Thursday, March 08, 2012

Only Forward*

The research centre where the Horse Doctor and I used to work is closing down at the end of the month. Late last week there was a party for all the people who had worked there down the years (the ones still alive, of course.) I went down to Wales for a few days to include the party - the first time I'd been down since October of last year. It was all very much the same, and yet everything had changed.

I took the dogs for their daily walks in woods I have been strolling through nigh-on thirteen years now, and it occurred to me that I no longer worked for the organisation that owned the surrounding land. The research centre technically belongs to the Welsh Assembly Government, The Forestry Commission and Defra, but it was run by the UK government's Agricultural Development Advisory Service until that was privatised at the end of the nineties, then by ADAS as it became from then on. With ADAS getting out of Agriculture (they long ago stopped pretending their name was an acronym for anything), the bulk of the site reverts to the Welsh Assembly Government. Since they don't intend running any agricultural research, it will be split up into useful plots and sold.

In ten years time - maybe even five - some genius civil servant in some department will suggest to a minister of something or other that it would be just brilliant if the government could help out farmers with some research and development, perhaps an advisory service. Then at vast expense they'll set up what was already here until very recently. Such is the way of things. But I digress.

I've been back in Fife for a year now, scratching away at getting the farm up and running. It's not been easy - everything is more expensive than I'd budgeted for, and there's far more that needs replacing or repairing than I'd anticipated. I can cope with the hard graft, but the lack of any income for the foreseeable future is beginning to wear me down, as is my all-too-obvious lack of hands-on experience. But most of all, I find the solitude soul-destroying. With the Horse Doctor four hundred miles away in Wales, I spend my evenings alone. I thought I'd be able to cope with that; thought I'd get lots done. After all, when we're together, it's that comfortable togetherness born of many years, where we actually say and do very little. The reality is somewhat less productive.

I'd not expected to be visited so much by the black dog of depression either. I thought I'd outgrown him in my mid-twenties. But there have been days - many days - when I've seriously contemplated throwing in the towel. Selling the farm and retreating to...what?

And that's what hit me when I was down in Wales last week. I can't go back, because what I'm imagining isn't there any more. I should have thought this three years ago when I was making my decision to try and farm. Then I had an image of the place as my father had worked it, but of course it wasn't the same. Nothing ever is.

The answer is to keep moving forward, of course. Make the best of what you've got. I'm enormously lucky to be in the position I am, so maybe I should just shut up about the occasional hardship thrown my way.

*with apologies to the talented Michael Marshall Smith

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Blogger terlee said...

Since I've been on my own this past year, I find the nights pretty hard to take sometimes, too. Not always, but when I do...yikes.

It's human nature to want to share our lives with someone. Really too bad the Horse Doc is so far away. Can't you guys talk over the computer--Skype is free? Or do the chat thing?

Give yourself a wee break. You haven't been a complete waste of space, you know. The farm, the animals, your books. It's a hard life, farming, especially by yourself.

Well, on that cheery note I'll go now before we're both depressed.

March 09, 2012 2:19 am  
Blogger highlandwriter said...

chin up, james. it'll all work out one way or the other. hang in there... :-)


March 14, 2012 12:29 am  

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