On Friday we sadly bade a fond and very fitting Ote Hall farewell to John’s wife Sandy, who had battled ill health following major surgery to her left lung in 2015.
Sandy first came to live at Ote Hall in 1978 when she worked for my mother. By 1980 she and John, who had started working here aged 15, in 1968, became a couple, an amazing partnership which spanned the better part of their lives.
During their marriage they travelled widely experiencing incredible sights. They visited 7 African countries, and most of India from the southern tip right up into the Himalayas.
Most years they left cold damp England in early January and returning in late February, a quiet time on the farm.
They faced highs and lows including Sandy’s ill health in recent years, and John’s very badly broken leg which laid him off work for four months some years ago.
Throughout all the experiences that they have faced together, including great sadness, they have also shared much laughter and joy, and shown incredible resilience. Through the years they have both been deeply committed and genuinely loyal to their working and social communities.
As was said in the Eulogy during Sandy’s beautiful funeral service, as a couple their very DNA and personalities are embedded here, or as we say in the farming world, they were ‘hefted’ into all our lives and our unique Ote Hall community.
At the start of last week we lost one of our bullocks which unexpectedly went down with pneumonia. He was a lovely 18 month old Sussex steer, but despite doing our best to pull him through with the help of the vet, he sadly did not make it.
Then on Saturday morning I found my daughter’s loyal horse Sandro had gone down with colic. Despite all our efforts and the help of the equine vet who came out three times, sadly, with heavy hearts, we had to allow him to slip away. We had tried so hard to help him by walking him for hours, desperately trying to dislodge the blockage. Eventually it was clear that he had a twisted gut which nothing was going to resolve.
Sandro has looked after Nina for many years. He was a stunningly handsome horse but despite his near 17hands, and looking powerful and alert, in all the years he never once attempted to buck, rear or bolt with her. For that we are eternally grateful - he will be impossible to replace.
Our mood has been lifted by the return of my eldest son Matthew from Singapore, where he has been working for the past ten years. It is lovely to have him back in England, permanently once again.
He found the events of last week interesting in so much as he observed that he has been sheltered from reality whilst living within the rarefied bubble of Singapore. Having grown up on the farm where life and death are daily occurrences, he realises that in Singapore old age is hidden away as the elderly are confined to isolated care homes. The streets are notably full of vibrant youth, and livestock or indeed dead stock are rarely seen.
At a time when food standards and animal welfare are high on the agenda, it is encouraging to see that the British Veterinary Association, which has been campaigning, quite rightly, to ban the ‘cruel practise’ of religious slaughter, by not stunning livestock before slitting their throats so they bleed slowly to death.
The BVA are now stepping up the pressure on Government to at least label meat killed in this manner, which is neither humane nor civilised.
Those of us who care deeply for our livestock are calling for a total ban on this sadistic practise altogether.