Rupert Cox: Reflecting on 2017

Rupert Cox (c) Jeremy Long / JCL PHOTOGRAPHY

Rupert Cox (c) Jeremy Long / JCL PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Our columnist reflects on an action packed year

Going out and about in the county as I do on a regular basis I hear from the growing band of Somerset Life readers who now comment on my monthly article. Reassuring; yes, but with a tinge of pressure in that I have to be careful not to be repetitive. This is especially troublesome for the December edition when one can easily fall into the nativity theme like granny slipping harmlessly into another bottle of Baileys during the Queen’s speech!

I will revert to the other standard fayre of December publications and provide a review of 2017, but through the eyes of this rural dweller.

In January I was lucky enough to be selected to play cricket for Great Britain & Ireland Rotary in Christchurch, New Zealand. I say ‘selected’, when the reality is that if you want to play, you can! My 56-year-old creaking bones could proudly hold their own against octogenarian Rotarians from Australia and New Zealand, while struggling to compete with the youthful enthusiasm of those from the Indian sub-continent. That said, not many people can say they have played cricket for their country!

Meanwhile, back at base, the fantastic team putting the Royal Bath & West Show together were beavering away with sponsorship, trade stands, entries, corporate hospitality inquiries and early bird super saver tickets flying out the door.

My job was to trawl around the county pontificating the virtues of our wonderful show at a variety of events from Probus lunches, Rotary suppers and Young Farmer dinner dances, to the wonderfully named Wells Men’s Breakfast Club. With this array of food-fuelled gatherings it is hardly surprising that the much talked about personal trainer came into play keeping me fighting fit for future sporting endeavours.

The third Royal Bath & West Show of my tenure passed off without much alarm, which in itself is a result. All we ever want is for the 135,000 or so visitors to have an enjoyable and entertaining day, stay safe, keep dry and go home happy, which we achieved barring a small scad of summer rain.

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The crazy kids with their BMX bikes and skate boards at the National Adventure Sports Show had similarly fine weather, but then the Christian camping rally, New Wine, arrived in mid-July.

It rained on them in biblical proportions. Not only were they praying for the rain to stop, so were our farmers who faced one of the most challenging wet harvests on record with only those growing maize experiencing record crops grown in ideal conditions.

Just when I thought my weather luck was going to run out, The Dairy Show was blessed with fantastic autumnal sunshine to get everyone smiling again.

Finally to politics! We started the year with an alleged steady hand on the tiller, then an indecisive General Election, no progress on Brexit, culminating in subcutaneous rumblings of another leadership challenge.

The weakness of the pound brought about by such political uncertainty has yielded an increase in milk prices of 30 per cent in 12 months, but the uncertainty of what the promised land might look like is challenging even the most optimistic agriculturalist.

Enough skilled labour, markets not subsumed with tariffs and the future of financial support for farming are the key issues that will ultimately affect not just the prosperity of farming, but the price of food to the consumer. Remember; no farmer, no food!

Merry Christmas!

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Rupert Cox is the CEO of the Royal Bath and West Society. For more from Rupert, follow him on Twitter! @rupert_rbw