Thursday, 5 March 2015

Still haven't found what you are looking for?

“The STFA continues to suggest that there are tenants being treated unfairly by landlords. own survey into landlord-tenant relationships showed the 
“If it is the case that there are examples where tenants are being treated unfairly we want to root out the problem but the STFA needs to produce evidence of this and we urge them in the strongest possible terms to do that.
Quote from the Scottish Land &Estates publication. Read it and try to ignore the mental image of a Billy Idol style sneering twist of the mouth by the author/ authors.
"IF it is the case". *sneer*

I know that we are able to freely read about the wonderful relationship that 'tenants' have with their landowners but firstly, let us be realistic about the type of tenant. Let's concentrate on 1991 Secure tenant farmers in Scotland. I have yet to meet the Secure tenant who is happy in his relationship with his landowner, never mind the alleged 80% who are utterly ecstatic with theirs.

We Secure 1991 tenants are experiencing an extremely vulnerable stage in our lives; proposals have been put forward by the Agricultural Holdings Group after extensive meetings/ talks etc with both farmers and landowners. Some of the proposals are very worrying indeed for the farmer and have created feelings of deep insecurity. Some of us feel demoralised, others are angry.
Who can afford the £10,000 per day for the land court and legal representation? Certainly, none of the 'ecstatic', happy Secure tenants that I know.

The Scottish Farmer warned last week of landowners using evasive action hence the spin from the SL&E. The faux shock in the SL&E publication at the fact that there may still be problems and issues between laird and (Secure) tenant is demeaning, dismissive and evasive. How ironic.

What did the C.E.O. of the S.L&E not see when he came to visit our farmhouse? Did he fail to see the thick green mould on the walls, did he not see that I could not offer him a cup of tea as there was no electricity? Did he see a bottle of clean water to drink rather than risk his health with the erratic and frankly, filthy water we are provided with?
Did he see a house which people in 2015 Scotland are expected to live in? Was he unaware of a  seven year old child who has never in his life drunk water from a tap on the farm?
Did he not understand the stress of human beings being excluded from their own homes due to the evasive actions of their landowners?
Did he conveniently 'forget' the issue of fields being taken from agricultural use - fields which would provide income and food - for pheasants to roam on? Did he forget about the compensation or the legal paperwork whereby the farmer agreed (or disagreed) to release the land YET is still being charged rent on a field which is padlocked.

Did he forget the reason that GentleOtter began to write about? She wanted a roof for the family farmhouse but had to ask. She wanted the 150 year old roof, which her husband's family had maintained for well over 100 years but through fair wear and tear had come to the end of its life, she wanted it made wind and waterproofed. Did he feel she was being unreasonable to ask for such a basic thing which belonged to another man?

It has been a year and a half since that visit. What was achieved, apart from a bit of P.R. spin for SL&E?
Absolutely nothing.

What has arrived is a whopping electricity bill and another water failure notice.

We had a small fire in the agricultural shed in November which affected the electricity supply to the entire farm. My husband had sustained an injury whilst working which rendered him incapable of mobility. I took over his work, the care of our family, the care of the livestock and this was done with no power, no access to hot water unless you lit a fire outside to boil a kettle. No access to clean water for washing in unless it was from a barrel of rainwater - just like they did in days of yore.
Yes, we have all ingested the water and yes, we have all been affected. You get used to it.

When the abnormal becomes the norm, then it is time to worry. When you become used to such primitive conditions, it becomes a form of institutionalisation. The base of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs isn't so much chipped at, it is utterly demolished.

This may be uncomfortable for some but try ploughing a field whilst menstruating. Try lighting a fire, boiling a kettle then finding a secluded area of an open field in an attempt at keeping dignity and personal hygiene. Basic needs which could and ought to be available on the farm we have rented for 125 years. One hundred and twenty five years.
Ignore the utter exhaustion that occurs at that time of the month and push yourself to the limit, in the dark. You do it as you are fully responsible for good husbandry to your livestock and family, yes, in that order.
The fire in your soul fuels you with energy, the injustice of those who have gone before you or those who live like you push the bellows which provide oxygen to the furnace. This injustice has gone on for too long. Scotland in 2015 looks no different to Scotland 1715.

We tried to communicate with the estate regarding the reconnection of the electricity, we employed men to come and dig a new trench (despite an appeal to the estate who were employing digger operators working on neighbouring farms....they could have come and done some work to help us), we bought and laid a new electricity cable which is ready for reconnection and has been ready for some time.
Phone calls to the estate have been dismissed with haughty messages that the person in charge is in a meeting. Yes, that old chestnut again. Email replies have been tardy. My appeal for reconnection was met by a stinging reply that 'They would get back to us in due course".
 Fine if you are sitting in a warm office with electricity and a clean water supply, not fine if you are desperate for the luxury of washing your hands in warm water on the farm.

Evasive is not a strong enough word. Rude, arrogant, ignorant, yes. Uncaring, inhuman, negligent, dismissive. Controlling.
Feudal. There now, I've said it. The 'Eff' word.

So, SL&E dudes. If you still haven't found what you are looking for, your CEO knows the road to our farm. It lies forgotten at The Back of Beyond, out of sight, out of mind but there are human beings trying to live and work here, trying to raise a family and care for animals. In hellish conditions. I have only ever asked for a roof, clean water and our land back. Now I am adding an electricity connection.
 Sell the farm to us if this is too difficult for you. Sell us it anyway, we can do a better job with it than you are doing. We are working people with basic needs and will achieve our needs if given the freedom to do so. We have bought and paid for this farm many times over yet are treated like dirt - our difference being that we cherish the dirt, improve it and make a living from it to provide others with food.

Just because we cannot wash our hands in warm, clean water does not mean you can wash your hands of us.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tarquin has 432 biscuits.....

Do you remember those old maths problems at school? Pages and pages of them which rendered the pupil almost comatose with boredom and non-comprehension.
"If it takes Tam two days to dig a trench at £6.60 minimum wage, how long does it take before his piece break gets longer and his attitude begins to stink a bit?"

Say Tarquin had 432 biscuits.
Now, if he ate them all, he would be setting himself up nicely for morbid obesity, tooth decay, stroke, diabetes and being thought of as a greedy pig.

Say Tam had no biscuits.
If Tarquin were to share his stash, technically Tam could have 216 biscuits but only if Tarquin agreed to share. The onus being on Tarquin's willingness to find it in his heart and conscience to share his biscuits with Tam.
If Tam was a tenant farmer, Tarquin might compare his biscuits to something unreasonable, say a comparison between Tesco basic-buy biscuits to Organic Fancy-Pants Originals dipped in artisan chocolate which has passed through the intestine of a rare civet cat.
Tarquin would then demand Tam was responsible for 432 fancy biscuits which would come out of Tam's income, Tarquin would hog the lot then ramp Tam's rent up using the threat of the Land Court and a Life Of Hell.
If Tam's wife wanted to diversify and make her own biscuits, Tarquin could and would demand half of her profit then try to terrify her if she tried to complain. Tam's wife would pay tax on her biscuits yet Tarquin........
Tam would have to be jolly well thankful for Tarquin's non sharing of the biscuits but secretly Tam hoped that a large dog would come and scoff the biscuits when Tarquin was gazing over 'his' vast expanses of bleak grouse moorland, mountains and rivers. He hoped the large dog would take a chunk from Tarquin's gluteus maximus as it was growing in size with all those biscuits.

Tarquin could share with 431 others and if they halved their biscuits, 862 people could enjoy their sweet, buttery delights. Apology if my maths are out a bit. I gazed out of the school window a lot.

On the other hand, Tarquin could hog the lot and say his family had always owned lots of biscuits as they had 'relocated' other people's biscuits, historically, to amass a stockpile except their biscuits lay in a fousty, mouldering heap, quite inedible as they had not been kept very well.
Tarquin felt he was entitled to his 432 biscuits therefore did not have to justify his stash to anyone.

Tam and his fellow workmates were sick of the minimum wage, sick and tired of Tarquin's unreasonable and selfish behaviour. Tam's kith and kin saw a future whereby abody had a biscuit, hell, Tam and his workmates could supply the raw ingredients, the wheat, eggs, milk and butter, there was no reason why everyone could not have a biscuit. The biscuit would be plain at first but with work, variety could be introduced.

Other biscuitless people from town and country empathised with Tam and realised they wanted a biscuit too. They wanted to escape the urban sprawl and enjoy their biscuit in the fresh country air. They had fresh, new ideas on the type of biscuit they wanted to taste.

Tarquin freaked out at the thought of his biscuits shared by the many as opposed to being hogged by the few. The Biscuitless people met and discussed how to share the stash, bloodlessly, given that it is now 2015 and Things Have Moved On.

So, good people. The biscuits are out there, no more will be made, they are precious and need tender care but they will reap great benefit if shared out equally.

We just need to teach Tarquin how to open his hand and share.