Thursday, 31 July 2008

Giant haystacks

Barmaid got back from work on Monday, pleased that the evening's itinerary consisted of nothing more than getting a meal ready and sitting outside in the evening sunshine to eat it. Well that little dream didn't last long, a message on the answerphone informed her that the hay had been baled that day. A quick look at the weather forecast, confirmed her suspicions, rain was predicted for Tuesday.

Two hours later, Barmaid was tired and emotional, but very smug because she had managed to stack 153 bales of hay. Barman and a friend's son carted the bales in off the field, whilst Barmaid built layer upon layer of hay. The smugness didn't last long, the next day Barmaid couldn't move her right arm and her back hurt too. However, she wasn't the worst casualty, friend's 16 year old strapping son had taken to his bed and hadn't been seen since, he was heard muttering something about blisters on his way upstairs.

There is something very rewarding about making your own hay and it also offers peace of mind in that the pasture has been cleared of ragwort (a highly poisonous plant), suppose it's a bit like people who grow their own vegetables (and just as anoraky).

Over the past few weeks Barmaid has been busy with many manual tasks and is rather concerned that she will be talent spotted for 2012 Olympic shot-put team, such are her biceps. Her worst fears of not being chosen for any of her Inn's student activities have been dispelled, she's been picked for the annual inter-Inn arm wrestling championships.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Countryside in Crisis?

For those of you who hate the countryside, there is no need to read any further, you will be bored senseless. For those of you who might wonder what the countryside is all about, read on.

It's several years since I moved to this house. It's in a village, much like any other village and I imagine that what I'm about to tell you applies to most rural habitats throughout the UK. When I moved here, the village had four working farms, now there are none. The first farm to go was the smallest, a father and son dairy farm. The farm's cows used to be walked through the village each day, out to pasture, to be brought back to the farm in the afternoon for milking. Following complaints by 'new people' in the village, the farmer had to stop leading the cows through the village. Cows eat a lot and shit a lot, the new people thought it disgraceful that the cows would (occasionally) shit on the road and made a fuss to the local authority about the health and safety hazards created by such an activity. So, the farmer was no longer able to walk his cows through the village to the lush pastures and had to make do with the smaller, inferior paddocks adjacent to his farm. The cows didn't produce as much milk and the supplementary feeding required meant that the farm was running at a loss.

The second farm to go was a larger enterprise, about 400 acres in total and a mixture of arable and dairy farming. Originally, the farm employed two local 'farm hands', who could carry out all of the tasks required on the farm. However, after a number crunching exercise the farmer contracted out the farm work, the two farm hands were made redundant. The contracting out didn't work out and the farm land was sold off, the farmhouse was sold separately, with just a token amount of land for amenity use.

The third farm to go was an arable, tenant farm, about a thousand acres in total. The farmer told me that he just wasn't making any money, so he decided not renew the tenancy. He had tried to negotiate with the supermarket who he supplied his produce to and the 1 penny more (per item) that he needed was refused. The owners of the estate sold off the farmhouse and buildings, the land belongs to an insurance company and is worked by outside contractors.

The fourth and final farm to go was the largest and oldest, spanning 4 generations. Originally the farm had about 2000 acres of land in total, built up over the 4 generations. Over the years many small pockets of land near to the roads, were sold off for building, but the bulk of the land remained. On the face of it, the farm seemed to be prospering, but this was not the case and most of the land had been secretly sold off to an American religious order, the day to day working of the farm was contracted back to the farmer, so on the face of it, the farm appeared intact. Last year, the remaining bits and bobs were sold off and the land is now farmed by outside contractors. For the village, this was the saddest closure, up until 3 years ago one of the first generation farmers was still alive and it must have been devastating to see the farm slowly asset stripped.

Things have changed an awful lot over the years and the way that the countryside now makes money is not particularly pleasant. Shooting has always been a pastime for country people. It used to entail a few landowners getting together and going out shooting a few animals, usually after a skinfull, so usually the shooters missed the (intended) target, but occasionally shot each other instead! Shooting nowadays is a different kettle of fish, it's big business and attracts the wealthy businessmen from faraway towns and cities, who only visit the countryside to play. Around here, pheasants are bred in tens of thousands, kept in enclosures until the day before the shoot and then let out for the massacre. Businessmen pay big money to shoot, they want a return on that investment, so want to shoot lots and lots. Although illegal, pump action shotguns are used and lots and lots of pheasants are shot, far too many to take back home, so they are tipped into the ditches by the barrow load and left to rot.

Some local farmland was sold to a businessman, who has built a racing track. It is noisy and on race days, the local roads are avoided because these too are treated like a race track. Last year two people were killed leaving the racetrack when they took a country lane bend too quickly and hit a tree. Nearby, a local home owner has had his garden fence demolished four times by people leaving the race track, still high on adrenaline from the track racing. His children are no longer allowed to play in the garden. Local horse riders and cyclists no longer venture out on these country roads at weekends, it's just not safe.

'The Hall' in our village used to be a boarding school, but it closed four years ago. It provided employment for the village, from cleaners to teachers and every profession in between. It has recently been purchased by an American, who has very kindly chopped down 80% of the ancient woodland belonging to the estate. Locals were up in arms about what had happened, but pleas to the local council to place tree preservation orders on the woodland were refused. DEFRA did get involved because the trees had been felled without a felling licence, the maximum fine is £2'500, the case was discontinued due to being 'not in the public interest'.

And then we have the human shit mountain. I noticed a lot of activity down a local farmtrack, lots of 'officials' in high vis jackets supervising lorries. A large brown hill appeared on the edge of a field, right next to the public footpath. It is human waste. Due to a loophole in the law, it can be dumped like this, but as soon as it is spread on the field, it has to be ploughed in within hours. So, the little country farm track that used to be so popular with dog walkers, playing children etc. is now strangely empty. No doubt the landowner got a pretty penny for allowing the waste to be dumped. There is money to be made out of the countryside, big money, but it comes at a price.

A farmer in a neighbouring village likes to boast that the money he gets for set aside, runs into six figures each year. He knows how to work the system, get the money for the 'conservation'. But, he doesn't like people using the public footpaths on his land and ran into a pregnant woman with his Land Rover, in order to teach her a lesson about 'trespassing' on his land. He tried a similar tactic with my (75 year old) Dad, but he'd picked the wrong person for an argument. My Dad is great, I have to say that, he reads my blog, and he makes fabulous muffins, but if you get on the wrong side of him...

Despite all of this, I still love the countryside, I don't know any different, but it isn't quite as idyllic and twee as looks from the outside.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Wood Report

Had a very quick browse through The Wood Report, all 104 pages of it. It seems to me, that what started out as a 'sorting wheat from chaff' exercise (to prevent no hopers from forking out loads of dosh for BVC), has been diluted so much, that the report's original intention has been lost.

The report recommends that an aptitude test be passed by all prospective BVC students. The test will be mostly in the multiple choice question format. This is where it all starts to crumble for me. I know a little about MCQ's, having sat them myself in my 'day job'. There are usually 4 possible answers to each question, a,b,c or d. One of the possible answers is usually very obviously wrong, another choice answer is usually unlikely, which leaves just two possible answers to choose from. So, with very little knowledge, a student can obtain 50% without knowing very much at all about the examination subject. Add in a bit of knowledge and that 50% can be bumped up to say 70% without too much effort at all. But, that's not my main concern, the report recommends that a student be able to re-sit the aptitude test as many times as need be in order to pass. The report states that this is in order to allow students 'to improve', my concern is that it will allow weak students to get lucky and so it is back to square one again, with unsuitable candidates taking BVC.

The statistical evidence included in the report provides that currently, some 49% of BVC students feel that their studies 'were impeded' by weaker students, the other 51% were too bloody thick to understand the questionnaire.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Yet another visit to the Inn has resulted in disappointment for Barmaid. She was minding her own business, browsing the library bookshelves and sensed a man approaching in her direction. When he got within a few feet of her, she quickly glanced sideways towards him, to be met by that three letter noise - "tut". A tut can speak a thousand words, bloggers, but I'll keep it short. What the man really wanted to say when tutting, was "bloody women, they invade our private little realms of superiority, pretend to understand what it's all about, shouldn't be allowed, it's, it's, it's a disgrace I'll have you know, is no place sacred nowadays".

Barmaid quickly looked downwards, back to the book within her hand, but what she really wanted to do, as he swaggered by, was kick him up the arse.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


Sometimes I do wonder why exactly I chose to live where I do, every place I need to go to involves mile upon mile of travelling. But then, it only takes a moment to stand and stare and it all comes flooding back to me.

And, it is nice to stop and chat with the neighbours, catch up on all the latest gossip.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Not Long Now

The days are flying past at the moment and it's only a month and a bit until BVC commences.

I had expected a little more information to have filtered through from the providers about what time 'it' starts and where I am to go on the first day, after all, I've had the invoice from them for weeks.

Having taken advice from those more learned than me, I've not bothered with much more LLB revision, but have an advocacy book, called 'Devil's Advocate' to read through. Iain Morley writes well, he's entertaining and knowledgeable, which is a novel combination after 6 years of mostly dry, humourless legal manuals. I especially like the pages with just a few words on them because they make you stop and ponder for a moment or two, before reading on some more. It is one of those books where you can loose yourself a little and can be quite surprised that 20 pages have been read without really being aware that you were reading at all. Now, this is different to LLB studies, I had to bribe myself to get through the workload - "5 more pages and a cuppa, 10 more pages and chocolate, write another 250 words before closing your books".

I'm not sure whether I'm looking forward to BVC or not, on the one hand it is an opportunity to learn how law works in real life, on the other hand, it is a lot of money to spend on a course, with very little guarantee of work at the end of it. I'm not going in to figures, others have and it's not healthy.

Although confidence comes with age, there is always that niggling doubt :

Will I be the class thicko? - having to sit there nodding, but thinking, what the hell are they on about.
Will I be the oldest? - sit granny near the front so she can hear you/see you.
Will my bum look big on camera? - no reason why not.
Will I be the least posh? - yes.
Will I get the giggles? - more than likely, particularly if pubs are at all involved.
Will I be excluded? - (in my day it was called expelled) - more than likely if pubs are involved.
Will the tutors like me/respect me? - not if they come to the pub.
Will the other students like me? - yes, if they come to pub.
Will the other students respect me? - not if they come to the pub.

The list goes on bloggers and I've not even got an idea about how I should dress. I know that when we are assessed, we should wear suits, but what about the rest of the time? I can't do white or pale pink, I have an affliction known as 'Latte Chest', it's not serious, but does result in unsightly beige stains on the front of 'girly' tops.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Filthy Lucre

The dawn of realisation is upon me. I will shortly have to pay the first installment of BVC fees and it's not a happy prospect. Money has never been very important to me, it's nice to have a bit, it's awful to have none, but it hasn't been a significant motivation in my career to date. Having said that, I'm now more than a little concerned because I'm going to be in debt to the tune of £13k+ by the time I finish BVC. I work, but will be looking at reducing my hours come August, so what I do earn during BVC will only pay for the usual utility bills etc., hence there may be little prospect of chipping away at the debt over the next two years.

So, today I'm feeling quite depressed about it all and this is a worry because I'm usually a quite an optimistic person.

Going back a few years (well 20 odd if you must), I started a little part-time business to earn a bit of extra cash and the business grew a little and provided me with a reasonable income for many years. I really enjoyed what I did for a living, but due to circumstances beyond my control (foot and mouth disease of all things!), the business very nearly went under and it was a wake up call, perhaps it was time to have a re-think about my career.

My original intention when starting my legal studies, was to become a (hands on) property developer and to carry out my own conveyancing etc.. However, house prices (around my locality) have at least doubled if not trebled within the last 7 years, so this dream may well not be realised, unless of course property prices drop significantly by the time I finish BVC. Conversely, conveyancing charges have become so competitive, that my little money saving idea is not so significant after all.

In between times, I started another little business, which is doing okay and I have a huge advantage in the flexibility that being one's own boss allows, but it is quite a boring job, not very challenging academically and doesn't really 'float my boat' in the way that your own business should.

So, bloggers, this leaves me with the unenviable task of trying to make a new path, one that will be, above all else, a pleasure to travel down, but will also enable me to pay off that bloody BVC loan.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Single parent family

I've acquired lodgers.

The photo isn't very clear, but if you look closely you will see a male blackbird and his baby, near to the 'trunk' of the shrub.

I first saw Daddy blackbird, when he sat on my windowsill looking straight at me through the open window, less than 2ft away. He is a mess, feathers all over the place, thin and disheveled. Being a hard nosed, legal type, I immediately got him some food and took it outside, only to notice baby on the floor hopping around demanding to be fed. Daddy blackbird began stuffing food down baby's throat, before grabbing the odd morsel for himself. I've no idea what's happened to the mother, but she's not around, probably victim to one of the many cats that I've noticed stalking around the garden. Baby is very fat, but child rearing has definitely taken its toll on Dad.

Often, when we are in the garden, he appears and comes so close that you could probably reach out and touch him, it's amazing that he seems to know where to get help.

I've not seen them today and I suspect that he may have taken his affections elsewhere. My neighbour has bought them some special food (worms!) and I've a feeling that he's gone to her because her culinary delights are so much nicer than mine. Seems that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach.

I've had a look at my land law notes and I'm fairly sure that 'the lodgers' have no legal claim to any beneficial interest in my (modest) estate, however a defamation action may follow, I did call him thin and disheveled and he is now threatening me with breach of confidence as well! - it seems I've invaded his privacy by publishing a photo of him and he's certain that the HRA protects him. I did say to him that the HRA only applies to humans, but he mysteriously said "remember Regina v Ojibway, anything is possible in law".

Monday, 7 July 2008


It is six and a bit years since I started LLB and it appears that in order to do well in Bar Vocational Exams, one needs to know a little bit about law - bugger, I knew that there would be a catch somewhere.

I'm always amazed how many 'must do' activities I can find in order to avoid doing any studying: washing, ironing, cleaning windows, paperwork, paying bills, texting friends, checking the oil and water on the car, annoying Barman, annoying Barman a bit more, waving at Barman mowing the lawn, making coffee for Barman mowing the lawn.......

I finally struck a deal with myself -"Barmaid, you may watch the men's Wimbledon tennis final, if, you have, at all times, an open book on your lap and occasionally gaze down at it and read a few words". So, a whistlestop journey of year one, LLB course work ensued. I've a funny feeling that much of what I revised is now obsolete, being six and a bit years old. No worries on the Public and Administrative stuff, as my notes on those subjects were timelessly condensed anyway - 'Judicial review is a thingy that you can do if someone in authority really p!**%s you off', "yep I've got that".

Onto crime now: Theft Act, Criminal Damage, Homicide, Inchoate Offences, Attempts, Assaults - pause to have a smirk at notes written on R v Wilson and R v Brown, show Barman what you are smirking at, who looks faint at the thought of having his wotsits stapled, but quite likes the idea of branding Barmaid's big fat ass, not for any kinky reason you understand, just for the sheer fun of it, if only he could find a branding iron large enough to cope with the momentous task. Pause again because the tennis is really, really good, then realise with dismay that there is a huge gap in Barmaid's notes because sexual offences were not covered, due to a change in the law and her uni being too lazy to update their study materials. But that's ok, Barmaid will just have to have a 'no sex, we're British' policy if she decides to become a criminal barrister.

This week Barmaid will tackle 'Yerp', no, not the continent itself (although she seems to recall from her school History lessons, a little chap with a moustache trying to do just that), just the E.C. law enveloping it. Seem to remember there are lots of Van's involved!

Friday, 4 July 2008


The hairdresser problem has taken hours of research, should really have got it sorted sooner, but commercial Landlord and Tenant wasn't covered in any great detail when I did LLB, so I had to do a crash course in business leases before even attempting to sort hairdresser's problem out. Finally came across a very recent case which may well prove to be extremely helpful.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offer a mediation service for business tenants with problems, I've recommended that my hairdresser gets in touch with them to see if there is possibility for negotiation with the landlord. The ruling in the case I mentioned may prove to be a useful bargaining tool against the landlord and may also, if nothing else, save me from the bubble perm.

Seems a bit unfair that residential tenants can take their claims to tribunal (the LVT), but there is no such facility (that I'm aware of) for business tenants, who of course experience just as many leasehold problems as 'dwellers'. It's the small businesses that struggle to find legal help, because any sort of litigation is often too expensive for them to contemplate.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

All in a days work

When studying for LLB I thought that the amount of different legal subjects covered (along with their respective spin offs) was vast. However, when asked for 'legal' advise by friends and family, it really does make you realise what an enormous subject law is, you can guarantee that anything asked is outside the scope of LLB materials.

At the moment I have three legal conumdrums to explore:

1) The hairdresser's landlord problem mentioned in a previous post.

2) Countryside stewardship (of all things).

3) Dissolving of a company to avoid paying damages.

Problem 2 was straight forward, a look at the 150+ page document covering stewardship schemes available from DEFRA, got that one put to bed pretty sharpish, although I can't say it was the most exciting thing I've ever read and I do deserve a medal for ploughing through it (no pun intended).

Problems 1 and 3 are the most problematic not least because they involve relatively small sums of money, so any legal solution has to be workable within a modest budget and also because they are both slightly different to any case law that I've researched so far.

Problem 3 originally involved a very run-of the-mill, supply of goods and services, small claims case. My friends took a builder to court for sub-standard work done on their house, they won, but he dissolved the (fully solvent) company to avoid paying out. He's now set up again, under a very similar name and has basically stuck two fingers up at my friends. Due to an oversight, the County Court judgment against him didn't show up at Companies House when he dissolved the original company and everyone is saying "it's not my fault" and pointing the finger elsewhere. There's lots of case law on similar stuff, but they all seem to involve insolvency law, not applicable in this case. I will stick with it until something workable transpires.

Problem 1 is difficult because I think my hairdresser has been given incorrect 'proper' legal advise. I really must get down to some research on this one, but landlord and tenant stuff is very convoluted and not an area of law that I'm comfortable with at this stage.

One thing I have learnt, it all takes up so much time.