Friday, 29 April 2011

Lambing Cheviots in the Cheviots 2011

This is the fourth year Moss and I have lambed these white woolly characters on these steep hills. We soon learnt on our first year lambing south country cheviots that they are wild and yes, woolly too. They needed to be treat with the utmost respect if you expected to receive any respect back from them. Never look them in the eye and be firm but kind.

Well! All that has worked well to date but this year?? Blimey!

I did report that I had been invited to innoculate these sheep prior to lambing and that they were fit, dangerously fit. Well they still are - fit - dangerously so.

They are so kittle and skittish, even the kindest can easily be worked up into a frenzy just by looking at them. It feels like this year they truly are a challenge.

The weather has been awesome, we are still experiencing sunny days albeit accompanied with a cold wind. There is grass everywhere although recent hard frosts in the early mornings have nipped the grass back just a tad.

The sheep are tremendously fit and kind with it. So kind they are stealing lambs off other sheep. Those that haven't lambed are so hormonal and motherly they are preying on anything which is lambing. A great deal of concentration is needed to ensure nothing gets away with a lamb which still has a belly full in her.

Usually lambing out on the open hill the problem of thieving is minimised due to the fact the sheep have a vast area to live on and can head off to a spot of peace and quiet to have her lambs. This year that isn't working too well and the thieves are on the prowl, causing havoc with gimmers (first lambers), they are more than capable of beating the actual mother off the lamb and claiming it as their own, with the consequence that the mother no longer wants it back as it smells differently. Oh boy! have they kept me on my toes?!

The ewes have managed to throw the book at me this year, just about everything you could imagine could happen at lambing time has. The thieving obviously, prolapses, mastitis prior to lambing, mastitis after lambing, hungry lambs, bunged up tails, rabbit holes (vanishing lambs), lazy lambers (due to the heat), two very difficult lambings to sort, 'drunken' lambs - you name it, they seem to have tried it. And on top of all that the sheep are wild. I have now got two gimmers away without lambs, both didn't take kindly to being handled, both smashed pens ro finally escape, neither looked back for their lambs - stuff them! there is always a kindly soul in need of a lamb somewhere.

I may well be some sort of masochist but I am actually enjoying the challenge. Moss is learning to be steadier (if that's possible), they weather is a great help; there have been very few groans of despair. There is no dysentry - yippee!! I have had sheep disapear over walls, through fences and smashed their way through rails but it's all good fun ....... honest!

Kale is ocming along nicely, learning to herd the hill and remain with the bike not chase off after sheep, although he did get run over which caused the heart to miss a beat but all was well. Moss is in his element and like myself has risen to the challenge. I am tired and looking forward to getting shed in (gathering lambers nearer to hand), which will enable a bit of a lie in and hopefully give me some energy to socialise in the evenings and catch up with some freinds. The car is still off the road although is now at a local garage.

All in all everything is going well, a great variety of 'problems', but then that saves you getting bored with the same old monotony and keeps the grey cells ticking. I have to say though wild sheep and thieving don't mix too well. My god, they really are wild this year!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Lambing update

Picture the scene....... The laptop is precariously perched on top of a fence post, dongle tied to the fence rails and I am endeavouring to keep you up to date with the goings on of the lambing. It's lunch time, I've grabbed a quick bite and am en route to moving some twins, the bike is ladden with Moss, camera, shirt, jumper, jacket as well as one or two vital lambing supplies - oh! and then there is the laptop!! It will find itself safely hidden once I'm finished here and I'll pick it up on my return from shifting the twins.

It beggars belief but at long last we are having a spring, an early spring at that. Wow!! it's wonderful. I have no idea what the temperatures are but it is hot (although a cool wind), we are having sunshine through out the days which sees shep heading off after breakfast in a T shirt or vest - tremendous.

The first run of the morning I'm still clad in wellies and leggings. Sad I know but it is quite cool, some mornings there is a touch of frost, there is also the issue of wet dogs. Teh dogs pick up the dew on their coats and when they sit on the back of the bike behind me I find myself getting a very damp arse - not that pleasant really. Have to say mind that by the time I'm heading in for breakfast many layers have been discarded and I am only too ready to get shot of the wellies and leggings.

So? How's the lambing going? Well - very well. Okay there are problems, dead lambs, lambs not sucked, lambs to set on, thieving ewes causing mayhem. But hey! when the weather is good the problems don't seem to be a problem. Not finding yourself battling with wet and cold the spirits are lifted and all seems manageable.

The countryside is well forward, much grass to be had. The tiny violas are flowering out on the hill, last year they were trying to flower as I was about to leave the lambing, that makes them three weeks early on the year. I saw a fledgling thrush yesterday - blimey! Not out on the hill however, it was down in-bye at the steading (farmyard).

I had to stop the other evening on my return from the last lap of the hill to watch some pheasants. They had me in stitches. There were five cock pheasants and two hens. Obviously on of the cock birds was the boss and the two girls were his own little harem, this meant there were feathers flying as he strutted his stuff trying to ward off the other suitors. Life got slightly fraught for him, obviously out numbered he found one bird getting far too close to his girls and a humdinger of a bird fight commenced, this opened the door for one of the other male birds to dash in, serve the female and dash out again - it was so comical to watch, especially as when he dashed out again he didn't stop, just kept running across the field whilst the remaining birds continued fighting. That's nature for you!!

It would seem at the moment that there may be less twins than usual on here, that would be normal with other hill scanning results but as these sheep aren't scanned then we have to wait and see what arrives and it is early days yet, there may well be more twins arrive as time goes on.

So all in all life is okay, last year my tan reached up to my wrists, this year it is going to reach to the armpits. What a pleasure to lamb in weather such as this. Anyone who wants to whinge about the lambing this year mebbes ought to book themselves in to see a physchiatrist or consider retiring.

Oh! my faithful old car is off the road, no more trotting back to the North Tyne to see what's going on! There was a huge pool of oil lying beneath it after my last sortee over the border. Hence the reason I'm perched on top of a fence post with this laptop, no car to drive to a lay by. I have got it booked into a local garage and hopefully it will get fixed. Have to say I feel slightly embarrased, the garage I use at home is used to my rust bucket which smells and probably looks like a dog kennel, not too sure what the garage up here will think about it. Wonder if I could find someone else to take it in for me??

Well, must go and shift a handful of twins before it is time to head on the last lap of the hill again.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Dongling again

Quick update on the lambing -

Eventually I have got around to getting the dongle up and running and find myself once again parked up in strange places where there is mobile phone reception, there are many high hills around here and reception isn't that easy to find. Not to worry, I can cope with the strange looks I get from passing traffic!

The night lambing is getting through. The 12th April saw Shep once again heading back into the North Tyne but not before having been in the Rede to gather sheep. It was a long gather, taking three hours. The dogs were happy but Shep was tired - aah! Managing a couple of hours kip I needed to visit a friend before returning over the border.

The shepherd had been very kind as I'd warned him I may well be late for my shift, as indeed I was by an hour, these were special circumstances, my visit to my friend was very important, for once more important than sheep and fortunately the shepherd understood this dilema. Life is all about give and take, 12 hour shifts don't exist, the shift will be the duration it takes which is generally longer than allowed, that way there is some lea way should it be necessary to shoot off and deal with something of importance. As happened in this instance.

The following day the hill ewes started to lamb, no problems, fortunately, as I was so tired having only managed 2/3 hours sleep in the past 36, the ewes were gracious and didn't cause me further grief.

The night of the 13th I was ordered to go to bed - my god! I must have been grumpy!!

In all fairness the shed is well lambed out now and the hill is starting to get on with the job, day and night are beginning to mingle into one. The shepherd obviously thought I wasn't going to be much use for the job if I didn't get some sleep.

It was bliss.......... A night in bed !

So to date there are a number of lambs running on the hill. The crunchylaw are the only ewes to be lambed in a enclosure and the plan is to gather them tomorrow night (which will be the 15th) Shep has been putting mineral buckets out all over the hill ground and checking all is well. The shed sheep will find themselves in the pens any day soon and see what is/is not in lamb (none of these sheep are scanned), there are less than 30 at the moment and there is no doubt that a few of those appear to be running light (not in lamb).

The weather is still holding out, cool wind but dry and still any amount of grass. There have been one or two prolapses amongst the field sheep but no bother to date out on the hill. Everything seems to be going very well - long may it last!

I saw a leveret (baby hare), unfortunately it was dead, but hey! Still pretty in a dead sort of way!! Yes! I even took a photo, but can't share it with you until I work out what the gremlins are up to on this blog - y'know, the ones which make pictures vanish and just leave a red cross in their place - them gremlins! Did I hear a sigh of relief? Do I take it no one wants to see a dead baby hare??

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Night Lambing

Well, Shep is once again away up in the Borders of Scotland doing the fortnights stint of night lambing, which will be followed by a month of hill lambing.

For the first time since I’ve been doing the night shift on this farm I have opted to reside here. There is an empty cottage which I have the use of for the duration of my hill lambing, it is sparsely furnished but comfortable enough for a week or so. The cost of diesel for the car, 2 hours travelling back and forth every day to get home, lack of sleep, the water company relaying pipes outside home and a desire to get on with a ‘project’ all added up to me being sensible for once and staying put.

Being sensible has never been a strong point of mine; however, vivid memories of last year came to the fore. I probably over did it, I probably became over tired, in fact I turned into some sort of zombie, managing to drive myself on through sheer determination but doing myself no favours in the process. This year will be different!

I turned up for the start of the lambing with the car laden. It never fails to amaze me how much stuff is needed; it is almost like moving house. It’s not just a matter of clothes, of which I really need very few, as there is a washing machine, there’s a couple of bags of dog food needed also. Plates, dishes, food, radio, alarm clock, bedding, books to read, a bottle or two of port (or whisky, or a can of beer or whatever might be needed for those occasions when it is necessary to chill!) Still I manage to forget things. I’ve returned home twice so far in the first ten days, a dishcloth was required to help with washing the dishes (unfortunately they don’t do it themselves), kindling sticks to light the fire with (a dumpy bag full of old fence posts are at my disposal for the duration of my stay, mebbes I ought to have just brought an axe back). My second journey home saw me returning with salt, don’t use it a vast amount but tomatoes just aren’t the same without a pickle salt on them.

On both occasions when returning home I did so to do some work in the area, catch up with the other half and collect my mail. Both times saw me comatose the following day as I caught up on my sleep.

And so? How is the lambing going?

To date things haven’t been too bad at all. The sheep are generally fit and milky, the weather is good and there is grass everywhere, even back home folks are saying it’s a long time since they can recall so much grass so early in the season – a huge help, keeping ewes and lambs on a rising plane. I’ve even stopped feeding the hill sheep.

Once daybreak dawns the shed sheep are let out into a field near at hand to lamb outdoors during the day. Shep then heads to the hill, I feed the hill ewes with a pickle (little bit) sheep cake and check all is well with them, once they commence lambing they no longer receive their morning feed. This year I’ve knocked them off the feed a good few days before they’re due to lamb, there is so much grass available for them and the weather was very kind at the time, almost like summer, we really had a heat wave, I was even able to head to the hill at 7.30am in shirt sleeves, by the time I was heading back to the steading (farmyard) I could easily be stripped down to a T shirt. Tremendous weather for the time of the year, long may it last. Just a shame I had to go to bed during the day!

The graveyard shift is a truly anti social one and I’m really not too sure I’m suited to it. Anti social can come pretty natural to myself, always been a bit of a loner and content with my own company but there does come times when you crave human company. What does not come naturally is being awake during the night and asleep during the day, it also seems to get harder as I get older. I used to manage to keep going during the day and only crash out on the days when the weather was so atrocious you were pleased to crawl into your bed, I find it ain’t as easy to burn the candle at both ends anymore – quite frustrating really!

So why do nights? There are plenty of day lambings available.

I’ve already stated that I’m naturally anti social but that ain’t really the answer, the truth is I do not like shed lambings, as many shepherd will tell you ‘any fool can lamb in a shed’. There are many reasons I don’t like shed lambing, it isn’t natural for the sheep for one, many of them wouldn’t lamb during the hours of darkening anyhow, their natural instinct is to wait until first light so that by the coming night fall their lambs will be footed, sucked and safer from predators. However, in a shed underneath artificial light the sheep will continue to lamb, just as hens will lay throughout the dark winter days if their henhouses are lit – same thing.

The biggest drawback with having sheep housed is they are far too accessible. Far too often they are not given enough time to lamb. The natural process is speeded up by someone pouncing on them and pulling the lambs out, the sheep is then dragged to a small pen and her wet lambs put in beside her. Having done any amount of day lambings I eventually opted for doing nights, I got sick and tired of over enthusiastic staff and farmers needing to be ‘on the ball’ and forever lambing the sheep. I have often said and heard many others say the same, that anyone allowed to lamb in a shed ought to have lambed on the hill first, they would use their heads rather than their brawn and allow nature more time. At night I am able to give the sheep the time they need without interference from outside influences, therefore whether nights and I are compatible or not that is the way it will go for the time being.

Don’t get me wrong, not every farm follows the principles of pounce and pull but I personally have worked on too many that have. There is a need to assist on occasions, even I have to pounce and assist a ewe but I prefer to wait until she needs that assistance, give her time and see what the outcome is likely to be rather than interfere prematurely.

In actual fact there seems to be a higher percentage of sheep requiring assistance when they are lambing in a shed than if they were to lamb outdoors. The sheep on this farm are fortunate in that they get out during the day to stretch their legs, many are housed 24/7. Every time a sheep has to be caught up it upskittles (upsets) the rest, they can all get chased around a bit and knocked around by one another, there can often be some right peculiar mal presentation of lambs amongst those which are lambed in a shed.

There is one positive with lambing in sheds, anyone who gets two or three years under their belts lambing large numbers of sheep (1,000+) in sheds will have a pretty good grounding of just about everything that can go wrong.

The other half was once brave enough to stand in and be my ‘student’ on a farm many years ago. A farm I had lambed on for many years which always managed to employ veterinary students for the duration of the lambing found they couldn’t acquire any students on this particular year and so the other half stepped in. There were 1,500 – 2,000 sheep went through the shed in a span of three and a half weeks, we often had upwards of a hundred sheep a night lambed although fortunately there were some quieter nights.

He says himself he learnt a hell of a lot, experienced more that many wouldn’t experience over many years, he also said he’d been there, done it, got the T shirt and had no intention of doing it again! To my amazement he also admitted that it was hard work........ did he think I went to work every night to sleep in the straw??

Anyhow, the lambing has gone relatively well so far, unfortunately there have now been five kebs (premature/aborted) lambs out on the hill, three of these I have been able to rectify and the ewes are running around with a lamb at foot and as proud as punch in the process. I’m looking forward to the hill lambing starting, I look forward to heading out there every morning and checking all is well.

The dogs and I take a wander in the afternoons or evening, fresh air after I’ve been crashed out in bed and they’ve been barred up in the kennel. Spring is springing. We often head down the burn, I like water, it is tranquil and relaxing. To date I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the dipper, nor have I had the woodpecker tapping on the telegraph pole beside the cottage. I have seen celandines, primroses and a tatty old hawthorn coming into leaf. Oystercatchers and a pair of mallard spotted on the burn. Rooks have been mobbing a pair of buzzards, true aerial combat – quite a sight. I saw the kestrel for the first time today. The other morning I saw three roe deer out on the hill – is it possible they could be the same three that have been out on the hill the last few years? Badgers have been out and about at night and I have had my usual conversation with a tawny owl during the hours of darkness. Bats are to be seen on darkening and daybreak. Grey squirrels have been seen although I’d prefer they’d be reds. Jackdaws are nesting in the eaves of the lambing shed, their twigs making a mess on the strawed floor of the shed. Ravens and crows aren’t too pleasing a sight, they can be hard on lambs, having a fetish for eyes and tongues, however two ravens gave a tremendous aerial display one day, I’m presuming it had something to do with courtship. Then there were the hares one morning, which I’ve never seen since, but did enjoy the spectacle whilst it lasted.

The countryside is coming to life and it is a pleasure to see.

I have to say I don't know whether I have ever seen quite so much grass at this time of the year, we are definitely having an early spring and it is appreciated.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Gremlins on the blog

Thanks to Kev the farmer for drawing to my attention the fact that the photos are missing on a couple of the past postings. I don't know why and I don't know how to solve it, have tried putting them back in but that don't work. My time is at a premium at the moment so apologies but for the time being there's nowt I can do.

Hopefully once I get settled in to lambing during the day I can find time to rectify the problem, if anyone has any tips for resolving the issue please feel free to share them.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Away lambing

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Shep's away in them Scottish borders again, having 'fun' with them wild woolly Cheviot sheep. The hill ewes here on the 6th April waiting for their breakfast. Can't say they really need feeding, there is so much grass this spring and they are so fit in themselves anyhow. They've only been getting a bite for a fortnight so you can't really say they've been spoilt. They will be due to commence lambing on the 17th but do generally come in a few days sooner.

In the meantime Shep is on night duty. The 'field' ewes are lambing and are housed in a shed overnight, it is Shep's responsibility to ensure all is well during the hours of darkness. To date all has been fairly well, although I did feel sorry for one ewe one night who was held at my mercy for two hours, I honestly thought I was going to be beat and the thought ran through my head to raise the shepherd from his bed. Fortunately perseverance paid off and the ewe was finally rid of her rotten lamb and even better she went on and lived - yipee! The highlight of my night shift is when morning dawns and dogs and I head to the hill to feed the hill ewes before we retire for the day.
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I say dogs as young Kale is with us this year as seen above he enjoys his mornings to the hill also. Moss is of course top dog and lambing dog, Kale is in many ways a hindrance, however, he has to come with me and has to keep learning. Who knows? Next year he might find himself the lambing student instead of just the hanger on!

Kale turned a year old on the 5th April, what a day that was! Not because of the dogs birthday, such things just fly by unnoticed, no, it was a pretty lousy morning run. The weather was atrocious, fortunately mild with it. Howling gales and driving rain - awful. The first cut of sheep I went to I found a ewe standing over a keb (aborted lamb), same on the second cut of sheep and the third, I hardly dared head to the last cut but all seemed well. Two sheep were with their dead premature lambs, the other lamb had a great big ugly black backed seagull for company and no ewe anywhere to be seen, the seagull was having a great feast managing even to hold the Ravens off - nasty beast!

My humour was failing, rain running down my neck, sheep to pen up ready to set something on to. I found myself taking a different route to usual around the hill and was aghast when reaching a hill top and looking back to sheep which I had already fed I noticed they weren't there. I had left them in shelter from the elements, away from the wind and driving rain and they had gone, every last one of them. In their place was a horse and rider merrily cantering backwards and forwards.

The quad was fired up as was I and the pair of us shot off at a rate of knots in an attempt to head the horse and rider off, we succeeded and joined up with them just before they left the hill ground. I was polite, the girl looked terrified (not surprising when you see a quad flying at speed from a far distance but gaining on you all the time). I don't expect I will be seeing a horse out on the hill for the remaining duration of my lambing, I truly hope not anyhow or I may not be quite so civil the next time.

Fortunately the 6th April was a better day, the two lambs set on the day previously to the ewes which had kebbed are full and happy and away out. I saw my first swallow of the season - yipee! I also sat and watched some hares for a good long while.
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It was a grand sight to behold, hares charging around like only hares can.
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Seven of the little brown devils in total, charging and scooting around one another, boxing and jumping. Took me back to my youth as there were many hares living where I lived as a youngster but I rarely get the chance to enjoy the sight these days.
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Distant shots which I am amazed came out.
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The first day this lambing time that I have carried my camera and I was lucky enough to see this sight. I had to get on, needing to head to home to sort some sheep for the elderly sheep keeper. Maybe tomorrow I'll have more time and the hares might even come closer, who knows? I hope to share the lambing with you if possible but at the moment have not managed to work out Internet access, also haven't had the time or energy to write anything. However, there are posts which have been queued up and you'll never notice I'm missing should I not manage to get better organised.

Friday, 8 April 2011

8th April 2011

Well I'm trotting up into Scotland every night to do my night lambing.

A shed with cheviot ewes housed in it all expectantly waiting to become mothers. Some have already achieved their goal, there are a few in the pens waiting until morning (weather permitting) to be loaded into a trailer and taken to the fields where there are a good number more already grazing away, the young lambs either lying back sleeping or following close to their mothers sides, older lambs charging around and playing, getting into lambie mischief as only lambs can, their mothers bleating to call them back to the safety of their sides.

The night shift of the 8th April commences differently to all others.

Usually on arrival at the farm the first thing I do is walk into the shed and check what is going on, what has gone on during the day and what might be going to go on shortly. In other words, is anything lambing at the moment, what has lambed since I was last here and is anything looking like she is imminent. I will meet up with the shepherd somewhere along the lines, he may be in the shed sorting something out or I'll meet him in the yard outside. I'll be brought up to date with any problems which may be lying in the pens and a 'hand over' of duties will commence. Often, if things seem quiet, a cup of tea back at 'my' cottage will be the order of the day and the pair of us will have a crack before he retires for the night and my 'working day' commences.

The 8th April is different. It is highly unlikely that I will see the shepherd. There may be a note left, or there may be a 'phone call received, he may well call in at the cottage fleetingly to pass on some important information but he most definitely will not be found in the shed.

Ten years on and yet still he cannot bring himself to come near that shed on the night of the 8th April. Fortunately the ewes all lamb outside during the day, out in the fresh air where nature goes about her business and life busies itself on, they do however come into the safety of the shed upon darkening and settle down in warmth and comfort.

So what's the problem?
What's the significance of the shed on the 8th April?
Ten years ago was the year of 2001. So? Well in 2001 there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in this country. The result was many, many cloven hoofed animals were slaughtered, many of which did not have the disease.

8th April 2001 saw this farm have all it's livestock compulsory slaughtered. Men in white boiler suits and face masks took over and wiped out 300 years of breeding lines of Cheviot sheep on this particular farm. The farm came under the classification of being contiguous (a word which many of us had never come across until 2001, a word many of us looked up in the dictionary). Basically the farm fell under a 3km radius of infected premises and so had to be killed out.

The hill sheep were gathered in off the hills where they roamed freely on the morning of the 8th, run into the sheep pens and slaughtered. They were 8 days off lambing. The field sheep were next on the list, run into the pens, some with lambs at foot, some with new born lambs, some which lambed down as they were slaughtered. Regardless all were killed.

It was a long, stressful day but it wasn't over. The shepherd had laid the law down, the carcases were to be removed the same day, everything was to be slaughtered and removed off the premises there and then. Many had found themselves being left with piles of carcases until the next day, wagons moving in twenty four hours later to remove the carnage, this was not going to happen on this farm.

Evening was drawing in and still the slaughtering went on, by this time the slaughter teams had moved into the shed, the shed which I lamb in. The cattle pens are integrated into this shed and it was the turn of these cattle to meet the humane killer. Cows and young calves were herded into the shed, men with white suits had them terrified, the bellowing of cattle calling for their calves in the melee, the fear of the noise of guns firing and the smell of the blood had the cattle stirred up into a state of panic.

The men(including the shepherd I lamb for) that had cared for these beast were on hand, caring for them to the end as they quite literally drove them to slaughter. Each one was loaded into the cattle crush, shot and dragged out of the shed whilst the next waited her turn. Tempers flared between those who cared for the animals and those sent in to shoot them, there was often a lack of understanding of stockmanship with those who were on the killing teams. The shepherd has recalled how he brought his stick down in a fit of temper, it narrowly missed the man in whites head but he did not care, he had to get his point over somehow, he wanted his animals in his care treated with respect, the respect they deserved.

It was close on midnight when the last wagon left the premises, when the floodlights were switched off, when the men in white departed. A long day, a painful day, a harrowing day, a devastating day.

All the shepherd was left with was silence, bloodstains and memories. Memories which linger to this day, memories which still prevent the shepherd from entering the lambing shed on the night of the 8th April.

I wasn't there, I didn't know the farm in 2001, I'd never met the stock, although I did know of the shepherd. I have spent many hours listening to him recall that awful day and the events afterwards. The confirmation that none of the stock had foot and mouth. The silence. The emptiness. The anger. The despair. The effort to find original bloodlines. The restocking. The countless days of herding to get the sheep hefted onto strange ground.

I could go on for ever, as in many ways it is never ending. I often wonder if anyone could possibly understand. They were just animals, they are bred for the meat chain anyhow, so why should it have caused so much grief?

I can't explain. I would rabbit on for ever and not feel that I can get the point over. I often think that unless you were actually involved, were faced with the devastation and destruction, as this man was and as I myself was, then you couldn't really understand. I do know that time is a healer, I also know that memories hold strong.

There are many, many people out there that have their dates and their memories all linked with 2001 but I don't know that many could understand.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Luck on my side

Just a day or two prior to Shep disappearing away lambing I found myself heading east to Alnwick for an opticians appointment. It was the first appointment of the day and went smoothly, I can still see, which is always a big help!

On arrival in the town fire engines, police and ambulance were screeching their way out in the direction in which I had come, I was thankful my car was parked up and that I wasn't trying to pull over on the road somewhere to allow them to go about their duties without being hindered by traffic.

Appointment over, quick spot of shopping then I ambled my way to Amble on the coast, just a few miles away, only to find my friend I had intended visiting was not in, I turned the nose of the car for home and off I trundled. There were cormorants sitting on flotsam in the estuary as I departed the coast, I was aware the daffodils were in full bloom, although the show at Warkworth Castle was a day or two from being at their best. The grassy ramparts at the castle are usually a vastness of yellow bloom and they will be yet but I wont be seeing them.

Heading back over the tops from Alnwick I passed police at the scene of an accident, a car was being strapped onto a breakdown truck, it looked fairly mangled. Probably the reason all the emergency services were leaving the town as I had entered earlier, how fortunate, as this must have quite literally happened minutes from me having passed the spot.

A few miles further on my journey as I was travelling over the tops towards Rothbury I had to park my car up and get out to speak to a man.
"Good morning" I said
"Morning" came his reply "are you alright?"
"Aye, grand. Well, that is until you started flashing at me - not good for a lass that y'know!"
Fortunately my tongue in cheek pun went down the way I had intended and the police officer laughed. I felt slightly more relaxed.

I had been trundling along, minding my own business, viewing the scenery as I went when I had become aware of a police car behind me. Umm,, I was slightly nervous to say the least. Why is it police cars make one nervous? Probably because we know we're in the wrong.

I was aware I wasn't wearing my seat belt, which is a requirement by law in this country. Umm. Now I could slip it on but then that would look pretty obvious so I just nonchalantly trundled along in the hope the police man was enjoying a Monday morning run out in the countryside and not actually looking for trouble. My ploy seemed to work for a mile or two but then.... the blue lights started flashing. I quickly looked in all mirrors and through all windows, it was definitely me - not another soul on the road, no doubting it at all, it was I who was being requested to pull over. Umm!

Once stationary I bounced out of the car and walked along to his and as already stated the ice was broken and we went about the business of sorting the problem. There was obviously going to be one, police don't stop you to ask directions or discuss the pleasantries of the weather. I did think I knew what the problem was going to be and couldn't see a way out of this one, my mind was already trying to recall how much the one the spot fine would be and would I receive penalty points on my license also?

The police officer went on to say "Now it may have been my eyesight (I stifled a laugh, having just been to the opticians this tickled my peculiar sense of humour), but when you passed me back there at the accident I thought your tax disc looked odd"

Oh! I hadn't expected this. Tax disc? now it's not long since I was at the post office renewing the tax disc so that ought to be all alright. I trotted along to the passenger door and opened it with the added embarrassment of shopping falling out onto the ground. Once I'd dealt with the wayward shopping I reached in for the tax disc.

Your tax disc is meant to be secured to the inside of the windscreen, well mine had been, admittedly with insulating tape but it was there. However, it had taken a mind of its own and was no longer on the window, I found it lying on the dashboard, where it was obviously slowly making its way downhill towards the foot well. I do recall having this problem with a police man once before!

All was well, tax disc was the correct colour, no other problems, police officer apologised for his eyesight (which almost saw me suggest a good opticians, fortunately I thought better of it - dont push your luck!), we discussed the car accident, how the driver had lost control, flipped over a fence and rolled the car but was unscathed, both decided we were having a good spell of weather at the moment then uttered our farewells and departed.

I take it this had been a warning, the police officers eyesight was an excuse, he was obviously a very jovial policeman and not wanting too much paperwork on a Monday morning. I made sure I put my seat belt on before I drove away, best not to push your luck too much!