Tag Archives: War 2.2

Moving through at speed

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Lambs always look sweet frolicking on the grass, kicking up their heels and jumping about. What people forget is that the same animal will often try the same tricks when it weights the best part of forty kilos.

Moving a group of weaned lambs can at times be an interesting experience. If they’re all sort of going in the right way together then it’s not a problem. The problem comes when one has somehow got separated. It’ll look for its friends and run toward them. If it’s standing half way up a bank eating hedgerow plants, the run might well start with a jump. Having 35kg of lamb heading for your chest at about 33km/hr because you’re between her and her friends can spoil your whole damned day.

I got a phone call from a neighbour; one of our lambs had got out and was in his yard and garden. So I nipped down on the quad to see what was going on. The lamb, 40kg of superbly toned muscle, had panicked. She didn’t know where she had left her friends so every time the neighbour approached her; he was obviously trying to cut her off from her mates. So she went everywhere at maximum speed, often at low altitude.

Now it you know what you’re doing and you’re fast, rather than trying to stop them in mid air, you can divert their flight. I’ve seen one person catch one in the air and let it spin him so that when he let go the lamb crashed back into the bunch it had just left. To be honest that falls very much into the ‘do not try this one at home’ category.

But anyway when I got there the lamb had spotted a door open into a shed and had gone in there. So with a piece of rope in my pocket I went into the shed and the neighbour held the door shut. Whilst the shed was a bit cluttered, this was to our advantage as she needed open space to accelerate in. As it was when she did try to run, it was from a standing start and she never got more than a foot before she was caught. Then with her feet tied we whisked her back to her mates. Job done.

Actually there’s been a lot of that sort of thing recently. I’ve spent a lot of time fixing fences, sorting sheep, and generally trying to keep on top of the job. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to think up excuses for why I’ve not kept up with the blog. I’ve been busy.

On top of that I’ve got back into the writing again. I have a project that is almost finished. The year before last I wrote and published ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice.”


It was something of a change of direction. Rather than a full novel, it’s more a short collection of stories, all about the same protagonist. They’re tales from the career of Benor as a young man.

This slim volume (can you say that about an e-book?) has been well received so I decided I’d repeat the process. The cunning plan was to release three of these a year. But timetables and life being what they are, I’ve written six, the first is due to be published on the 1st August, and the other five are virtually ready, so they can reliably appear at four month intervals.

Also I’ve produced a slim volume of poetry and literary criticism. Lambent Dreams is a cooperation between various people, both real and imaginary. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is which.

There are Poems based on the work of Tallis Steelyard, friend of Benor with commentary by Benor, and an introduction from noted fictional poet Lancet Foredeck. Cover design by Esther van Raamsdonk.


As a reviewer commented, “This short book really amused me. If you’re familiar with the stories of Benor the Cartographer from the author’s Land of the Three Seas then you will have some idea of what to expect. Tallis Steelyard is a poet. He makes his living that way. Lambent Dreams is a collection of some of his works and his friend Benor comments on them to give some historical or geographical insight. Then there is the commentary from fellow poet and critic Lancet Foredeck. These remind me of the notes you get on wines from some of the ‘experts’ and I chuckled along with them. Perhaps funniest of all was the fact that, somehow, the footnotes inserted by one of the typesetters were left in by accident; a much more refreshing view is revealed!

This won’t take you long to read but I guarantee you’ll smile a lot while you do. A little gem!”

As the Bishop said to the Actress…

It’s just that Cumbria has got a new Bishop, ought I to dig out this old blog and send her a link to it?

Oh, before I start, a number of people have asked me about the six ewes scanned in lamb with triplets who have their legs crossed and are hanging on waiting for spring and some nice weather before lambing.

As of twenty minutes ago, they have all still got their legs crossed and are still hanging on.

But anyway now I’ve passed on the important news, is there anything else worth talking about?

Well somebody asked me about a joke about the Bishop and the Actress.

Now I was pondering this. One of the joys of the Church of England with its fine tradition of clerical eccentricity is that there are almost certainly bishops who’ve married actresses, and now after the latest round of reforms, give us a while and we’ll have bishops who were actresses.

Well we’ve had bishops who’d been professional Cricketers, David Sheppard, Bishop of Liverpool was. He’s the one who said something along the lines that, “When Saint Paul went anywhere; they stoned him and drove him out of town. When I visit they give me a nice cup of tea. I wonder if I’m doing it right.”


So perhaps bishops are supposed to stir things up and cause trouble? I looked at the salary scale. Effectively if you’re a bishop you’re on a similar salary to a Civil Service Grade Eight (Senior Executive Officer.) This is about two thirds of a MPs salary, and you don’t get their generous expenses. However you get a tied house to live in, but obviously you’ve still got to buy somewhere so you have somewhere to retire to.

The other advantage Bishops have is their background. If you want to find people who’ve done a variety of jobs in the ‘real’ world, you’re probably better off looking in the House of Bishops than in the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. And as all Bishops have been ordinary clergy on less than the national average wage they’re probably more in touch with the economics of the average household.

But is the purpose of a Bishop to say things that ensure people stone them? Perhaps it’s a case that they ought to ask the questions that force other people to ask themselves questions? I’d suggest that if they’re under attack by senior politicians and business leaders they’re doing their job properly. Even if the bishop is wrong, they’ve still forced people to think about the question and produce a coherent justification.

But it also occurs to me that it’s up to all of us to ask questions that make people stop and think. Some of the toughest questions are best made without a lot of fuss.

Some of the toughest are,

“Are the methods you want to use doing more damage than the problem you’re attempting to solve?”

“How immoral are you entitled to be to restore morality?”

“At what point will your defence of freedom destroy the freedom you are trying to defend?”

Look, I’m currently a mixture of maternity nurse and lavatory attendant. Others might call me a farmer. When I turn my back on my proper jobs I write a bit.
A book should have a good story, it should make you want to turn the page, you should really enjoy it.

But when you finally put the book down and walk out to meet the day, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if, at the back of your mind, there’s a small voice asking you a big question.


As a reviewer commented, “50 year old Benor is back in his home city of Toelar, enjoying a quiet life of roof running, paramouring, etc, when one day his routine gets disturbed, making a fast getaway necessary.
However, his escape route is blocked by an Urlan Knight.
Fortunately, the said Knight saves Benor’s life, without even unsheathing his sword, by just being there.
Unfortunately, the said Knight has been looking for Benor and has a little proposition to make.
And so it begins…”

Cross your legs and wait until Spring.  


Now personally I don’t believe in letting sheep have Facebook accounts and a presence on social media, but there are times when you read some posts and you being to suspect that others are not of this opinion and have set up the accounts for their domesticated animals.

But it has to be said that we’ve half a dozen ladies who, at the moment might as well be spending their time on Facebook.

Part way through pregnancy, all the ewes were scanned, and then split up into groups depending on how many lambs they were carrying. Those carrying three need especially pampering and so pampering they got.

When they were eventually brought in to lamb they were put in one shed with plenty of bedding and ‘left to get on with it.’

Most did. So much so that the individual pens in the shed are now used to house other ewes who’ve lambed elsewhere and can take time to properly bond with their lambs and come to their full milk production.

The last six due to give birth to triplets watch this process with benign contempt and slouch about in comfort, looking heavier and heavier.

Now once they lamb, they’ll have a couple of days in an individual pen and then they’ll be out into a field with their lambs to get on with life. After all, outside is their environment and they’re supposed to be happier there.

But what with all this global warming and climate change and whatever, this March has been as miserable as any we’ve had recently. The death of Terry Pratchett merely added to the gloom.  And these six ladies have peered through the bars of the gate, weighed the job in the balance, and have obviously decided that, do you know what? Inside, on straw, with someone bringing a lunch tray round a couple of times a day, and silage there should you fancy a nibble between meals; seems a better option.

So far it’s been well over a week since anybody lambed in that building. In the others, mothers are popping lambs out and leading them out heroically into the bright new world.

But these six, legs firmly crossed, seem to be hanging on for better weather, warm spring breezes and the promise of new grass.

We are not the men our Grandfathers were

They say that behind every good software writer there is a man with a mallet to tell him when to stop.

Fixing fences is a bit like that. It’s normally comparatively easy to know where to start, but working out when you’ve got the fence ‘good enough’ as opposed to ‘good’ is a more subjective decision.

The problem is I remember what it was like in my Grandfather’s day. I was only a kid, but I saw, and worked, under the old regime. On a weekend when I wasn’t at school, I’ve thinned turnips by hand and planted potatoes by hand as well. By the time I was a senior school my Grandfather had retired and we’d given up on turnips and potatoes and gone over to livestock.

In the way that these things can happen, for a number of years I farmed exactly the same land as my Grandfather did. He had thirty-two dairy cows, plus ‘followers’. That probably means he had another forty or fifty younger cattle. He also had sixty sheep. Then he’d grow a few acres of barley for feed, a few acres of turnips or kale, and a couple of acres of potatoes.

He worked himself, employed two or three full time men and a ‘lad’. Financially he ‘did alright’, had holidays most years and a prosperous retirement.

On the same land, at one point I had seventy dairy cows plus thirty sucklers and over a hundred young stock. This I farmed with one full time man. We got to the stage that we realised the full time man was the only person getting a living out of the place and we re-jigged the business so I was working on my own rearing up to 240 young stock a year, buying them as calves and selling them at between a year and two years old.

But during this time I also had to work as a freelance journalist/writer to ensure we did have an income every year.

For the next generation, those who’re doing most of the work now, the job is even harder. On the same land there are over 400 ewes and an indeterminate number of cattle (their number depends on price and cash flow.)

But as well as this, you’ve got to work six or seven hours a day somewhere else to make a living.

So there’s me, fixing a fence. It was fine when I started, but eventually it started to drizzle. Not enough to be worth going back home for a coat, so I just kept going.

Now remember my idea of what a hedge and fence should look like was determined when this farm had four adult men and a lad working full time. That’s the sort of workforce that created and maintained the countryside people claim to love.

I finally decided that the fence was ‘good enough’ at about the same time that it stopped being drizzle and became torrential rain with added sleet for seasonal variety.

And what will happen to the countryside? Who knows? Government claims to put money into it with environmental payments. The amounts are derisory. Certainly they’re not enough to employ the three extra men that this farm used to have and it’s the labour of these men that kept everything maintained properly. Last time I checked, even if we could get the environmental payments, we’d get the princely sum of about £3,000 a year. I’d struggle to employ two men and a lad on that.

But money has been bled out of the industry. As a general rule of thumb you can reckon that each generation can live entirely on organic food and only spend the same proportion of their income on food as their parents did, buying conventional food.

So where’s the money gone? Think what you spend money on now that you didn’t spend it on before. I saw one comment that most families in the UK spend more a week on their Sky subscription than they do on meat. Similarly, the money for the mobile phone contract, thirty years ago there wasn’t even the concept of one of them, what has society stopped spending on to pay for that? Or TV boxed sets? Is money being spent on them rather than books, or beer in pubs or on buying decent food or what?

My guess is that we’ll get more and more posturing. People might even vote ‘Green’. But what has gone has gone. The countryside is changing and will continue to change; we’ll lose stuff because people don’t really want it as much as they want the other stuff.

And me, I’ll keep plodding on, remembering how it should be done because I’m old enough to have seen it done properly.

And I’ll do what I can and continue to write to try and ensure we have an income every year.

So buy the book and get all this thrown in free.




Still what do I know?

Available in paperback or as an ebook

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.”

Making exciting mistakes and unexpected sartorial advice

Some people make really exciting mistakes, have you noticed that? Whereas some of us might fall asleep on the train, miss our stop and end up spending the night on the platform at Lancaster, (A station I’m fond of, the staff really do care) others somehow get entangled with dangerous and beautiful women, ridiculously large amounts of money, and a story they can dine out on for years.

This morning I was feeding sheep as normal. I kept glancing west (from where our weather comes, howling in across the Irish Sea) because it wasn’t looking good. I got the ewes who are inside fed, and then I had to go and check those outside. As I drove the quad across the field the sleet is blasting into my face, it’s chuffing cold and you know with absolute certainty that you’re going to end up soaked to the skin.

As an aside at this point, might I recommend to our American cousins that they contemplate the purchase of a flat cap instead of the usual baseball cap? I agree that the baseball cap is excellent for keeping the sun out of your eyes; the long peak is perfect for that. But the wind gets under the peak and can just whip the hat off your head and away. Whereas the flat cap, whilst less good where there is intense sun, does at least stay on your head when it’s windy.

But sartorial considerations aside, I managed to get home, get inside and warm up a bit. I downloaded my email, looked at the tasks that needed doing and decided to write my blog instead.

Because in ten minutes I’ll have to be out to check through the housed ewes to make sure they’re OK and that none of them have lambed or are lambing and are in need of assistance.

Four hundred ewes to lamb, they’re supposed to start in the middle of February, so by the last week in February the first tranche would have been well underway and the second tranche (whose romantic liaison with the tup was timed so as they’d start about the 8th March) will start lambing as the first group were finishing.

Except that the first group have dawdled, a couple a day at most through February and they’ve finally decided to start lambing properly now.

But anyway, after I’ve checked them, provided nothing goes wrong, I’ll have another brief window of opportunity to get all those things done that I promised people I would do as part of the launch for War 2.2


Yep, I did. It’s one of those unexciting mistakes you make because it seems such a good idea at the time.


Echoes of war.

There are times when I feel especially close to my father and grandfather. Given that there are days when I do the same job at the same time as they did, often with equipment they’d recognise, it’s probably not surprising.

But after all these years they can still manage to surprise you.

My Grandfather was born the son of a dairyman who milked cows in Cheltenham Street in Barrow in Furness, and walked them down Abbey Road to graze on the fields where one day the Grammar Schools would be built. When I was at the school, the remnants of hedges my Great Grandfather probably laid were still there.

My Grandfather inherited debts greater than his assets but still managed to build up a business. I can still picture him, tall, thinnish faced. He wore the old fashioned shirts with separate collars, which were a sensible length. A proper man’s shirt tucks so far into his trousers that he sits on it when he sits down.

I was his first grandchild. He’d had five daughters, and the first thing the oldest does is present him with a grandson. Apparently I’m a bit like him in some ways (or so some members of the older generation used to say, somewhat darkly, without going into details.)

As a child I remember ‘looking stock’ with him; sitting in the passenger seat of an old Morris pickup as he drove across fields to check on yet another batch of cattle.

Before I started school, I also remember getting a ride out when he took milk to the dairy. This he did every day, with ten gallon steel churns (or Kits) in the back of his old pickup. That was a real treat; not only did I get so see the dairy, but I have a vague feeling that at least one of my mother’s younger sisters worked there at the time. So I always remember being made a fuss off by a crowd of glamorous young ladies who kept giving me orange juice to drink. Life never really gets better as you get older does it. Then if the day was going really well, Granddad would stop the pickup as we crossed Roose Bridge and take me into Ernie Hayton’s sweet shop. There he’d buy me a Raspberry Split.

Raspberry Split

He could be a bit irascible. Personally I’d blame the fact that he had five daughters and a wife to keep him in order. I do remember hearing him use the phrase, “Oh hod tha whist woman.” This, freely translated, means ‘Please be quiet my dear.”

He had other phrases as well. One I managed to work into my first SF story, ‘Justice 4.1’

“Eventually people finished and the bowls were passed down to the end of the table. Then a young girl disappeared into the galley and came back carrying a cake. She placed it in front of Tongo. “This is the dessert, Tongo,” she said, with intense earnestness.

 Tongo contemplated the cake. “Would you like to cut a slice young lady? Then I can try it; see if it’s fit for guests.”
She nodded, realised there was no knife and bolted for the galley. She came back with the knife and with immense care cut a slice of cake and manoeuvred it onto a plate. The plate she passed to Tongo, who cautiously picked up the piece of cake and studied it. He was holding it carefully; it had been cut remarkably thin. He bit off a piece and chewed it meditatively. Without comment he ate the rest. There was silence round the table. The children especially were watching Tongo like hawks.

Eventually, the masticated cake swallowed, Tongo spoke.

“Well it’s very good, but…” With the ‘but’ the girl started to look very serious.

After soaking the pause for its drama Tongo continued. “It tastes of knife.”

The girl looked perplexed and studied the knife blade carefully. Zenobia reached across the table and tapped the girl on the arm.

“What the great loon means is that next time, cut him a thick piece, not one so thin he could read a newspaper through.” She smiled at the girl to encourage her. “Now cut the cake into sensible pieces and pass it round.


The ‘tastes of knife’ comment was one my Granddad made when my sister cut him a piece of cake to try.

But anyway, you think you know a person, and then somebody tells you something.

Last Wednesday I was talking to a lady who had been brought up as a girl with my mother. Her father had worked for my Grandfather. It was during the war and Barrow was being heavily bombed. Because we’re a naval shipbuilding town, we did suffer a lot from bombing.

And then a German plane gets shot down over my Grandfather’s land. Stopping only to grab pitchforks my Grandfather and the chap working for him run to the crash site to deal with the pilot. Apparently watching the young German get out of the plane, my Grandfather had said, “He’s nowt but a lad.” But anyway they’d detained him and kept him detained until the village bobby from Rampside had cycled out, arrested him and then walked him the three miles into Barrow to the main police station.

And it’s funny, the picture of the big chap with the pitchfork, looking at the young German, shaking his head and saying ‘He’s nowt but a lad’ fits in well with the Grandfather who bought me Raspberry Splits, or who teased my sister when she cut the cake too thin.

You know, whilst war brings out the good and the bad in people, it only brings out what was there in the first place.

And on the desk near me is a .50 cal round one of the metal detectorists found on our land. It was probably fired either at or by an aircraft. A big numb lump of a thing, if it hit you, it’d spoil your whole afternoon one way or another. And now when I see it I can see my Grandfather with his pitchfork as well.

And I suppose I ought to mention the second Science Fiction book. My Grandfather doesn’t figure in this one, although other Barrow people I know inevitably do. My Granddad was a man who built up a business; he’d never forgive me for not taking the chance to mention that the entire Tsarina Sector series is now available

Beware the machinations of tyrants.

Apparently the organisers of the first European games in Baku have pretty well paid for the British team to attend.

I know it’s hardly blood diamonds, but people are still asking questions about it.
But I know a chap who was in with a damned good chance of representing us at the Moscow Olympics back in 1980. He’d spent an awful lot of time training and what happened? There were all sorts of people saying how shocking it was that we were sending athletes to the Soviet Union after they’d invaded Afghanistan, and eventually his sport pulled out. He never got his chance. Four years later it’s a different world, he’s four years older; he’d quite literally missed the boat.

The problem with ‘sports boycotts’ is that they enable people to ‘send a message’, feel smug AND sanctimonious, and at no cost. If the British team don’t go to Baku, frankly I’d never notice. I’m unlikely to watch the games. (Let’s not beat about the bush, if they held the games in Barrow I doubt I could work up the enthusiasm to watch them.)

But firstly there are a lot of people who enjoy this sort of sport. Even more there are people who’ve trained with eye watering dedication, all their lives, just to get a chance to compete at this level.

Now then; I could demand we boycott Baku; feel smug when we do, tell people that we’ve shown ‘them’ what we think of ‘them’ and it hasn’t cost me a penny. Indeed I’ve suffered nothing.

Screwed some other poor beggar’s life but one cannot have petty moral victories without some cost.

I must admit I rather regard athletics and sport as part of the entertainment industry. Long distant runners probably get out more than rock guitarists and might even be healthier, but they’re part of the same industry.

So I suppose as a writer I’m also part of the same industry as well. Should I announce that I want to ban my books being sold in Baku?
As an aside it might be worth it for the free publicity and the chance of a couple of column inches in the Guardian.

But actually, I’ve had a better idea. This way you, the honest reader, can take a stand for liberty and democracy.

It’s beautifully simple.

TS2 War 2-2 (1)

Go to http://www.amazon.co.uk/War-2-2-Tsarina-Chronicles-Webster-ebook/dp/B00U0OE23W/&tag=ethings-21

Or http://www.amazon.com/War-2-2-Tsarina-Chronicles-Webster-ebook/dp/B00U0OE23W/&tag=ethings-21  if you’re American.

Then you can pre-order a copy of the book. The cunning plan is that if decent people buy them all, it’ll mean there’s none left for tyrants and rogue states.

That’ll show them we mean business!

Chuffed to bits I was.

Every so often good things happen at random

So there I was. Every couple of hours, if nobody competent is about, I have to walk through the three lambing sheds to check nothing is happening.

Actually they’re pretty slow at the moment, so at some point everything is going to happen at once and we’ll be swamped. But at the moment we’ve got a couple of ewes lambing a day. This isn’t a lot when 400 have to lamb by the start of April.
Anyway I was walking down on shed and a ewe had just dropped a lamb. Great, open a pen gate, whisk her and her lamb into the pen.

Now according to her mark she’d been scanned for a single. So at this point it’s worth trying to ‘wet mother’ another lamb onto her so she’s got two.

So I go into the other shed where the triplets are and borrow a ‘spare lamb’ from one of them.

This is because a ewe has two teats so really can only feed two lambs properly, so a third lamb tends to be fostered onto a ewe who only has one.

So I collect a lamb, who isn’t entirely impressed by the fuss, and a disposable plastic glove. This is because the lamb is about to be drenched in afterbirth and similar so it smells like its new mother.

Everything prepared I walk back into the first shed, and as I’m about to climb into the pen, I notice that the lady in question has just dropped a second lamb and is contentedly licking that one down as well.

So the ‘spare lamb’ goes back to mum for a little while and I get on with the rest of the day, whistling cheerfully.

It’s funny how such little things do make your day isn’t it.

Like today I got an email from a chap who’d bought Justice 4.1


It read

“You just ruined a day’s work for me. I couldn’t put it down! Please press on with the series – I can’t wait!

My first impression was that it was rather a slim volume, the size would have been normal 30 years back, but 450 pages seems to be the average now. However, I do not feel cheated. The insights into future farming and insurance are breath-taking. I do hope your own insurers don’t get a copy…”

Chuffed to bits I was


Anyway the whole series is now out


 Sheep, a socket set and a dog that howls back at police cars.


For simple country folk we lead complicated lives. It started when I let the dog out. Or perhaps it really started when the wheel bearing went on the quad trailer? But anyway, it was obvious the bearing was going so there was a replacement bearing sitting, pristine and jewel like in its wrapping.

Before I could get hay to sheep I needed the trailer and before I could use the trailer I would need to change the wheel bearing. And Sal, the dog, was getting bored and wanted out. So I let her out and started on the wheel bearing.

Now I like to take the wheel off first. Then I can put the hub in a bucket of hot water and detergent and clean it. So that way I know what’s happening. And then obviously it makes sense to clean off the axle as well. But as I’m doing this, I glance up and notice Sal walking backwards and looking distinctly unhappy.

Now it occurs to me that some explanation is called for. We’re lambing at the moment and the minute Sal is let out in a morning, she goes straight to the lambing shed. Not only is there the off chance of a bit of afterbirth, but joy of joys, there might be a bit of skin. Because sometimes if a lamb dies you skin it, put the skin on an orphan so the mother assumes that it’s the same lamb. That way she’ll let it suckle, and once it’s successfully suckled for a couple of days it smells like its new mum anyway and you can take the extra skin off.
From the point of view of a Border Collie, this is dog-chew heaven!

But if you remember an earlier blog, a common term used to describe mule ewes is ‘ya bluidy auld witch’. Apparently this isn’t a dialect term, as it is used by Shepherds from Somerset to Shap.

And this morning, one bluidy auld witch had got out of her lambing pen, and with her two lambs in tow, was taking the morning air. I don’t think she had any set destination in mind, other than ‘out’.

So as she came out of the shed in one direction, she met Sal going into the shed in the other direction. Now normally this would have had one result, the ewe would have retreated back into the shed. But this ewe had two lambs.

Now the maternal instinct can be strong in sheep. It seems to vary between individuals, and it’s something that has been bred for over the years. Indeed when ‘mothering on’, or trying to fit the third lamb from a set of triplets onto a ewe who only had a single, you depend heavily on this maternal instinct to kick in.

Indeed our previous dog, Jess, was encouraged to drift round the lambing shed on the grounds that her presence could arouse the protective maternal instinct in a tup!

So Sal, a dog so open and helpful that she howls back at the sirens on emergency vehicles, had run into a ewe, tooled up with lord alone knows how many millennia of selective breeding for maternal instinct.

At this point we had a communications breakdown. Thinking about it, probably a three species communication breakdown. I just wanted them to sort themselves out so I could change the bearing. Sal was just interested in anything she might find to nibble on. The ewe had taken one look at Sal’s teeth, a silhouette which doubtless matched perfectly the one marked ‘wolf’ in ‘A sheep’s guide to the predators of the world’ and suspected that this nibbling might involve her lambs.

So she stamped her foot.

Other species can be more spectacularly demonstrative. The roar of the lion, the snarl of big dog; they’re all pretty graphic warnings.

A sheep has a bleat that never sounds less than plaintive, and dentition that threatens nobody. So they stamp a front foot.

From the human point of view this doesn’t work well. It places them very firmly into ‘petulant infant’ territory.

What you must remember is that sheep have one good attack. Head down and hell for leather at whoever is the problem. It actually works best with bigger targets like people. Dogs are a bit nippy and unless the sheep can get the dog in a corner, the dog will probably escape.

But Sal wasn’t looking for trouble. She was walking backwards looking nervous and the ewe, her two lambs clustering round her, had a triumphal gleam in her eye.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for all this. A hot date with a socket set and a wheel bearing called, and after that I had work to do. So I just walked past the dog and up to the ewe. Who stamped her foot!

At which point I called her a bluidy auld witch and told her to get back in the shed. This she did, her lambs leading the way as she kept turning and looking past me to keep an eye on the dog. Sal just slunk about looking embarrassed.

So I tied the hurdle back up and got on with the bearing. At some point in the day I’d vague hopes of writing some more deathless prose.


Whilst we’re talking about deathless prose


As the reviewer mentioned, “Benor is a cartographer and he’s come to Port Naain to produce a handbook. He makes a home with Tallis, a professional poet and his wife Shena. She’s a mud-jobber or as we might say, a beachcomber. Some of her combings include bodies. Everything has a price and families will pay for the privilege of burying their dead and, if possible, finding who caused it. Benor is a natural. He’s a nosy person and, with the aid of the wonderful Mutt, a ten year-old wise beyond his years, he sorts out the villains from the corpses. This first short story from The Port Naain Intelligencer bodes well for the rest of the series. A really great Whodunit.”

Oh and another thing

I remember a story told me by mate who was some years older than me, old enough to have done National Service out in Malaya.

One of the lads in his platoon had been engaged to be married. Now he’d heard rumours at home about his fiancée’s behaviour. So it wasn’t a complete shock when she wrote him a letter breaking off the engagement and asking for her photograph back.

He’d decided that he was going to get his own back, so he went round the base collecting unwanted photos of girls from everyone in the base. Then he put them all in an envelope, along the one his fiancée had previously sent him and posted them back to her.

With the words “I cannot remember which is you; please take it and post the others back.”

Given the number of times I’ve heard the story, I suspect it might have been done several times in several armies.

Anyway, for once, I’ve got news

TS2 War 2-2 (1)

War 2.2 is coming out on the 1st March! It’s the second book featuring Haldar Drom and the Tsarina Sector.

And the cover blurb?

“Haldar Drom is starting to worry. The long running insurgency in the Zala Delta suddenly starts to spiral further out of control. Who is arming the insurgents? How and why? Then a leading local politician who is using his influence to try and keep things calm is threatened with assassination. It’s obvious that things are moving to a climax.

All Haldar has immediately available is a third year university student who gets given a dissertation project she’ll never forget; young journalist who he convinces to investigate the situation of the ground; and a retired marine librarian whose job is to keep the politician alive. As the investigation proceeds, from the mud of the Delta to the luxurious surroundings of the Drake Islands, Haldar comes to realise that he may be facing Wayland Strang’s counter-attack. Faced with a coup d’état spearheaded by off-world mercenaries Haldar has to react quickly to stop a major war.”