Which I suppose is a good enough motto, unless you’re working with wet concrete. Still, last night was interesting. I’d emailed somebody with the words, “I’ll be in all evening, (unless somebody does something stupid) so could you give a ring.” Even as I pressed ‘send’ I had the feeling I was giving hostages to fortune. Then we got a phone call, somebody had been seen bundling a sheep over the church yard wall.
What had happened was that we use sheep (not my sheep, I don’t own any sheep) to keep the grass down around our isolated church. They do a good job. Now a lady was walking her dog past the church yard and saw a bunch of scruffy young men with a green van and an orange capri attempting to bundle a sheep over the wall. Not being in the first flush of youth and being custodian of a rather small dog she wisely didn’t attempt to tackle them but made for home.
Once there she walked across the road to her neighbour Martin, who is a retired minister. He picked up the phone and called me, because I’m the churchwarden and pretty much everything that happens is the responsibility of the churchwarden. So we piled in the car, shot up to the churchyard and indeed a sheep was missing. Various other people gathered and it was decided that as these aforementioned young men were apparently sleeping rough on Roa Island, my lady wife and I would drive along there and see if we could see what was happening. When we got there we found the cars (with Belgian plates) in the carpark, plus a fair number of other cars with Belgian plates. But no sign of a sheep and there were no people hanging about the two vehicles.
We discussed the matter as we headed for home and decided we’d better phone the police. In various parts of the country, sheep have been stolen and butchered on the beach for an impromptu barbeque. But how to contact the police? I could ring 101 but the last twice I’ve tried it the number just rang out. And we potentially had an animal welfare incident here, so I phoned 999. (Because there’s no other way to get hold of them).
I explained what was going on to the chap on the other end of the phone and he agreed with me that it was borderline but as I was on the phone, he’d take the details. This he did, to bleating noises being made by his colleagues in the background. Cumbria Constabulary probably have sheep as a larger part of their workload than most police forces. Indeed when I described the sheep to him he knew the breed. He promised he’d get somebody out.
So twenty minutes later we got a call from the control room to say that police had gone to Roa Island. A quarter of an hour after that, two policemen turned up in our yard. They’d ‘pursued their inquires’ there, but hadn’t been able to talk to the gentlemen in question because these individuals had got the ferry out to Piel Island to camp. As the ferry is a small open boat I agreed with the police assessment that the ferryman was unlikely to have let them take a sheep with them. Even if they’d given it dark glasses and a wig.
But as result of their discussions with the transient population of Belgians on Roa Island the Police decided that, yes, the lady had obviously seen a bunch of man who was struggling with a sheep by the wall. But all was not as it seemed.
Apparently the Scotland Rally was passing through the area. One of their night stops was Roa Island. There was a strong Belgian contingent with a lot of classic cars as part of this rally. Now during the course of this rally, there are various challenges set for the participants to attempt.
It appears that yesterday’s challenge, whether for the entire rally, or just set by the Belgian contingent, was to get a selfie photo of you and a sheep.
Eventually the sheep turned up, she’d obviously escaped the camera toting hordes and had got into a different field and had mingled with the other sheep. Actually that doesn’t surprise me, when it comes to escaping, sheep are true professionals.
You’ve got to be careful tacking sheep, it’s a job for skilled professionals
As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”