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Under the Rope

Clive Venables

"A sideways look at fifty years of farming."

Seen through the cloudy and cracked mirror of retrospection, our lives are more journeying through relationships than places, through happenings not histories, more what took place on the train than the destination. More poetry than prose.

My journey through late twentieth century farming, from suburban austerity dominated Nottingham, through post-colonial Africa to present day Dartmoor and the French Pyrenees was both eggshell strewn and diamond blessed. Time widens the cracks and beneath the bravado lies a fear that the giants and dwarfs of my journey might slip away like salt through dry fingers.

To the giants go the first falling snowflakes from a black December sky, the red African sinking Kalahari sun, the husky welcoming bleat of a new-born lamb, the joy filled leap of brown river trout and the smoking winter luxury of wood warmed houses.

To the dwarfs.... mostly we passed unknowingly like boats on a dark sea.

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The author is one of a rare breed in that he is a first generation farmer. Armed with little more than self-confessed optimism, the company of angels, a stubborn determination not to fail and driven from an early age by family tragedy, he recounts in a sometimes poetic, generally amusing and always conversational style the characters, places, circumstances and struggles that have way marked his journey.
Principally this book has the late twentieth century U.K. farming scene as its canvas. On route to his present Dartmoor farm home and Pyrenean mountain retreat, he worked for eighteen months on a religious community and spent time in central and southern Africa.