Alex James: Thieves will take anything – even sheep

Rural Notebook

Related Topics

"See, the truck's got really high sides," said Charlie as they drove off. "It's so you can't see what's in the back." I couldn't. Might have been anything in there: a sheep, a tree, a car, a chicken hut – goodness knows.

A quite unusual-looking vehicle, full of quite unusual-looking men, had pulled into the yard. One of the men looked at me. With my eyebrows raised, and slowly nodding and smiling, I looked right back at him, long and hard, taking the full measure of him, carefully memorising his face.

The other two guys' eyes were darting everywhere, and even as Charlie gave them the brush-off, the driver was craning his neck around to see what he could see.

Rogues come round occasionally, asking for scrap metal. They're actually casing the joint: if there's no one around, they'll help themselves to whatever's lying around. Sometimes, if they see something they want, they'll come back at night. Two diggers have been stolen from neighbouring farms in the past couple of weeks. About this time last year we had four sheep go missing – sheep, for goodness' sake.

Word soon gets around of their presence, however. I'd already had the drum from two separate sources before the truck showed up. The au pair looked terrified when I asked her to park her car across the farm entrance when she returned from yoga, but I don't think there's anything to fear. At worst the pilfering is annoying, I told her.

As I was doing my best to secure everything, I realised that it was an impossible task and it suddenly struck me as quite amazing how little does get stolen from farmland. It's not really protected in the way that houses are, by security systems, dogs, residents.

I suppose anybody who is so minded could just tuck into anything – from livestock to plants, iron gates to dry-stone walls. It goes to show just how much the entire countryside runs on trust and honour. A very fragile and wonderful arrangement.

Blades and grass

The man who came to fix the lawnmower said that it was a design fault with these particular machines that sometimes the blades have to be taken off, filed down and put back on again. "Design fault?" I said, "We've used it once and it's broken." Then he started talking about different kinds of grass, but I wasn't listening. I was thinking that sometimes the thing you think is going to solve your problems just brings you even more problems. It broke again this week: blockages in the fuel line. I suppose grass was designed to be long and that's that.

It's a proper mad May

I drove through the heaviest rain I've ever seen, anywhere, on my way home last week. It was like the end of the world. The M40 was almost at standstill. Then an hour later we were in brilliant sunshine, everything sparkling and springing: the whole thing like a bright jewel with a million moving parts. One minute Fred is getting sunburn, the next pneumonia. "It's a proper mad May," he said, bending down to pinch a particularly bouncy lamb. True.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding business based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - Scotland

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - North East Region

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The Top Ten: Words In Christmas Carols That Ought To Be Revived

John Rentoul
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas