Nyköping Banquet

Walder Frey

Walder Frey from Game of Thrones

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

These prophetic words appear in the Bible:  Ecclesiastes 1:9

I am always amused by fans of Cinema and TV who are astounded by shocking and horrific events, especially those who wonder what kind of sick minds the writers must possess to think up such cruelty.

In truth they are probably just good students of history.  While not as immediately bloody, the events of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones remind me of the events in Sweden called the Håtuna games and their dreadful conclusion, the Nyköping Banquet.

I don’t want to give you a detailed lesson in the History of Sweden in the 13th and 14th Centuries.  You can check out the details yourselves with the aid of some online searching.

Suffice to say that King Birger of Sweden was imprisoned in Nyköping dungeon for two years by his brothers the Dukes Valdemar and Eric who visited on their way back from a wedding in 1306 AD.  This coup d’etat was called the Håtuna games.

Birger was reinstated due to intervention from the Kings of Norway and Denmark.  He held a banquet for Christmas 1317 AD on the night of the 10th of December.  There was not enough room in the castle for all the Dukes’ retinues so they were lodged outside the castle in the nearby town.  Fans of the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” are now putting the pieces together.

That night the Dukes were woken up after their drunken revelry by squads of Crossbow men and were escorted to the dungeon.  Birger is said to have thrown the key of the dungeon into the river (and such a key was found in the river many years later).  He starved his two brothers to death.

Breaking the laws of hospitality appears to reap divine vengance.  Fans of Game of Thrones know what happened Walder Frey.  King Birger did not meet so dramatic an end but his actions led to a rebellion that deposed him.  He had to flee Sweden and died in exile in Denmark.

RedWedding-band

Frey crossbow-men disguised as musicians.

Milkageddon

Churns

The European Milk Quota system ends today.

First introduced in April 1984 under the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the Milk Quota has stabilised (or some say stagnated) dairy produce production for 30 years.  This has helped to protect dairy farming incomes, especially for smaller producers.  The measure was to protect the small farmer.

The big dairy companies all over Europe have been gearing up for the explosion in production that is in the offing.  They will be driving sales of dairy products into non-traditional markets.  Have you ever noticed that Chinese and South-Eastern Asian cuisine uses no milk, cream, cheese or butter?  Watch that space!

To win the international game the Irish Dairies need to ramp up production as fast, or faster than their counterparts in countries like Denmark, Poland, UK and France.

In the last year and more, the savvy and efficient Dairy farmer has been gearing up for the end of the quota in a number of ways.

Herd management for instance;  calves are allowed to feed from the cows, production milking is restricted to one milking per day, excess heifers are kept calf-less for longer to keep them dry.  Over quota milk has often ended up in slurry pits.

In the last week every storage container has been filled to bursting point to hold as much production as possible for midnight on 31st March.

In terms of farm management, the larger farmers have been assembling larger dairy platforms accessible to their milking facility, by buying and renting any land adjacent to their parlour.  At the same time they are developing winter feed stocks by acquisition of suitable hay and silage production acreage.

Within the dairy itself they have been investing in new – high intensity – milking equipment.  Automated feeding and milking systems.  Computer databases of the herd, recording age, weight, production, feed regimen, medical history, pedigree, behaviour etc.

The dairy farm of today is a high intensity industrial plant.

It is a long way from the 40 acre mixed farmer who kept a half dozen cows and delivered a couple of churns to the creamery every other day.

But when you have thousands of acres of countryside managed by a handful of industrial farmers, what do you lose?  Community?  Poverty?  A vibrant countryside population?  A low income trap?  Truth is, we will see a lot more cows and a lot less people.  That can make cheap milk a very expensive commodity.

The Sands of Dee: by Charles Kingsley

“O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee”;

The western wind was wild and dank with foam,

And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand,

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see.

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

“Oh! is it weed, or fish, or floating hair–

A tress of golden hair,

A drownèd maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes on Dee.”

They rowed her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea:

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee.