Fordyce Maxwell: Reintroduce the lynx? Words almost fail me

Trying to learn one new thing every day isn't easy, but it helps keep the family brain cell ticking over while it's my turn to have it.

Fordyce Maxwell feels another expletive infixation coming on over campaigns to reintroduce the lynx. Picture: Geoff Caddick/PA Wire
Fordyce Maxwell feels another expletive infixation coming on over campaigns to reintroduce the lynx. Picture: Geoff Caddick/PA Wire

So far this week I’ve managed osteospermum, the name of a clump of flowers I’ve had in the garden for years without troubling myself about what they were called, and senecio, a yellow-flowered, grey-leaved shrub, ditto.

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I’ve also learned, along with most of the population, what the highest-paid BBC “stars” are paid, so I suppose that counts, even though as with finding out who collects the biggest annual farming subsidy there is nothing we can do about it except express disapproval and wonder in equal measure.

That’s as in “I wonder how they get away with it,” which led to my final new fact for the week, that inserting a swear word into an existing word has a formal definition – expletive infixation.

That means the next time a banker’s bonus, or a failing business’s chief executive getting a £400,000 bonus, the BBC revelations, Mike Ashley simply being Mike Ashley or the grading results for your last batch of cattle to direct slaughter raises your blood pressure, you know that shouting “unsomethingbelieveable” is expletive infixation.

Unfortunately, it can become addictive as you try to invent more and more variations to deal with stressful times on the farm, a thought worth bearing in mind as harvest gets under way. Personally I thought I had exhausted my inventiveness years ago on ludicrous pedigree livestock prices, but apparently not.

I found one or two spare last week for the curse of ragwort now blighting the countryside. It’s bright yellow, a noxious weed, amazingly prolific, grows several feet tall and could hardly be more prominent if it was growing in farmers’ front gardens. In fact I saw one growing in a tub of flowers outside a farm shop. Like wild oats, I think farmers don’t deliberately ignore ragwort, they simply don’t see it.

Nor do horse-keepers or councils. See horse paddocks and you’ll see ragwort. See roadside verges and you’ll see ragwort. I know there are conflicting views on verges with conservationists claiming that zealous cutting – rare occurrence though it is – damages flowers and wildlife. But if uncut verges only mean thicker crops of ragwort each year, is that a good thing?

I also managed a good old standby of expletive infixation when I saw a farming magazine headline about livestock farmers in the Borders attending a meeting about the benefits of electronic identification (EID).

Well, blow me down, fancy that, drat me, etc. Can these be some of the same farmers who a few years ago raised a petition of more than 10,000 signatures to try and get the European Union to scrap plans for compulsory EID? The campaign that took up so much time and effort even though I, and every progessive sheep and cattle farmer in the country, said it was a waste of time?

Who knows? Who cares? That campaign was on the good old farming principle that no matter what is new we’ll be against it although the potential benefits of EID for better management were obvious from its introduction.

Of course the same could be said for the most basic types of record-keeping for sheep and cattle that so many livestock farmers were reluctant to adopt for so long. Pencil and paper and a weigh crate would have done to start with. It has taken a long, long time for recording to be accepted and by some it still isn’t. Unsomethingbelievable.

Then of course there’s Brexit and what it might mean for farming. Every announcement, from what can we do without migrant labour to where is our next trade deal going to come from, is so predictable. It was predictable when the referendum about whether to leave the European Union was held. I, and many others, could have written the script.

Yet we still get the farming unions treating each potential Brexit development as a revelation. As for campaigns to reintroduce the lynx, beaver and wolf and the rapacious behaviour of animal charities, words almost fail me. Not quite though. I feel another expletive infixation coming on.