Tag Archives: dorset

Milk matters

19 Jul
milk matters/zskdorset

Bottoms up

The other weekend on the radio show I had an irate local dairy farmer on the phone. British supermarkets are refusing to pay a fair price for milk, he said, and if they carry on we will dump the milk we produce and there won’t be any on the shelves anymore.

“Is that a threat?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied.

Dorset’s dairy farmers, he said, are desperate. Milk costs 29p per litre to produce. The business of looking after 200+ hungry cattle is obviously not cheap.

The supermarkets however are only prepared to pay 27p. There are about 2.5 pints in a litre and a pint of milk in my local supermarket is about 70p. So the dairy farmers are, to say the very least, feeling pretty hard done by. If you want to even dip a toe in that pool of rage, try looking at the hashtag “sosdairy” on Twitter.

I am not renowned for my mathematical prowess but it certainly does seem that something isn’t quite adding up there.

Can you imagine a world without milk? I started writing this thinking I could probably live without it. Until I remembered my morning muesli, the 6 cups of tea I get through in a day, the coffee shop lattes and of course, the three bottles of milk my toddler hoovers up between meals. My house is full of milk. We have both skimmed and whole milk in the fridge and a box of infant formula also on the go. And – oh my God. I forgot about chocolate.

What if milk became a luxury item, sandwiched on the top shelves between the Moet and the Bollinger and with one of those infuriating security tabs over the lid? The VIP bars would serve semi-skimmed instead of Crystal on tap, and milk would be a Friday night treat after a long day in the office.

I’m not a medic but I imagine it wouldn’t be particularly great scenario for public health (although admittedly hangovers would become a thing of the past).

A thyroid specialist told me recently that there is already a problem with iodine deficiency here in the UK, caused by people not drinking enough milk. As an adult you can kind of cope with a low level but it is crucial to the development of babies’ brains – meaning mothers should keep drinking the white stuff. If we have that problem already how much worse would things be if milk was priced out of the weekly shop?

The number of dairy farmers in Dorset alone has already practically halved since 1999. It’s not an easy life – -the farmer on my show had been up since 4am tending to his herd, along with his son. He said farming was in their blood but he was no longer sure it was the best career path for his children. We all have to eat, after all.

Black coffee, anyone?


Why Dorset is the new south London

3 May

It’s nearly a year now since we packed up our city pad and decided to have a go at country living. Every time I think I’ve got the hang of it, something springs up to remind me that I’ve still got a long way to go.

I may have two pairs of wellies (house and car), be a fully fledged member of the National Trust (which we tell ourselves we joined for the parking) and know the difference between a shag and a cormorant (not a euphemism) but finding weeds shaped like Exhibit M (see pic) in our back garden still makes me raise an eyebrow… And I still have absolutely no sense of direction.

How can this be? All the country folk I know can find their way around. Even the chap who wrote to the local paper to dismiss our (breathtaking, dazzling, planetariumesque) night sky views as “lots of stars and a few lifeless planets” managed to find his way across the fields in the pitch black to the nearest pub afterwards.

My dad could navigate his way to the sea from anywhere in the world and he grew up in bloody Hackney, for crying out loud.

And this is the main reason why Dorset has become my south London (and those suspiciously shaped leaves in all the hedgerows don’t help matters).

I once spent a miserable three hours in the borough of Lewisham trying to find my way to a friend’s house in Ladywell from less than two miles away. Despite having an A-Z *and* a mobile phone (although this was about 10 years ago so they didn’t do much) I simply could not get myself from where I was to where I needed to be – now there’s an epitaph.

To this day that lost weekend epitomises the complete blind spot I appear to have when it comes to anything directional. I can’t remember whether I ever made it in the end or whether the mean one-way streets and identikit terraced houses drove me home, frustrated and alone, to my comfort zone north of the river.

I jumped on the term “dyspraxia” as a possible explanation after reading about it in Vogue (which is where all the best disorders come from) but to be honest, I don’t think I have a condition. I think I’m just a bit crap. I grew up in London where almost everything is navigational by Tube stop. Who cares where Victoria is in relation to Euston? Pale blue line, four stops. It was an utter shock to me to discover after 20 odd years that Leicester Square is within spitting distance of Covent Garden above ground. I simply never knew.

Today I found myself in deepest darkest north Dorset for work, trying in vain to find a particular farm, the proverbial needle in a haystack. I drove through endless country villages with picture postcard thatched rooves and double barrelled names like Bishop Caundle and Sturminster Newton, which sounded more like Shakespearan characters than geographical locations.

Even on the happy occasion where I managed to get both a mobile phone signal *and* 3G (because of course the farmer’s number was stored on my email) I was at a loss to explain my surroundings.

“I’m… by a field,” I said miserably. “there’s… another field on the other side of the road.” It was Lewisham high street all over again. Only prettier.

Somehow though, despite all the odds, I made it and was greeted by a chorus of 200 expectant organic cattle at the farm gate. And that’s something that never happened to me in south London.

The ghost of new years past

1 Jan

new year's evePeople in Dorset take their fancy dress extremely seriously. Especially on new year’s eve. By 9.30pm last night I was queuing at the bar of a fairly quiet local pub along with 13 gnomes, Napoleon, 5 (male) nuns and one sumo wrestler.

And that was before our friend Alf Garnett showed up with two Elizabethan courtiers in tow.

Fortunately the mister and I had recreated our showstopping red riding hood/the wolf double act, perfected during festival season 2010.

Sadly he had to remove his hairy hands in order to hold his pint and I was forced to keep my cardigan on all night after sitting down and feeling my paper thin gingham outfit tear up to my armpit on one side. Fancy dress outfits are quite literally a rip-off it seems.

Mature Witch looked a lot more sturdy in the shop, perhaps because it was a size 24. I may be 4 months pregnant but I’m not there yet – despite the helpful fashion tip offered to me by a shop assistant in the Swanage branch of New Look yesterday. They only had 2 maternity dresses in stock but perhaps I could just buy baggy tops in large sizes she chirped, directing me towards a sale rail of what looked like oversized stripy pyjamas.

But, I digress. Back to new year’s eve where absolutely everybody was fancy dressed up to the nines. Apart from the obligatory “Mexican” in sombrero and a blanket, and a bewildered back packer who had quite clearly, in the words of Withnail, come on holiday by mistake.

Teenagers were everywhere doing what teenagers do – being sick and snogging (I saw Little Bo Peep attempting both simultaneously, to the horror of her boyfriend, if that’s what he was. You do have to really care about someone to let them get away with that sort of thing, in my experience. Either that or be too drunk to notice).

We saw in the new year down by the sea and I allowed myself a small glass of champagne to toast the start of 2011. It took me an hour to drink and this morning I had a headache. Perhaps I have more in common with those teenagers than I care to admit.