The Holiday – Part 14

Hindsight. Would that we were gifted with its piercing insights before we did the deed.

Oh, I enjoyed a moment of piercing insight, of course. After I had leapt.

I saw with absolute clarity that my cover as a sane, functioning, rational human being was blown. I could descend no lower. It was abject humiliation by dodgy ditch. And all compounded by the sheep’s arse eye-level vision.

The slathering baa-ing mess passed within inches of my face – and that was with me pressing up hard against the opposite bank – trying to haul myself up by the hedgerow.

Until I just gave up. And stood there.

I observed, detachedly, that sheep could shit, piss and run at the same time.

I had lost the other flip-flop. Sucked off into the gritty squelching stream at the bottom of the ditch. I couldn’t bend to search for it as that would involve grazing my face along the nettles.

R yoew mithered int ed lass?

He was physically shaking with laughter as he said it. He shook his head. And laughed. And laughed.

He had the sheep penned between dogs in the wider yard. And was hugging his sides as he laughed.

Yoew ad get jist ther – din’t yoew ear mi?

Gate? Gate?

‘appen yoew din‘t. And he actually snorted with laughter.

I looked up at him. Sitting up there on that quad-bike. And wanted to inflict pain. Itched to slap his laughing face.

He got down from the bike. Reached out his hand.

ere lass, gie mi yoer and…

I despised the proffered hand and him. I glared. And he smiled at me, before the laughter burbled up again and he started shaking with the effort of keeping it down. There was laughter just staining the air between us. laughter becoming the absurdity of the situation.

What the hell. At least my Mother and Megan hadn’t seen me.

I took the hand.

Two bungled attempts to haul me out later and we worked out it would be easier if I just did it myself.

He walked down the road a bit and brought back the discarded flip-flop. Trying to wipe the sheep shit from it before he handed it over.

I stood. A bit wobbly. Office white skin mottled with nettle rash – puffy red and white weals that had yet to start itching and stinging. Feet bleeding and mucky.

I looked up towards the house.

And there they all were. Staring back.

Mum, Dad, Megan, Jamie and Ana.

Derek and his wife.

And a boy I later discovered was his son.

And the sons girlfriend.


The Holiday – Part 13

High summer heat-haze, syrupy air laden with insect and birdsong and occasional horse nickering, knowledge that there will be two weeks of no-work… Knots in my shoulders began unknotting. The tension of too many problems and being the one with workable solutions began to dissolve. My breathing was slowing and deepening. I could feel the beating pulse of my heart finding a new rhythm.

Then, through my drunken heat-hazy limb-heavy state I was aware of a new sound. Distant – but getting closer. A low and regular growl. Growing louder. Resolving itself into a mechanical and ripping roar. Enjoined by the yipping, high, bark bark bark yelp squeal of dog. The whistle of man. And the increasingly frantic bleating of what sounded like 1000 sheep. Sheep that were getting closer. Closer to me.

I thought briefly of jumping into the single-track nettle-filled roadside ditches. Nope. Not an option – bare legs and flip-flops.

There was only one way to go and that was up the hill. Now. And at speed. A speed that had to beat the dog and the sheep and the roaring, predatory quad-bike-man. I was panicked into running. I tripped on a flip-flop. And left it lying in the road. My feet stung as they slapped the rubbly tarmac surface. I looked behind and could see the beasts gaining on me. There was a multitude of sheep. A bleating scrabbling mass of grubby wool and yellow satanic eyes pursued by machine and mad barking dog. And the only thing between them and the farmyard was me. A stumbling unfit footsore me.

Above the din I heard shouting. Insistent shouting. Noises that were clearly human but which contained no meaning I could decipher. The heartbeat was sounding so loud against my eardrums. I would as well have been deaf. I stopped, briefly, bewildered by the human insistence. The sheep were gaining on me. They were almost upon me. My nostrils were full of their smell. I could feel their breath. The clatter and slip of their horny feet on the loose road grit as they pushed on towards me. In one split second I saw the newspaper obituary – 44 yr old Mother of Five Trampled to Death by Sheep.

I looked at the ditch. I looked at the sheep. And with one despairing leap I was up to my thighs in nettles…

The Holiday – Part 5

Torn between healthy respect for the still stationary, road-hogging sheep and the knowledge that my father required me to grovel for at least a few minutes (though more likely the entire holiday) – I side-shuffled and shimmied out of the drivers door.

I needn’t have worried. The sheep simply did not care. For the second time that day, I found myself envying them.

My mother gave me that look. The special look she saved for me when I had clearly done something wrong. The look she used to give when I was a child – as I passed her in the doorway after she had bellowed herself hoarse, shouting over scheme rooftops for me to come home. She – large adult with malevolence in her eyes – Me – small transgressor with stubborn determination not to admit I might have done something wrong… Back then I would duck, just as I imagined her hand coming up to slap me – and she would miss and be even more infuriated that I had ducked. Oh happy days.

I was too old now to duck, I reflected. Anyway I was standing at the driver side – she wouldn’t be able to reach.