The Shepherd's Life

by James Rebanks | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0141979364 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Apechild of York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on 2/22/2021
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Apechild from York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Monday, February 22, 2021
In the post from a UK bookmoocher today.

Journal Entry 2 by Apechild at York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Monday, May 3, 2021
Fascinating book, both a year in the life of a fell sheep farm in the Lake District, as well as a memoir/family history of James Rebanks, his father and grandfather, with a few reflections on land ownership, the farming community, tourism and all that thrown in as well. He follows the seasons with the book, starting off with summer and ending at the end of spring, which I guess is a hopeful and positive place to finish the book. Winter would be a bit grim, what with the dreadful weather, the tough conditions for the stock and the deaths. Although sheep farming/shepherding is a profession, from reading this it's very clear that this is a way of life, and certainly not something you can switch off from at the weekend or have a career change from. Not only is it 24/7 but it's something that you learn from experience, so you really need decades' of experience to be a pro. It's also quite sad to see how these natural products and all the work are undervalued. The thing that sits with me is that after shearing all the sheep, it's actually more sensible and economical for the farmers to just burn the fleeces rather than do anything with them. Which is just nuts. And we'll pump out cheap plastic crap as if there's nothing bad looming up, and burn the alternatives. I kept thinking, but even if no one wants to knit with this, could it not be used as packaging in parcels at the very least or something?

Wherever you grow and live, you are blind to the wonder and beauty in some respects, and don't always understand tourists coming to awe at it all. And the Lake District is an absolute tourist trap. In some ways I get the complaints - it must be beyond frustrating when idiots let their dogs loose in fields, because the countryside is their playground and the world is there for their dog's conveniance (yes, I know not all dog owners are like this, but there are some intensely arrogant idiots out there) and the things attack your sheep for fun. And when you get too many tourists, some quality of the place is lost, and there's always a percentage that have no understanding or respect for what they have come to - which is why books like this need to be out, to break this slightly insular farming mentality. And the second home issue. Yes, that's a problem in a lot of places. Like he says, when it gets to 70% ownership in an area, and the locals working there can't afford to buy, it's an issue. It's a place where people do want to live and work, not just a playground. I've heard of similar issues on the Northumberland coast. But on the other hand we don't all get to live in beautiful places, do jobs that we enjoy, have happy lives. And everybody has as much right to visit a place as anyone else, or even those living there. It is a hard balancing act, that I think in some places is tipping too far in one direction.

The education issues leave me ambivilant. Some of what he writes about is the pig headed attitude of a teenage boy, and quite frankly, who of us were "all that" as teenagers? Really?? No, we were all muppets. But the defensiveness keeps cropping up, and I think partly this is how the educational system failed him and continues to fail people and also a problem with society's attitude in general. Also, I think some of it may be trying to keep it cool with some of the anti-education attitudes he meets - oh, I only went to uni to prove them all wrong, ha ha!! But I myself am frustrated by the attitude that school is there for you to get good grades, go to university, get a socially considered "good" job and make pots of cash. People who get "good" jobs and make pots of cash are the heroes, the sucesses and the intelligent people. Others doing jobs that don't need a degree, or heavens above, anything - farmers, cleaners, bin men etc etc etc.... well, they must be as dumb as nuts. Apparently. Anyone who actually thinks or believes this is as dumb as nuts. Your job is no reflection on your intelligence or your worth as a human being. And ALL jobs need to be done and are important. You take one cog out and the system crumbles. As for education, I hate the way the emphasis goes. No one seems to get that it's there, or at least should be, to develop you as a human being, to develope your capacity to think and critically work out problems. And whatever job you do, you will live and work with other people, life will hit you at some point and it can be tough - and that's when you need your ability to think. A lot of that bleating on is me rather than this book though... I am digressing slightly.

I grew up on the side of agriculture, albeit in the lowlands, but a lot of this resonates with me. The foot and mouth crisis was intensely badly handled by the government and was devastating for the people who work in farming. There are good farmers who genuinely care for their animals. Landscapes, even the "wild" ones are often human managed and have been so for thousands of years. Farmers aren't respected enough. It's not all glory glory though. Some sneer down their noses at school and education and the less educated they are, the better they think they are. There is intense pressure to do nothing but work and chores every waking minute. And it's almost obsessive religious - for any family member (in certain families) who doesn't want to follow in those footsteps, leaving could be equal to ex communication, and I think some people miss out on things they might have rather done in life because they didn't dare say otherwise. I think rather than saying this way of life or that way of life is better, it's better to consider them all different, but what we do need is to be open about them, read and learn about what we're not familiar with so that we have a better understanding of how our own country works. No one is saying everyone has to be a sheep farmer - I certainly wouldn't want to be one. But at least take a moment to think about how other people live their lives.

Perhaps the writing got a little muddled, and in trying to put across just how passionate he is about sheep farming, the path he took and the landscape he lives in, he came across a little defensive and disdainful at times.

Released 1 mo ago (5/24/2022 UTC) at Herriot Hospice Care Charity Shop in Thirsk, North Yorkshire United Kingdom


Donating with some other books. Seems fitting to be leaving somewhere in James Herriot's town, all farming and the like!

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