Thursday 19 March 2009
Brian Viner: The whole thing was what you might call a baa-baa ha-ha hoo-hah
As usual, we awoke on Tuesday morning to the sound of bleating, although it was not the "where is my rugby shirt/history homework?" kind of bleating to which we are so accustomed in the tumultuous hour between 6.30am and 7.30am. No, this was definitely ovine bleating, which was not in itself a surprise – not with the perimeter of a 1,000-acre sheep farm all of 30 yards from the marital bed. But this bleating seemed more insistent than usual, and sure enough, there were half a dozen lambs trapped on our side of the fence in what we grandly call the ha-ha, all going ballistic, in their woolly way. It was what you might call, although not after too much Herefordshire cider, a ha-ha hoo-hah. Indeed, a baa-baa ha-ha hoo-hah.
Coincidentally, just to weave off on a slight tangent, the ha-ha hoo-hah came the very day after a ping-pong ding-dong. Jane had ordered a table-tennis table online and paid an extra £50 to have it assembled, a decision born of bitter flat-pack experience. But when the table didn't materialise on the appointed day, she phoned the company she'd bought it from, who called the hauliers and rang back to say that they were terribly sorry, but it seemed to be lost in transit. Two days later it reappeared in a depot in Bristol and delivery arrangements were made again – once we had assured them that there would be someone at home to sign for it between March 2009 and November 2013, that being the narrowest estimate they could offer – and I exaggerate only slightly, as to when it might arrive.
Jane then asked whether the driver who delivered it would also assemble it, causing no end of consternation, because it turned out that the assembly service had been withdrawn a year previously, with nobody having thought to delete details of it from the website. "But you took my £50," she pointed out. "Yes, we're terribly sorry about that, too," they said, promising a refund. Anyway, one week and two small nervous breakdowns later, we finally worked out which nut was married to which bolt, and were able to play. The only faintly troubling thing is that, according to the instructions – which, incidentally, are in German – the table should make a "clack" sound when it is folded away. So far, the clack has eluded us. We haven't got the flat-pack clack knack.
And so back to Tuesday's ha-ha hoo-hah. While Jane herded the lambs in my direction, I made lacklustre attempts to pick them up, intending to haul them back over the fence. Lacklustre, because I have picked up a lamb before and suffered unfortunate consequences. There was once one lying immobile in the field, seemingly abandoned by its mother, so I carried it into our kitchen and phoned Roger, the farmer. Shortly after Roger had collected it I went to Leominster post office, and stood in the queue marvelling at the potent bucolic smell that seemed to be filling the building. I even remarked on it to the woman in front of me, who laughed nervously and edged away – which is when I noticed the lamb had defecated copiously down my trousers.
Happily, I didn't have to pick up these lambs in the end, because they found a gap under the fence and wriggled through, then scampered with relief to their mums, who had been similarly traumatised by the separation, and started frantically suckling. It was lovely to be reminded of the bond between mother and baby – all of which brings me to our friend Sian, whose daughter Eve was delivered by Caesarean section last week. Having had an epidural, Sian was conscious throughout the operation, and Jane, who gave birth to our own middle child by Caesarean but under general anaesthetic, was keen to know what that felt like. She said she'd heard there was a rummaging sensation, like someone looking for a purse in a handbag. "Purse in a handbag," exclaimed Sian. "There were about four pairs of hands in there. I felt more like the bloody bargain bin at Tesco's!"
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