Archive for the 'Weird' Category

How farming can butter up journalists

The past few weeks have been very quiet in Farmers Weekly Towers. At one point, there were so few people in the office that I was worried I’d got confused and accidentally come to work on a Sunday.

The supply of serious news always tail off during the summer months thanks to the end of the parliamentary session and people swanning off on holidays. However, in agriculture the ‘August effect’ is always compounded by the fact that farmers are too busy harvesting to bother ringing to tell us what DEFRA’s done to annoy them this week.

But while the good journos of FW are left with slightly sweaty palms as we try to dig out a collection of worthy stories to fill our news section, for the national media agriculture is a rich source of summer-time stories.

As I type, ‘Silly cow’s head stuck in a ladder‘ is number three on BBC online’s most-read list, while the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow’s rescue mission has appeared on so many news sites that I’ve lost count.

Cow in ladder

Alongside those I’ve read dreadful puns about mushrooms the size of babies, animal rights protesters hanging signs on cow sculptures and bovine pedometers.

Last year I was interviewed by a journalist in America about the prominence of farming stories during the so-called ‘silly season’. She wanted to know why agriculture was the go-to subject for desperate journalists  and tried to steer me towards saying it was due to city-centric media types finding farming so alien and ridiculous that they looked to the industry as a sure-fire source of comedic stories.

If I’m honest I don’t know what the answer is, but if I was a farming organisation I’d make sure I held onto my best press releases until July or August to improve my chances of  bagging some media coverage (rural insurers NFU Mutual did a good job of this last week).

Bonkers, quirky stories are always going to appeal to journalists on under-staffed news desks during the holiday season. But as a journalist who is currently cringing at having written up the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow herself, I know I’d much prefer to be writing a worthy story.

Anyway, I’d love to hang around and debate this some more, but I need to crack on. This story about a cow made of butter standing to be US president won’t write itself…

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Toilet break

I only ever come to Brussels for work-related stuff, so tonight I decided to see a bit of the city and leg it around the touristy spots before the sun went down.

It turns out the place is titchy, and unless I managed to miss a massive chunk of the city out somewhere, I saw pretty much everything the guidebook recommended.

Perhaps a little unfairly, Brussels has a bit of a reputation for being a dull place. Full of diplomats and government buildings, much of the characterful buildings have been overshadowed by large office blocks and glass and metal-covered towers.

But in the centre, in the Grand Place, there are some really snazzy, historic buildings which – coupled with its cafe culture – give the city a really nice feel.

The most famous touristy bit of Brussels though isn’t a big, impressive building. Instead it’s a titchy statue of a peeing boy.

Mannekin Pis

To be honest, I didn’t really understand the attraction. I certainly didn’t get why people were queuing up to have a family snap in front of it:

Family Pis
But I had to give a thumbs up to the nearby witty chip shop owners for making the most of its weird, crowd-drawing neighbour:

soggy chips
Not sure I’d want to eat there though. I hate soggy chips.

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Mercosaur sighting #2

I wonder if the artist who drew the illustration for page 20 of this week’s issue of Farmers Weekly had seen my Mercosaur picture.

Mercosaur Dalmatian Cow

Coincidence?

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Doing porridge for a farm photo

When I was on holiday in Florida a couple of years ago, I managed to convince my friends to pull our hire car over so I could stop off to take some photos of an orange grove.

Not being farmer-types, they had a bit of a whinge about the delay. They couldn’t have cared less about orange harvesting and just wanted to hot-foot it to our hotel so they could kick back on a lilo with a mojito and a slab of key-lime pie.

Turns out if I did the same thing this year, they might well have had a valid reason for moaning – I could’ve got us locked up.

This bill has just been introduced by the Florida senate. You can read all detail if you click the link, but in essence it says:

  • A person who enters a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner (or a representative), commits a felony of the first degree
  • A person who photographs, video records, or otherwise produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner (or a representative) commits a felony of the first degree

So that’s a first degree felony for photographing a farm, regardless of whether you’re actually trespassing or standing on a road peering over a fence.

A first degree felony which, as helpfully defined by law blog  The Volokh Conspiracy, is the highest degree felony other than capital crimes and ‘life felonies’, which carry a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

The terms of imprisonment would be dictated by the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, but the maximum would be 30 years.

Farmers in the UK often complain about rights of access and people wandering across their land, but this seems a tad extreme to me.

Anyway, being too scared  to share the offending orange grove photo with you in fear of being banged up, I’ve had to illustrate this post with a different picture of my Florida trip. Just be thankful it wasn’t me in a bikini.

me and pluto

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The funny side of farming

I managed to hold it together until the stereo started blaring out “Where’s your sausage gone?” to the tune of ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’.

It was at that point – stood outside Downing Street in front of a 16ft, shiny, hovering sausage – that I collapsed onto the floor in hysterical laughter.

sausage

You have to hand it to the pig industry – they certainly have a sense of humour.

At a time when producers are leaving the industry in droves thanks to spiralling input costs and appalling returns from retailers and processors, they went for comedy to make a very serious point.

At least, I hope they were trying to be funny.

Anyway, it certainly succeeded in being one of my more surreal days as a journalist. When I was at university learning the finer points of media law so I’d be able to bring down governments without getting done for libel, I thought I could only dream of being shouted at by Christine Hamilton for not wearing any gloves on a freezing day in March. Or asking the chief executive of the British Pig Executive in all seriousness how big his sausage was.

Much like the country’s pig producers, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry…

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Sausage signings

Tomorrow I’m going to be spending seven hours in central London with a load of pig farmers, an ex-Atomic Kitten, an ice-skating Gladiator, a 15ft sausage and a load of marker pens.

Giant sausage
I am a serious journalist… I am a serious journalist…. I am a serious journalist….

Jay Rayner would be impressed.

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Orange you glad I’m the one covering this conference….

I’ve come up to Manchester for the Soil Association’s annual conference.

I thought, having spent the last few months in hot countries, that I have a decent sun-tan compared to most people.

I hadn’t counted on some of the lovely ladies of the North West.

orangeI love Manchester.

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Farm pests, Aussie style.

Think you’ve got it tough with badgers, pigeons and rabbits on your farm?

Well spare a thought for my baramundi-farming friend Marty, who has to contend with these:

Crocodile
This ‘little’ fella is a couple of metres long, and was just chillin’ by one of the ponds, sunning itself, when we drove past today. We managed to get about 10m away from it before it slipped into the pond and went under water.

There are about five or six crocs living in the ponds (they hop over the banks from the Moresby River which runs alongside the farm), but Marty says he’s not too worried about them being there as they have such an abundance of fish to eat in the ponds that they leave humans alone.

Still, I wouldn’t fancy the job of holding the nets on the weekly Thursday fishing trip

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Where’s Wally?

Here she is:

me looking stupid
I’m getting the insults in before Gob of the Wash does.

It’s a peach of a hat, innit? Bet you’re wondering why I have a scrunched up piece of felt and a feather protruding from my bonce, don’t you?

Every year the Farmers Weekly journos who report from the CLA Game Fair put together a wish-list of items they’d buy from the fair if money was no object.

Regardless of whether I actually would want to buy one, I thought it would be terribly amoosing to have my photo taken wearing a ridiculous hat. What I didn’t think about was the fact the photo of me in said stupid head-wear would be published in this week’s FW.

What’s made it worse is that since checking out the milliner’s website, I realised the lady on the stall actually put it on my head the wrong way around. So that’s why it looks so silly, eh?

What with this photo and a couple of other unfortunate snaps, this week’s issue of FW is actually like a Where’s Wally book, but featuring yours truly. At least my mum will have a field day cutting out the pictures…

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Sparkling stories

Whenever we’re sent an abysmally-written story or press release at FW Towers, Mr News Editor and I jokingly say we’re going to bin it because there’s “no way you can glitter a pile of manure”.

Apparently we’re wrong though, as a visit to the Chris Ofili exhibition at Tate Britain yesterday proved:

Blossom
Chris uses elephant dung from Whipsnade zoo in a lot of his paintings, which he decorates with map pins and copious amounts of glitter. It’s all very sparkly, but a bit weird, even for my often unusual artistic tastes.

Maybe a livestock farmer ought to give him a ring to see if he’s in the market for some cattle manure. It might help them out with their NVZ and slurry storage problems

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