Friday, March 19, 2010

The Personnel Manager and the Sheep

(NB. This took place whilst we were house hunting in Ireland in 1998!and has just been published in the Bayfair magazine)

The pale yellow walls of the old farmhouse could just be seen beyond the cattle grid, numerous overgrown shrubs and dereliction passed off as the garden. The for sale sign told us that we’d come to the right spot, a traditional Irish farmhouse, 3 windows above, centre door and two windows opposite below. Only the front door in clear orange glass, framed in aluminium spoilt the dream. Time for a look around. No one at home. A large Suffolk ram wandered the yard and came to investigate. Obviously hand reared it seemed to delight in having its head rubbed. Our duty fulfilled it wandered off to munch what was left of what once may have been lawn.

A few minutes later, our curiosity satisfied, we strolled down the front drive, quickly followed by our new found friend the sheep. A last scratch on the head and we made for the entrance. But the sheep wasn’t letting us go easily and as we reached the entrance I saw the sheep accelerating towards us from within the darkness of several leylandii trees, its head down and clearly looking for a fight. Luckily for us the owner had been doing some minor tree surgery and a handy branch was used in an attempt to fend the ram off. In a valiant rearguard action we retreated down the drive, and reversed over the cattle grid to the safety of the road. I never realised how far a sheep could jump and was duly surprised to see the ram clear the grid with ease as it sprinted towards us again and I quickly regretted throwing my branch away.

The first lunge I fended off with my hand, the second with my knee and it was obvious the sheep was just as determined to land a blow as I was to avoid one.

“Run Trish”. Trish needed no encouragement and was running fast. I quickly thought of plan B, which was just as well as there had been no plan A. As Trish sprinted down the road, leaving the sheep and me to sort things out ourselves, it tried to outflank me but failed as I rugby tackled it to the ground and quickly used arms and legs to pinion it and stop its flaying legs from causing further damage to my ego. I hadn’t got this far in my plan yet so I laid on the road and thought what to do next. Clearly I had to think quickly because I wasn’t relishing the thought of having to explain to the next passing driver why an Englishman was laid in the middle of a road with a large ram gripped between his legs and pinned in my arms!

I got to my feet and tried to lift the ram up and carry it back over the cattle grid. I’d not had much practice lifting Suffolk rams as a personnel manager and clearly this showed, as it proved impossible to lift. So grabbing it’s front feet it got pulled along the road and back over the cattle grid where I left it on it’s back. Smugly walking back down the road to Trish I looked back at the sheep which was still on it’s back. Damn! I ‘d heard of sheep being stuck like this – but only in magazine articles. Perhaps the sheep had a trick up its sleeve (or wherever sheep keep them), I don’t know but I couldn’t leave it there could I? So back over the cattle grid (it clearly wasn’t much of sheep grid) and I pulled the sheep onto its side, expecting another tussle. But the sheep slowly walked off and started nibbling on the remains of a flower bed.

Back in the car and ten minutes later we were driving over a very narrow, twisty mountain pass only to discover our way blocked by a farmer moving his young lambs into a field. There were nearly a hundred and each one was being lifted over a fence. There was no point in just sitting so I got out and asked the farmer if he’d like a hand lifting the lambs over the fence. “Have ye experience handling sheep?” he asked as I grabbed the first one by the back of the neck and swung it over the wire and into the pasture. “A little” I replied.

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