Umbridge – episode three

February 22, 2018


An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  Both the prize Boar, Quinton, and his Father, Loon E Farmer, are unwell and will not touch Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter. In fact neither will eat nor drink anything except lemonade.  The cause has been identified by MAFF Scientists as being due to a rare virus known as Triple X Lemonade Disease.  The only known cure is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.  Meanwhile, after obtaining a supply of Old Bart’s and Lemonade, John meets Grace Ourchurch, the fifteen stone vicar’s daughter on her new bicycle outside the ‘Chick Inn’.

Now read on:-

“Well, John,” said Grace, “What was it you wanted to ask me?”

     “It’s really rather embarrassing,” replied John uncertainly.

     “Go on, John, you can tell me,” she insisted.

     “Well,” said John taking a deep breath, “I wonder if I could have a go on your new bike.”

     “Oh,” said Grace in disappointment.  “Well, all right.  Don’t go too fast.”  She dismounted.

     John set down his rucksack, which contained the bottles of beer and lemonade, mounted the bicycle and rode off.  He rode three times around the village green before he returned to where he had left Grace.

     “How was it?” she asked.

     “Not bad,” he replied, “though I don’t think the saddle springs will last very long.”  With that he dismounted, took up his rucksack, bade farewell to Grace and then continued his journey home.

     He had only walked a quarter of a mile when,  “Bang!”  He felt a sudden gust of wind as something passed through his hair, close to his scalp, and embedded itself in the branch of a large oak, which broke off and crashed to earth.  Terrified, he threw himself to the ground.

     “Well, if it baint young John Farmer!  Sorry, John I thought you was vermin.”

     John lifted his face from the earth.  It was Tom Mellors, head gamekeeper to Lord and Lady Chasterly.  In his hand he held a smoking shotgun.  At his side was his faithful ferret, Gip, who when not chasing rabbits, was fed on a diet of beefburgers and crips.

     “It’s a good job you’re a bad shot, Tom,” said John getting to his feet and brushing the dirt from his clothes.

     “Sorry,” repeated Tom, “but you gotta keep on yer toes in this job.  Why only t’other day I comes across a group of men breaking eggs  into saucepans o’ boiling water.”

     “Gosh, why were they doing that?”

     “They was poachers.  Down Gip!”  He gestured sternly to the  ferret.  “You must ‘scuse Gip,” he said.  “We’ve just cleared out a band of migrant rabbits over on Watership Down an’ E’s a bit excitable.  Well I must be off now.  I got an appointment wi’ ‘er Ladyship in the potting shed.  ‘Ere, Gip!” With that the ferret leapt nimbly into his trouser pocket and the two of them set off through the woods.

     John checked that none of his bottles were broken and then continued on his way.  He had just reached the gate to Rookfield Farm when he saw his mother running towards him.

     “John!” she cried.  “It’s the Ministry of Agriculture.  Apparently there’s a Triple X Lemonade Disease Eradication Scheme.  They’re going to shoot Quinton!”

Can Quinton be saved?  If so, will Triple X Lemonade Disease spread throughout the country, leaving terror and empty lemonade bottles in its wake?  What will become of Loon?  Find out in the next exciting instalment of Umbridge.

 

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Robots and Typing

February 20, 2018

I spent most of my working life in the years BC (Before Computers).  When I started work at a UK Government veterinary laboratory at the end of the 1960s there were no calculators; desktop and laptop computers had not been thought of.  Instead, we worked out calculations and wrote letters with pen and paper.  Then a typist would type up the results of our endeavours and copies were made as she typed (it was always a female typist) on carbon paper.

The ladies of the typing pool were some of the kindest, jolliest people I have ever worked with.  Sometimes I dictated my words into a cassette recorder and handed them a tape, but most of the time they had to decipher my scribbled handwriting and most could touch type faster than I could talk.  When I presented the thesis for my Masters Degree for one to type, I did not know that the G and F on the qwerty keyboard were next to each other so that when the word, “buffer”, appeared in my hand written script (and it appeared frequently because of the nature of my study) it came back as “bugger”.  A red faced lady apologised profusely but instead of simply erasing the offending word with correction fluid, she insisted on retyping the whole manuscript.  Then came the first computers and word processors and I guiltily typed out my own letters and reports.  Then came the demise of the typing pool.

Now the personal computer is as much of my life as a pen and paper once were.  I am slightly dyslexic so the built in grammar and spell checkers are a godsend.  But the human interaction with someone who most always presented the text in a manner more pleasing to the eye than I ever could is gone.  Most repetitive human actions now seem to be being replaced by robots.  Even driverless cars are appearing on the roads.  The world is advancing at a pace scarcely envisaged three decades ago.  On the surface it appears that we may have lost something along the way but I like to think that we can still keep the human touch alive with art, music, writing and humour that people have naturally built into their genetic makeup which machines can never replace.

Keith Jahans


Umbridge – episode two

February 15, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

Episode Two

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  The prize boar Quinton, is unwell and will not touch its daily ration of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter.  In fact, the pig will not eat or drink anything except lemonade.  Later that day, in the public bar of the ‘Chick Inn’, John is horrified to find that his father, Loon E Farmer, is unable to drink his pint of Old Bart’s beer and instead asks for a glass of lemonade.

Now read on:-

It was three days later and Jack Door, the landlord of ‘The Chick Inn’, was back behind the pumps when John Farmer entered the public bar carrying a large empty rucksack on his shoulder that he set down on the bar.

            “Good morning, Jack,” he said.  “Could I have four pints of Old Bart’s and four bottles of lemonade to take away please?”

            “Certainly, lad.  And ‘ow be things at Rookfield Farm?”

            “Oh, things are a lot better.  We’ve heard from the Lab and they’ve found out what’s wrong with Quinton.  Apparently what he’s got is caused by a very rare virus called Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Mr Marriot says that the only way to cure it is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.”

            Jack scratched his head.  “Aye, they be clever people those scientists at that Lab.  And ‘ow’s yer Dad?”

            “Oh, he’s at home in bed.  Mother says that once we’ve cured Quinton we can then start treating Father.”

            Jack nodded in agreement.  “That be very wise.  It would be a shame to loose a fine hog like Quinton.  Is that beer and lemonade for ‘im?”

            “That’s right could you put it in the rucksack for me?”

            John left the pub with the laden rucksack on his back and started along the road towards Rookfield Farm.

            “John!”  The cry came from behind him and he turned.  It was Grace, the fifteen stone daughter of the Reverent Philip Ourchurch, on her new bicycle.  She rode up to him and stopped.  “Hello, John,” she said.  “I heard you were home.  I thought you didn’t recognise me.”  John stood and stared.  She smiled and said, “I was a little girl when you left home.  Now I’ve grown up.”

            John swallowed hard.  “You certainly look amazing, Grace,” he remarked.

            “Do you like my new bicycle?” she asked.

            “It looks very nice.”  He paused and seemed uncertain.  “Actually, Grace, I wonder if I dare ask you something?”

            “Certainly, John.  What is it?”

            “It’s rather embarrassing really.”

            “Go on, John,” said Grace.  “You can tell me.”

What does John want to ask Grace?  Is there romance in the air or does he simply want a go on her new bike?  Will Quinton and Loon survive the dreaded Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Find out in the next exciting installment of UMBRIDGE.


Umbridge – the birth of a literary career

February 8, 2018

In the early 1980s, I and a colleague started a workplace newsletter at the then MAFF Central Veterinary Laboratory where we both worked.  The CVL changed its name in the 1990s, MAFF has become part Defra and the CVL is now a UK Government Agency.  To fill the scant newsletter content and to assure readers that the newsletter would be published each month, I started a quiz and a regular comic serial.  The serial had a veterinary agriculture theme and was inspired by the long running BBC radio soap, The Archers.

The serial developed a cult following among some of its readers and some years later I published it on various writing websites under the penname of Jack Lindsey.  Later it inspired the publication of my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill.  Followers of my blog and those of you who have bought and enjoyed Cogrill’s Mill might like to read the work that inspired my first forays into publishing so I have posted Umbridge’s first episode below.  If it proves popular, I propose to post the remaining six future episodes each week over the next six weeks.

The ebook of Cogrill’s Mill is currently on promotion on the Amazon Kindle Store and is available for £0.99/$1.37 at:
http://amazon.com/dp/B005NACKBY.

Keith Jahans


Umbridge – episode one

February 8, 2018


An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

It was a bright sunny day and the birds were singing.  Young John Farmer got off the bus at the gate to Rookfield Farm and made his way across the muck-filled yard, a suitecase in either hand.  Little did he know what lay in store for him.

            The farm-house door was opened by Mrs Stitis the daily-help.  “Why, Master John!” she exclaimed joyously.

            “Hello, Ma,” said John.  “I’m home from university.  Is Mother home?”

            “She be out back strangling the chickens.  Come in !”

            Meanwhile, down at the pig-sty, John’s father, Loon E Farmer, was examining his prize boar Quinton, with the local veterinary surgeon.  “It be like this, Mr Marriot,” he was saying, “‘E’s off ‘is food an’ won’t perform wi’ the gilts.  Not only that – ‘E won’t touch ‘is daily ration of Old Bart’s Special Bitter.  ‘E won’t drink nothing but lemonade.”

            “I don’t understand it,” said the vet scratching his head, “but I’ve taken a couple of samples and will send them off to MAFF.  If anyone knows what’s wrong they will!”

            “I s’pose it could be worse.  ‘E could be drinkin’ larger.”

Marriot left in his car, whistling the tune to ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, and Loon Farmer made his way to the farmhouse.  When he entered he was greeted by his wife and son.   “Look, Loon,” beamed his wife, “our John is home!”

            “Hello, Father.  I’ve got a first-class degree in Agriculture with distinction.  I can be a great help to you on the farm!”

            “Aye lad, tomorrow you can scrap the muck off the yard and then you can feed the pigs.  Come!  Let’s be down to the pub while your mother gets the dinner.”

            A little while later, Jack Door the landlord of the ‘Chick Inn’, was pouring both father and son two pints of Old Bart’s Tripple X Special Bitter.  Loon gripped one of the glasses in his hand, blew the froth off the top of the beer and took a sip.

            Suddenly, his face went white and his hand shook as he put the glass back down on the bar,

            “Are you all right, Father?” asked John with concern.

Loon could scarcely speak and when he did his voice was very faint.  “Jack,” he said, “could I have a glass of lemonade?”

            “My God!”  exclaimed Jack in horror.  “Loon!  What be wrong?”

Yes, what is wrong?  Will MAFF find the answer?  Does anyone realise the full significance of Ma Stitis on Rookfield Farm.  Find out next month in the next exciting episode of Umbridge!