs sodding. It's poetry really. And while a glossary might have been helpful, I'm not sure it matters. It's enough just to let the words flow over you. That said, I think an audio book would be wonderful partner to the text book.
The Jackson family is rooted in the farming landscape and he touches on personal and family life too. Mr Jackson farms with God by his side and such faith, often in the face of great adversity, is humbling to behold.
I'm not sure of Mr Jackson's education but he writes better than me and I claim to have been a 'writer' for most of my professional life. I'm guessing it's a natural gift for Mr Jackson borne out of his detailed knowledge of his subject matter.
Here's an extract to give a flavour of the book...
"Every season is different and this one is no different as the snowdrops got a good start and were already showing white by Christmas. They are no further forward by the start of February due, I think, to the cold during January. In our part of the world it wasn't hard frost, just enough to put a brake on the growth of plants and save them from worse things happening."
The calendar year and Mother Nature dictate the tempo of Mr Jackson's life and work. A good understanding of what's happening in the countryside is clearly vital to farmers and Mr Jackson reminds a modern world that working with the environment needs to be a carefully balanced partnership.
This is a limited edition run of a few hundred copies so you wont see Memories of a Lamplugh Farmer in the Sunday Times Top 10 best-sellers list. I'd urge you therefore to grab a copy while you can. Sit in front of a roaring log fire, pour yourself a glass of good red wine and prepare to savour every word in this wonderful tome.
Memories of a Lamplugh Farmer is available from Amazon, priced £7.
- Alan Cleaver