What an adventure: today she has led the daughters of the chosen out of peril, defied a mighty king, travelled the length of the known world, faced alien hordes, unperturbed, and tasted the fruits of a promised land and it’s not even lunchtime.
Everything is relative.
Seven years ago (a biblical period) I probably wouldn’t even have noticed, I wouldn’t have spotted those white dots on the farthest hill, wouldn’t have wondered about the gender of the dots. Wouldn’t have rushed up the valley, binoculars in hand.
But as I approach our boundary I need no binoculars to see that our neighbour’s tenant has loosed a ram and 20 breeding ewes into the adjacent field; the one with the dodgy fence posts that falter and play dead when challenged. Through that very fence his randy tup is sniffing at our precocious theave lamb (see Raddle-Dazzle); she makes me think of Anne Boleyn, she is running daintily up and down by the fence baa-ing prettily but surprisingly loudly and each time as she turns, she stamps her little feet, the old king, on the far side of the fence is transfixed — enchanted. Meanwhile his ladies gather around his number-one-wife, the dominant ewe and whisper, looking accusingly at that Boleyn girl ( she has a streak of mud on her back, they are questioning her virginity — well, perhaps not)).
I run back to the house. opening and shutting various gates on the way and fetch my magic bucket which has mysteriously been tampered with; it has been used for chain-saw oil, which smells bad; its power lies in its mystical maltiness; I chant appropriate expletives as I clean it and refresh its ewe-nut rattle and scent. A moment later I have my sergeant at arms, my witch’s peculiar, my familiar; she hurtles to my call, not a swooping, weaving bat, nor an owl, blinking in the light of day, but a clomping old ewe who is trained to my bidding and I to hers, we set off, Abi and I and the dog, armour glinting in the morning light.
Ten minutes later and two of us breathing heavily, we have reached the farthest outpost of our kingdom, it has not yet laid down under the weight of conjugal bliss, I rattle my magic bucket, Anne Boleyn tosses a dismissive glance over her shoulder but her maids come and have a sniff and when the sergeant and I turn and walk away they follow. Anne looks at us, then at the king, then back at us, she is deserted by all her people… She fears nothing more than being alone, she is, after all, a sheep. It’s too much, she turns away from the king and runs down the field and we all walk steadily back towards the farmstead.
As we draw farther away the foolish virgins look back, I know that with every step we take the pull of the king is less so we keep walking but then there is a scream on the opposite bank, a hollering and the unmistakable call of a hunting horn (really — not just another escaped metaphor), there is baying of hounds directly ahead. My foolish virgins stop dead, so does the sergeant at arms, they start to turn, I shake the bucket, the sergeant advances towards it, Good Old Abi. Our dog who has been following aimlessly sniffing for rabbits, suddenly hears the threat and runs to take up a position at the head of our column, as he overtakes the sheep he turns them and provides a little push and they again follow us.
We stomp on confidently; they follow nervously. I close the last gate behind them as the baying abates. Typical! We haven’t heard hounds for a year, hunting is illegal, and they don’t exist but they pass through the cutting by our gate just as we are moving timid sheep.