To escape the gravitational pull of a farm is not easy. One tends to settle into a daily or weekly routine and it is very difficult to break that up and create enough time to get away.

In my case, much of my time is taken up by the daily task of looking around 2,000 sheep and 200 head of cattle spread out over quite a large geographic area (my farm is really a series of blocks of accommodation land all several miles apart).

But August is a low key time of year for lookering, with the sheep all shorn of their wool, lambs treated for fly strike prevention, and the cattle all settled on their blocks of autumn grazing. On the arable side of things, harvest this year had been early and the grain was safely stowed in the barn, as was all the hay and most of the straw. Even my stubble turnips were sown.

So it was that, with the farm so quiet, I took the rash decision to accompany my wife to London for 48 hours of theatre, art, and her birthday dinner. What could possibly go wrong?

We had barely boarded the train for Victoria before the ‘phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a call from the agent who sells my cattle for me. My steers would have to be slaughtered “this week” and not “next week,” as had been planned, because there were now no other slots for organic slaughter days before some of my steers went over 30 months of age and therefore lost their organic premium. My train journey consisted of tense telephone conversations with the man I’d left in sole charge of the farm about where he could find help to muster the cattle from a variety of scattered locations in time to load them onto a lorry immediately upon my return.

In London, as we approached the theatre my phone rang again. It was a farming neighbour from whom I buy some straw. Could I ensure that I baled his straw “tomorrow” if at all possible otherwise it would get wet and then might have to be turned? While my wife enjoyed a solitary gin and tonic I spent the interval on the street begging my local contractor to change his plans for the following day to include baling my neighbour’s straw.

Our visit to an art show the following day was interrupted by a call which informed me that a shared water supply had sprung a leak and the pressure had dropped to the point were there was no water to my cattle troughs or three neighbouring houses. While my wife marvelled at Picasso’s prolific output in 1932, I marvelled at how scarce water engineers had become in 2018.

And so our trip continued. A meal interrupted by a text to say that six of my sheep were in a neighbour’s garden. A visit to a clothes shop cut short by an indignant householder ringing me to claim that my cattle – in their eagerness to sample her runner beans – had leant on her garden wall and pushed off the top row of bricks and “what was I going to do about it?”

And they wonder why farmers don’t get out more.