“It’s going down to minus seven tonight,” Dad says.
“What?” I ask. I’ve just opened my laptop to start work on a monologue for a scriptwriting competition.
“Minus seven,” he repeats.
“Damn!” I slam the laptop closed and jump to my feet.
“What?” Dad asks.
Now in any other house that would be an unusual statement but here Dad just nods and continues to watch telly.
I run to the back door and freeze. It’s fine to run a rescue operation as long as there is somewhere for them to go. I dash back to the airing cupboard and clean off a side. I suppose I ought to mention that the airing cupboard is actually a room with a boiler in. The room is tiny, only about 6 feet by 4 feet, but it has a massive window. We live in an old stone cottage which has window ledges about 2 feet deep, so I clear this off and get ready for the seed trays from the greenhouse.
The vegetable patch is about 150 yards away from the house. When we first moved in it was the only bit of land that wasn’t completely waterlogged. So I trundle down with a wheelbarrow. The orchard is still young and at this time of year the trees are nothing more than barren twigs. The grass is sparse and the ground semi-frozen. It is a classic winters day. The gateway into the veg patch is through a hedge of cherry trees and privet. I guess it must look like a secret garden but the reality is a walk downward. The slope isn’t steep but at this time of year I walk slowly.
Good job really. My dog, a huntaway who tops 22kg, runs past me and is followed by my mum’s ancient Westie. I push the wheelbarrow over the rise and freeze. There was my dog staring at our large Texel ram. Oh hell…
“Away!” I call out to my dog. She looks at me… She looks at the sheep and then she runs away. My sheepdog. I know I don’t work her but I had expected more than the flash of black and tan that ran past me. “Meg!” It didn’t work. She was gone.
The Westie though… He squares his tiny body to the sheep and gives a small growl. The Texel ram lowers his head and eyeballs him.
“Charlie! Heel!” I yell but there is no point, the little dog has been deaf for a while now. Instead I have to watch as the ram rushes forward and flips the small dog so he does a roll.
I’d like to say I was brave and ran down, but I didn’t.
“Dad!” I yell, and sprint back to the house. Next minute Dad is out and I have got Meg, who was hiding in the living room. This time I practically yell it. “Away!”
The odd thing is that this time she obeys. She shoots past me and I run after her. In the veg patch Meg runs toward the ram. But instead of squaring off to her he runs and jumps through the gap in the fence. Meg stops at the hole and sniffs as if to say good riddance. I slowly trundle the wheelbarrow down and fill it with the seed trays.
I sneer at the ram who is now fenced into the far paddock. I can’t wait till we eat him. Charlie gives me a look that agrees. Meg just rushes around like a loon. Shaking my head I carry on with the rescue of the tomatoes.
This is a true story… Charlie, Meg or the ram where not harmed, although Charlie did get his confidence knocked.