So where were they yesterday, I should like to know, when I was clambering ungracefully in and out of stream beds in the pouring rain, feet slipping out of my shoes and mud plastering my shins.
A pair of underpants descending from the heavens would have been very welcome but, of course, when you don’t need men…even Supermen…they are tripping you, wanting cups of tea and wondering where you have put the screwdriver last seen in their possession.
When you do need them they are in the loo.
I had gone up to the building site to have a quiet think about what to do about the area below the pool….I would like to look down on flowering trees, but have to take their future height into account if not to damn myself to scooping out leaves for ever after.
The pink fleshed guava was dropping fruit wholesale, so I was filling my ancient Asda shopping bag when a car pulled in behind me.
It was the owner of the goat farm further down the valley, with his wife and family….they had called in to tell me that one of my sheep was loose on the road down towards their place…and that they had found her lamb in the ditch further up.
They had taken the lamb and put it just inside the gates to the house but they could not catch the mother.
As I went down the hill the heavens opened and the dogs rushed ahead to shelter only to come to an abrupt halt at the clump of poinsettia by the gate.
There was the lamb – a little tricoloured chap clearly just born – tucked in underneath, so I thought I’d best take him indoors first, putting an old towel in a cardboard carton to make a bed and shutting him in the office, safe from canine curiosity.
Now for mother.
It’s a long walk on a stony path and it feels distinctly longer in the rain, but I could see the ewe ahead searching along the stream edge and then had a horrible thought that perhaps she had had twins so started loooking out carefully as I walked on.
I was in luck…she did not move away as I reached her…so I made a fatal error…I did not get her on the move back up to the house immediately.
I found where she had escaped, and got down into the stream to see if there was any sign, any trace, of a lamb on the banks.
Wet, dirty, but satisfied that there was not I climbed back up to the path….to find that the ewe had disappeared.
Then followed a game of ‘now you see me now, you don’t’ as she emerged from the bamboos on the other side, perched on a heap of decaying wood, only to plunge back into the bamboos as I reached the summit, which, inevitably, crumbled under me.
Into the stream, out of the stream…in the bamboos, out of the bamboos….tantalisingly close but never quite in reach.
What I wanted to do was to drive her up the path…but getting her on to it was something else.
Then, a brainwave. What about my bra? If she let me get close again I could chuck it round her neck and haul her onto the path so I struggled out of a wet T shirt, removed the bra and struggled back into the T shirt.
Bra at the ready I stalked the ewe.
Into and out of the stream….in and out of the bamboos……and I got her!
She was off like a rocket….stage one (me) dropped off early in the flight. Stage two (bra) was discarded half way up the hill to be recovered as I plodded up in her wake.
I was worried that she would hare past the gates but found her waiting for me just inside, sniffing under the poinsettia….and luckily the other sheep started to call so she was willing to head for the pens.
I closed the gate and strawed up one of the pens I use for the hens, then went to fetch the lamb.
I put him down in sight of the ewe…and he bleated. High and strong.
The ewe turned and came to him straight away, her bleat low and reassuring and they were reunited. He got to his feet and made for the milk.
But where were The Men while all this was going on?
They had gone into town, and not finding me at the house on return had assumed I had taken shelter from the rain up at the building site.
Accordingly they had decided to get ahead with rounding up the poultry, so we must have been replicating a Whitehall farce with me entering the front door to fetch the lamb as they left by the back door to bang up the ducks.
The first job is always to recover the eggs which both hens and ducks lay under the perpetually broody yellow duck who lives above the door to the duck pen.
This involves mounting an old kitchen chair armed with a broom to shove her off the nest while she attacks with beak and claw…but this time Danilo had had a brainwave of his own.
He decided to use his sombrero to immobilise her while collecting the eggs which is why when I arrived with the lamb in my arms and followed by the ewe I was greeted by the sight of a sombrerod duck launching herself from the top of the pens intent on mayhem while The Men dived for cover.
Still, all’s well that ends well….and here is a rather bad photograph of mother and son displaying the usual ovine obstinacy in that he has his back to the camera and she is lying on the only bit of floor not covered with straw.