We had planned a quiet Christmas: Leo was not feeling too good and did not want to go to friends which was just as well as we had an orphan lamb to feed on top of the normal routines.
Jose had come to slaughter some sheep just before Der Tag, so I was fully occupied with butchering and looking forward to the sort of Christmas Day when the feet go up and the gin oges down but one ‘phone call after another announced that – as we could not go to them – friends would come to us on the 26th. Not for long, not to tire Leo, but just to say hello and have a chat.
Knadgers! I had mince pies and sausage rolls made but to cater for all eventualities salvaged the sheep offal to make a pan haggis – too late to rescue the stomach, which had been buried with the intestines – then started on the pastry for the Black Bun and whopped together a cloutie dumpling mix while waiting for fish to defrost to make a ceviche.
Too late to set out for San Jose for reasonably priced whisky, as Leo was not well enough to be left for too long, but with beer, wine and fruit drinks that area was covered.
Luckily I had not left Leo as he became very ill – and at one point it looked as though a trip to hospital would be on the cards – but by the time midnight was upon us he had improved so at 12.30 am I fed the lamb and went to bed.
3.30 am.The lamb woke up again and started bleating for milk. I would swear that it has a loudhailer concealed in its blankets…
With the kitchen light on the dogs woke up and wanted to go out. Front door opened for them and milk heated for the lamb.
Lamb fed and returned to its box in the spare bedroom. Lamb displeased. Lamb turned its box over and skittered round the room until the box was packed with the blanket in the exact way desired by lamb. Lamb settled.
An almighty kerfuffle outside shattered the peace of the early morning hours and set off every dog for miles: the night was hideous with barks and howls from Jose’s spaniels up towards the town to Chancho’s pitbulls across the still unrepaired bridge.
The lamb took up its loudhailer again.
The porch light revealed a view of the agitated hindquarters of five dogs whose forepaws were busy throwing up showers of earth and twigs from the shrubs by the path while the puppies ran round trying to get a better view of proceedings.
Finally The Poodle emerged from the maelstrom bearing a very large dead rat.
Scruff followed with a few baby rats in her mouth, neatly arranged with tails hanging down and led her puppies off for a feast by the hen house.
Such is the prestige of The Poodle that the other dogs made no attempt to claim her rat as she strolled with it to the bench by the front door and settled herself to guard her trophy.
They came inside and resumed the sleep of the just.
The lamb decided that it would be more diplomatic to put down its loudhailer.
The local canine chorus ceased.
Tea for me and for Leo – and off to bed. Again.
Hail shining morn, my backside!
We may be in the tropics and the shortest day may have passed, but it was still not light until after 5.30 am, so we had a leisurely start to the day and after letting out chickens, ducks and sheep took a late breakfast on the balcony.
The Poodle’s balcony.
Luckily she was still guarding her rat at the other side of the house, so we got away with it.
Peace reigned, the sun rose over the mountain behind the house and the view was a symphony of green and gold. Perfect.
Then we heard the sound of a chainsaw.
It is illegal to fell trees within 50 metres of a watercourse but as we watched a large tree went down by a stream leading to the river in the valley, on the property of a retired money launderer.
No chance of being caught as civil servants do not work on public holidays, which accounts for the frenzied activity in builders’ merchants just before Easter, Christmas and August 15th…ideal time to build a house before anyone can interfere with queries as to planning permission.
We retired to the inner balcony and passed the morning with books, coffee and cake – with intermittent feeding of the lamb in its pen once it was warm enough for it to go outside.
Leo had a nap, we had lunch in peace and Leo returned to bed, feeling tired.I was washing up when it started….a cacophony of snarling and yelping on the porch.
Tea towel – terror of the puppy dogs – at the ready I shot out there to find The Poodle ensconced on the bench and beside her the puppy she likes best – Napoleon – who was busy eating the rat’s head while his brother and sisters raged below. The Poodle wore a sort of proprietary beam while the busy Napoleon gave every impression of one very happy with his lot, which was to change as the tea towel was deployed, followed by sharp work with brush and dustpan and the carcass thrown to the chickens.
Disconsolately Napoleon went to sit by their run, watching as they tore into the treat. I made a mental note to avoid being kissed by Napoleon…
The afternoon passed peaceably after that until tea time when with an eldritch screech The Poodle took off for the fields like a dose of salts, followed by the adult dogs.
I think the screech frightened the puppies because they all decided to tuck up on Leo’s foot, so I was able to close the front door on them and go down to investigate.
The screeching and barking grew in volume….Jose’s spaniel and Chancho’s pitbulls took up the theme…
A I can’t limbo dance under the wire I had to go round by the gate so by the time I reached the field the scene was set.
The dogs were encircling the trunk of a tall guarumo tree.
Experience had taught them not to approach it too closely as the tree has a symbiotic relationship with some of the nastiest stinging ants I have yet met, but they were certainly on guard around it, for perched precariously on the upper branches were a number of vultures…
Every flap of a wing produced a screech from The Poodle and a chorus of barks from the rest – evidently the pack, not taking into account the wonders of flight, thought that they had the vultures treed for the duration and were intent on making the most of it.
At that point Julio turned up, bringing a home made tonic for Leo – and to help me close up the sheep for the night. He was, he said, escaping from his house which was hideous with the din of over excited children…..
We counted the sheep and lambs…none missing. So why had the vultures arrived?
Julio looked around.
‘There’s your answer. Jose didn’t bury the guts properly when he did the slaughtering.’
It took some persuasion and the use of leads, but together we managed to return the dogs to the house where they threw themselves on their beds with an air of those who have done their duty.
We chatted over a beer or two, then Julio went on his way and we had supper, followed by an early night. apart from getting up to feed the lamb at 10.00 pm
Later I was awakened by a furious scrabbling from the puppy box and in the darkness a small fat body plopped onto the bed and snuggled up to my ear, taking a comforting nibble of same
Not wanting to waken Leo I switched on the mobile ‘phone on the bedside table and in its dim light found that my affectionate visitor was – you’ve guessed it – Napoleon.
By that time too shattered to care if I picked up the Black Death I turned off the ‘phone and went to sleep until the lamb woke me on the morning of Boxing Day at 2.00 am….