M is away on a Boys Cycling And Curry Weekend (the hardcore credibility of which took a dent yesterday when I received an excited phone call informing me they were all off to a National Trust Tearoom overlooking Golden Cap for a Cream Tea in the afternoon) so it's just me and L this weekend. I therefore got out of bed to investigate the noise and for a second thought I'd discovered a new species of moth that was round and tubby with a sticky up tail (not that I am becoming at all obsessed in any way). As I woke up properly and could focus with my whole eye instead of half of it, I realised it was in fact a teeny weeny wren bumping against my mirror. I picked her up and took her to the window expecting her to fly off the second I opened my hand, but instead she tilted her head and gave me a thorough and I felt, given the early hour and the fact I'd just rescued her, a rather critical examination before bobbing her tail in thanks and bouncing off into the garden. I think the word that best describes a wren is pert.
I love wrens (they remind me of my Grannie) and don't see them often so it was A Nice Start To The Day.
Yesterday, it being just L and me, we popped over to ma's to show off our new car which finally arrived (after a delay of what felt like several years) on Friday evening. It's a shiny red fiesta with zero road tax and a decent mpg, which, after the Landy which consumed money just by staring at it, will be heaven. At the moment no-one is allowed to eat in it, touch it, breath near it, and I'd really prefer they didn't sit in it either but I suppose I won't be able to avoid that. L is disgusted and keeps rolling his eyes and threatening it with a football and saying things like: "how long is this going to go on mum?" and "what d'you mean, I can't eat my sweets in it?" A bird has already done a poo on it which is typical. I washed it off quickly, much to everyone's amusement because I am not usually known for doing this.
Ma duly admired the new vehicle with it's "Aston Martin Grille" (;-)) then went off to saddle her Appaloosa mare Lou and the four of us, plus Ted and Dougal, went off for a tramp round the forest in the sun.
L walking with Gran, Lou and the two doggy boys
Half way round we saw these people who were very curious about us indeed....
They reminded me of the times I used to help round up our local dairy herd in Sussex with my friend Sarah. She was the daughter of the Farm Manager on one of the neighbouring farms and was three years older than me so I rather looked up to her and thought she was pretty cool. I'd been dying to do the round up ever since I found out about it when I was 9, and when I was 12 I was finally allowed to go.
Sarah used to ride down from her farm across the fields and collect me. I'd sit on the gate with my binoculars trained on her farm and the minute she set off I'd rush round to the stables and get my pony ready so I was waiting when she arrived. Together we'd ride through the fields, collect the dairy herd and bring them back to the farm for milking. This was usually done pretty early in the morning before school and the land was often wispy with mist and wet with dew (which is an important part of this story).
One particular morning the Hereford Bull William was out with the girls. He was known for his bad temper. Think typical caricature of a bull, quadruple it, and you get near to what he was like. We were warned NEVER to go in the field if he was in it (so of course we did- my sister and I used to play a game of dare, sliding under the barbed wire fence and venturing as far into the field as our nerves would allow. If we were feeling particularly brave we'd do a little dancy wiggle to get his attention and annoy him. Usually all it took was for William to raise his head and stare at us from the other side of the field and we'd turn and flee back to safety giggling in a slightly hysterical fashion).
I hadn't expected him to be out with the herd on that particular morning but being on horseback gives you a sense of safety and I felt quite imperious in a masterish way, knowing he couldn't get to me. It was rather empowering not to be scared witless of him as I usually was and it made me braver than I probably should have been. Anyhow, we got on with the round up, collecting the girls and William (all of whom knew the routine so were quite biddable) and driving them down towards the field gate. This particular field was on a slope and something happened at the top that made the cows spook and they duly all took off down the field.
My pony, usually so reliable, took off with them. By this time William, who had led the charge, had reached the flat ground at the bottom of the hill and had turned round to stare straight at me and my pony as we flew out of control down the wet hill straight towards him.
All sense of empowerment vanished. I have never been so scared in my life.
Wet grass, panicked pony, girl out of control AND enormous angry bull waiting at the bottom for them. None of these things make for a healthy combination.
Pickles (pony) pulled up sharp when faced with William, but couldn't entirely control his hooves on the wet ground. We skidded straight towards the enraged bull who of course didn't move because Bulls Don't Get Out Of The Way For Panicking Ponies. Finally Pickles managed to dig in his toes and stop, about eight feet away from the now snorting bull. The saddle shot up his neck and I shot with it.
It looked, Sarah said (from her safe vantage point at the top of the hill), very impressive.
I went straight over Pickle's head in a sort of acrobatic but fairly graceless somersault and landed thump on my bum at William's feet.
I'd like to say I radiated a calm and impressive sense of control over the bull and that was what saved me; in fact I think William was just so surprised at the sudden and unexpected appearance of this girl-child with her flying pigtails sprawling unceremoniously at his feet when he was used to people running away from him in terror, that it took him a few seconds to react.
He stared at me, blinked, then slowly lowered his massive head and, raising one extremely thick leg, began to paw the ground.
"GET UP!" yelled Sarah.
Believe you me I Did Not Need Telling.
I scrambled to my feet, hauled myself up on the equally terrified pony (with the saddle still half way up his neck), turned him round and fled back up the hill with the enraged bull in hot pursuit behind us.
I looked back once and saw him, red nostrils flaring, enormous shoulders pumping, and urged the dear pony to Please God Go Faster. Half way up the hill, satisfied that he'd seen us off, the bull stopped running, turned and went nonchalantly back to his ladies.
I reached the top of the hill white-faced and shaking but oddly exhilarated (adrenaline is useful stuff it turns out) and discovered Sarah nearly falling of her own horse with laughter. I like to think this was because I was now safe and she could afford a chuckle.
"I have never seen anyone move so fast!" she gasped. And because it was either that or cry, I laughed too. We finished the round up, got the girls (and William) in off the fields and I went to school as as if it was perfectly normal to start your day being chased by a bull who wanted to gore you.
I'm not certain that ma ever had the unedited version of that story, but given that she'll be reading this post I expect I'll get a phone call later....
I'll leave you with a pic of this adorable baby Blue Tit who I think must have flown into the window and was in recovery mode when I discovered him (he flew away fine)...
A lovely Stag Beetle I found on the wall...
And Naughty Teddy, who went in a muddy puddle, was rinsed and shampooed clean, then decided to roll in a flower bed so had to be rinsed all over again. Well, I couldn't let him in the New Car covered in soil could I? As it was he got his revenge by rubbing himself all over the inside of the immaculate boot and redecorating it off white :-(
Monday tomorrow. Have a good week all.