Sue Woodcock: Educating Archie on straying

I KNOW, spring is coming because the curlews have arrived and I was delighted to see a flock of plovers over the mire. In the lane, the snowdrops are out. Up here, they are a little later than down in the valley.

It has been a lot milder, but one fine morning a thin veneer of ice covered all the puddles. The mornings start earlier, and it is almost six before the light goes in the evening.

Some visitors from Oxford were staying in the village along with Archie, their headstrong little brown terrier who was a rescue dog from London. Archie escaped off the lead and discovered the joys of chasing rabbits and the call of the open countryside.

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Try as they might, they couldn’t catch him but kept him in sight until he finally disappeared over the horizon. His distraught owners returned to the village and raised reinforcements.

At the end of the week, there was still no Archie and his owners called and explained that they had to return home.

I assured them that if he turned up, I would foster him until they could collect him. I admit I didn’t hold out much hope.

The next morning I got a message. The artful little dog had turned up just in the nick of time, safe and apparently well having had quite an adventure. There is a moral to the tale: the moors and fells round here can be treacherous and it is a good idea to keep dogs on a lead. Local keepers are not too keen on the grouse being disturbed.

My pygmy goat, Edna, had the cutest tiny nanny kid this week. It is the size of a small kitten but seems healthy. I have called it Esme.

All week I have been trying to get rid of a heavy head cold and one day, when I was not due to go out, I was in my pyjamas and wellies strawing up the shippon and checking all was well, when I looked up. A gentleman was standing in the yard.

He politely explained that he was hoping to talk to me. He was an Italian from Milan and was researching for a book on people who live alone or in isolation in unusual circumstances. He had found out about me via the internet and had driven up from London.

I hastily rushed inside and got changed, gave him a cup of coffee and found he was charming. To establish his credentials, he gave me a copy of one of his books.

He is a photographer. I explained that my Italian is not that good but he spoke excellent English and I agreed to talk to him.

I posed for photos under his direction. I am not, and never have been a beauty, but he wanted, as he explained, a real person not a false image. I hope he got it.

After he had gone, I had time to look at his book. I was astounded. I have long been a fan of the photography of Ansell Adams, and this chap’s work is just as good. His name is Carlo Bevilacqua. The book In Italia is in both Italian and English and I shall treasure it.

I have never sought out fame but to have such an artist take photos of me is an incredible happenstance.

I am almost used to local people recognising me from this diary but I had no idea that I was of interest so far afield. I find it a little daunting and rather humbling. It is not because I am special just the circumstances in which I find myself.

I hear youngsters saying it is their ambition to be famous. It isn’t that great, and they should be careful what they wish for. At least I am firmly brought down to earth by keeping animals.

My Muscovy ducks and geese went off to a new wonderful home this week. It will make the feed bill a bit smaller. The chickens are laying well now; another sign that spring is on the way.

Henry the turkey stag is proudly displaying to his lady friends and the two cockerels are shouting to the hens – with some success. The sheep are fit and eagerly await their daily ration of food.

I managed to pay some bills this week and am now gearing up for a busy time with the murder-mystery play coming up. It is fully booked and should raise a good amount for the Hubberholme church fund.

The idea was mooted at one rehearsal that we go “on tour” to raise more money. I did another stint on Street Angels this week and gave a lift to another local villager who has joined our number. It was a quiet night and I enjoyed it.

Otherwise, life goes on as usual and I can just about find time to do everything. My life is certainly varied and quite exciting at times.

I am not complaining; it is rather fun!