I AM sat at my desk sewing buttons on a new hat I bought to wear at Royal Ascot this week. It’s great to get away and see lots of friends but, for me, rather like a bus man’s holiday.
It is amazing to see the top European flat horses in the flesh but, call me dull, I don’t even drink at race meetings (other than toasting a winner) - I would be asleep before the 5.30, and attending with no involvement feels lacking somehow. Ascot, however, like Cheltenham is the place to meet people and do business so that is what I fully intend to do.
Last week we took two of the racehorses to Craven Country Ride, a cross country ride near Gargrave with a huge variety of different obstacles and water complexes set in the Dales. Neither chaser had ever experienced anything similar to it before, I thought it would give them a refreshing alternative to working at home. They thoroughly enjoyed it and one lovely big staying chaser I purchased recently proved a dab hand at everything he met. He enjoyed the course and impressed me so much that I mentioned to the owners we will think about aiming him at the big cross country chases this winter including Cheltenham. He is rated quite high so will have no problem getting in the races. They are all geed up at the prospect and being realistic there is no reason why we shouldn’t give them a crack.
A few weeks ago my boyfriend Tris thought he’d give me an unexpected surprise by arriving home with a pet lamb in the back of his car. The six-day-old Swaledale was extremely noisy, if extremely cute. We called him Johnny after the work colleague who had given him to us.
The lamb’s mother had given birth to twins but couldn’t feed both so the female, the more valuable of the two, was kept and Johnny ended up with us. It probably didn’t take much to talk Tris in to taking him, Johnny the work colleague would only need to pull a photo out of the little bruiser and its fate was sealed, especially as my boyfriend goes to work every day leaving myself or one of the girls to ensure the new pet gets fed (or caught) every few hours.
Johnny’s bright white Swaledale wool sets him apart from the rest of his field mates, my random collection of Texel lambs and ageing ewes look almost grubby in comparison.
Being the only pet lamb in the flock has made Johnny act like a spoilt only child. His ability to escape is second to none. I found him on the front doorstep three lunchtimes in a row last week. The devilish little Swaledale, whose horns are growing faster than the rest of him, had a hoot playing in the garden with Felix, running after him on his bike like a dog.
I hoped things would get easier as he grew bigger, no longer able to squeeze through the smallest gap, but how wrong I was. Johnny has realised he can jump and climb like the hill bred sheep he is.
I could hear his load braying at tea time yesterday but couldn’t find him. My son Felix came out of the house in hysterics. The lamb had joined him for tea in the kitchen. Johnny had scaled the muck heap this time. I thought last year’s brood were tricky enough when six lambs were found in some poor dear’s back garden at 3am one morning. Following that we sheep netted every metre of the hedgerows, confident the pasture was finally secure. And then Johnny arrived...