A Cumbrian Farmer Writes

BY JIM WEBSTER

Over the years, I’ve avoided equine entanglements. I used to boast that I’d eaten horse more recently than I’d ridden one, but now, thanks to Tesco, pretty well everyone can say that.

Still, I’ve avoided going into the whole “livery yard” diversification thing. Not through innate conservatism or immense wisdom but basically because I’d heard too many stories.

One lass I knew did livery for a few years. She had tales to make your eyes water. As she said, ‘I didn’t mind helping them organise their show timetables, but be damned if I was going to help them organise their adultery as well.’ She also got fed up of having to cough loudly before going into her own barn, in case she might stumble on something (or in one case quite literally stumble over something) that she’d prefer not to know about.

One lady brought a horse in for livery. Things went well enough for three months or so but then the rent started falling behind. My informant made tentative enquiries (she’s very English you know, doesn’t want to make a fuss) and discovered that the horse was owned by the husband and the livery fees were being paid by the boyfriend. The two gentlemen in question had at this point discovered each other’s existence and were less than happy with the situation. The lady who had brought the horse in had more chance of becoming the next Pope than she had of paying the bill.

At this point my informant had had enough. She parked a tractor across the stable door and took the back wheels off. She didn’t care who paid her but someone was going to before they could get their horse back.

Which sort of brings us to the title of this piece; another place and time has moved on. Now in these ostentatiously enlightened times a (different) lady of my acquaintance doing livery discovered that adultery had also moved on. She had a female client who had a horse with her. As far as I can make out the husband was paying for the horse and the lady and her girlfriend were both riding it. And when said lady decided to go off with girlfriend and abandon husband, husband of course stopped paying.

So as usual these things get acrimonious and people get all upset. People forget themselves and make threats because they aren’t willing to take responsibility for their own actions. After all it’s easier to do that than try to put things right.

Eventually I became peripherally involved. I was walking quietly down the lane minding my own business when this car came past me rather quickly. I stepped promptly to the side and had just recovered my equilibrium when my informant appeared in her car to ask me a question which I’m unlikely to ever forget. ‘Have you just seen four lesbians in a fast car?’

Jim Webster farms at the bottom end of South Cumbria. Jim was encouraged to collect together into a book some blog posts he’d written because of their insight into Cumbrian farming and rural life (rain, sheep, quadbikes and dogs) It’s available here.

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