Farming on marginal land in Northumberland must be a thankless task. I suspected that the farmers’ wives running bed and breakfast accommodation on the two farms where we spent nights two weeks ago probably earned more money than their husbands who went out to face the elements each day. Even in June there was a biting wind and lashing rain on the high ground, it was hard to imagine what it was like in the winter, and it was hard to imagine what drove men onto the moors when their work did no more than pay for their livestock.
One of the wives said to me, ‘Farming and the Church are like each other. You do it because it’s your calling’. I would have pointed out that I thought parish work was considerably easier than the farming life, but she signalled that the conversation was over by getting on with tasks.
I remember farming life when I was young, my granddad heading out into the mud and rain and the darkness on a Christmas Day evening, a bale of hay on the pitchfork over his shoulder and a hurricane lamp in his hand. The work carried on regardless of the day or the hour.
I thought back on the farming life this evening. Coming in after spending an afternoon at the consecration of a new bishop this afternoon, I thought on the words of a bishop with whom we had coffee this morning, ‘when tomorrow comes, reality hits and the world resumes.’
The music this afternoon was sublime and for a while the world was far off, but returning this evening, I realized there was still the work of the day to do and headed off to do hospital calls. Reality was back, there were things that had to be done. All the same,I think it’s much easier than trudging out onto a Northumbrian moor.