Jeremy Freedman
Jeremy Freedman

Yenem’s Velt: Voos macht a yid?

Photo: J.Freedman
Photo: J.Freedman

As I have already mentioned, this is not our first bucolic episode. 40 years ago we purchased a stone and cob and thatched ‘Old Forge’ with a couple of acres, in mid-Devon, north of Crediton, on the road to Morchard Bishop.

We had a couple of rare-breed heritage ewes. We needed a ram. I read in the local paper that there was to be a September livestock sale at Holsworthy Market; among the beasts on sale were two rams. That Thursday morning I set off in my Saab 95 estate to see if I could buy one of them. My budget was £5.

The September sale was a major, and festive, occasion. Folk from isolated farms across West and North Devon were congregating. The little town was rocking. The market was packed. The standing room around the auction ring was supplemented by temporary seating on towering scaffolds. I thought I was early, yet when I arrived the arena was almost full.

I climbed up the bleachers, almost to the top, before I found a seat. I sat back to enjoy the show. While pigs and poultry were being sold from pens in covered sheds, the open-air auction ring would deal with cattle, then sheep.

First the bulls, then the bullocks. Cows with calves afoot, cows on their own, heifers, then calves on their own. Sheep, rams and lambs from all the commercial breeds. After a couple of hours we reached the lesser breeds. Finally, the rams that I coveted.

I bid for the first, a glorious 6-horned specimen. The bidding rose in 25p increments. When it reached a fiver I dropped out. He went for £7. The second ram came in, a little past his prime but nicely marked. I was on the edge of my seat, nervous with anticipation, I didn’t want to go home empty-handed. Fortunately the rivalry was less intense, the hammer came down at £4.50, the buyer was me.

Way down below, in the pit, in front of the auctioneer, there’s a man in a white coat holding a clipboard. He knows most of the farmers around the ring, and during the course of the morning he has rarely called out for a name. Now he eyes me up and shouts:

“Name?”

“Freedman!”

“Freeman??”

“Freedman. With a ‘D’!!”

“Freeman???”

I nod, with resignation. It felt like recantation.

Moments later a tap on my shoulder. I half turn my head. Behind me to my right, in the row above, a small, rosy-cheeked, rotund woman in headscarf and greatcoat. In those days she would have been known as a “Devon Dumpling”, I wouldn’t dare use the term today.

Did you say “Freeman?”, she asks.

“No, Freedman”, I answer irritably.

“Freedman. That’s not an English name!”

“Here we go”, I muttered to myself.

I swivelled round to confront her full on.

“OK. What sort of name do you think it is?”

“It’s an unsere name”

That threw me.

“How do you know about unsere names?”

“I’m Jewish, I’m from the East End. I came here with the Land Army in 1941, I fell in love with the farmer’s son, I married him, I’ve lived here ever since.”

She and her husband kindly helped me load the ram.

Today, we live outside a village where a Jewish couple own the manor, there’s a Jewish fellow at the far end of the village with a helicopter on his back lawn, and the churchwarden’s husband’s great-uncle was a famous Jewish athlete…….

You can run, but you can’t hide.

About the Author
Family Lawyer in Hampstead and Smallholder in Bedfordshire. Keeps sheep, goats, poultry, Shabbat and kosher.
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