You know the saying ‘No one will ever say on their deathbed that they’d wished they’d worked more’. Well my father-in-law, when his time comes, will be the exception that proves the rule.
Grandpa Finlay will be 93 this Spring. James has spent his life improving the farm – drainage, scrub clearing and dyking are his main obsessions. He lives every day as if it were his last. He always has a target to meet. In his late 80s he taught himself to use a digger. Until then, it had been a matter of pride that all he needed was a shovel. When he was 89 he was determined to be lambing ‘in his 90th year’. The following year many photos were taken of him lambing at 90. And he is still very involved at the lamb adopter every year.
His 90th birthday present to himself was a digger. And it is now the digger that is his favourite tool – though his chainsaw is always at hand. David (and the neighbours) are a little concerned that we don’t have enough land to keep him occupied. To say that there is a bit of tension between David and his father over James trying to re-design the farm would be an understatement. Mind you some of his work has been justified by crazy rules from the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). Farmers now get paid according to the number of acres they farm. But for a livestock farm, any area that livestock cannot access to graze is excluded. So like every livestock farmer across Europe, clearing scrub has become a priority.
David’s sister Susan now lives on the farm. She is a keen environmentalist. She can hardly bear to watch. ‘He never did like hazel’ she said shaking her head at his latest triumph. When you get to a certain age, you just don’t care what folk think. In fact the more we protest, the more driven he becomes, so our tactics are a fine balance between ignoring his misdemeanours and trying to keep him on the right side of the law. But then like most of us, he prioritises the laws that should be adhered to – and environmental laws don’t really feature.
Last weekend, he wrestled with scrub that was ‘threatening to take down a dyke’. In the end, it was actually the digger not scrub that took down the dyke. It might be just a coincidence, but one of our neighbours is now ‘clashing’ (cementing the tops) all our march dykes.
But seriously, James is an amazing man. We couldn’t stop him if we tried. We can see that he is frustrated that he can’t do everything he used to be able to do, but he will do everything that he can to continue his battle with the auld enemy – nature!
My main concern is that I’m married to someone with exactly the same determination, fortunately directed in the opposite direction. I know David will have his pet projects that will keep him working until the day that he dies. I think I even know what he’ll be focussing on – he’ll be tinkering with self-build renewable energy projects. The question is, will I be like his mother and be content to read books and do the crossword. The jury is out on that one…..