Five o’sundial of the ante meridiem today and I braved some of the familiar route out through the blasted wastelands of Belleau with the addition of a loop through the badlands of Claythorpe the better to cast my beadies over the repairs to the railway bridge.
The repairs go well, with the arch brickwork destroyed by the lorry having been replaced and some sundry other items tidied and improved too. The road closure while this happens? That goes not so well, with a constant stream of “Brians of Britain” (sic) forcing their way through the barriers instead of taking the five-minute diversion around the village.
I saw an early-morning jogger, desperately jiggling about for the sake of his health, right through the barriers and under the semi-repaired, still cement-soggy arch… He was “jogging” in those little baby-steps that folk do when they can neither jog nor stop trying.
This morning, stout boots and I shot one rabbit, one swan, eight sheep, five cows and some eight geese a-flying. Mr Sunshine joined me mere minutes into the stroll and brought a certain benevolent radiation to the proceedings. It should be remembered that in order to join me, Mr Sunshine had to leave home over eight minutes earlier than did I, so I forgive his tardiness and commend him to the Nation in any case. A low sun without heat is a wonderful thing indeed.
The River Eau was in full trickle, attesting to the lack of imagination of certain early inhabitants of England. Oh look, there’s a few springs and a river of water – let us call it “water” but in French, so that everyone will think we’re posh. It looketh pretty also, so let us name our village Belleau and we shall henceforth not only combine pretty and water, but keepeth unto ourselves a spare letter “e” in case of dire alphabetical emergency.
The River Eau is home to one of England’s most cantankerous and ill-disposed swans. We had a hissing battle that I won when he admitted defeat by sailing away.
Yes, yes – I used a brief minute or two of my self-conscious existence on this island on this planet in this system in this galaxy in this universe to exchange insults with a swan, and – although I was careful to not let him see me – I gave him two fingers of my mind, a flick of my chin and a bras d’honneur for good measure.
There is something about the sound of sheep bleating in the distance that reminds me of sheep bleating in the distance. A bucolic sound, certainly, but also as much of an imperative to any Englishman as to any Welshman, although for very different reasons.
Upon hearing the distant bleat the Englishman is called, not to wide-top wellies and a post-coital smoke, but to check for wolves or other impediments to the integrity of the flock. In England it is the domestic responsibilities of the shepherd within us that makes a man gallumph with purpose over dewy meadow, cattle-grid and stile. We seek to tend and defend, not to offend.
In the final analysis, I need not have hurried, for the bleating was merely an indication of early-morning ovine buffoonery as some of the flock vied for postition on logs strewn about by the farmer for just such purpose. Kings of the castle, if only for a moment.
Does it seem odd to you, to watch your mutton and your lamb chops playing as they fatten and grow?
Some several shuffles and a soft-shoe shamble further along, this morning’s countryside (as laid out overnight by Her Majesty’s Lincolnshire County Council) turned from the pastoral to the arable, and a fresh kind of hell.
There aren’t many sights that make me cringe and scurry along the margins in terror, but the sight of crops flailing wildly in the early-morning breeze with full sunshine beating down is one of them. A cirumstance of wheat and barley and other such poisons, with me as some sort of Gollum, tip-toeing it in what dark and dank I might find. One does what one must in order to survive.
One thing that I did this morning, in order to survive, was to refuse the path shown to the right of frame, leading as it did through a field of cattle with calves. They looked at me in a funny colour, and I was reminded that some five or six persons are killed each year in England alone by doe-eyed cows of the bovine persuasion.
Valour! Valour! Valour I cried! Valour and the better part of judgement as I flung about for an alternative route and left them to their hoofed violence and bitter grazing.
The wild dangers that beset a chap on his morning anti-rickets route-march are manifold. Not half a mile further in my perambulations I found my way blocked by several geese and a rabbit. What to do? What to do?
Well, there comes a time in a chap’s life when enough is enough, when the line has been crossed and Nature, though red in tooth and claw, must be faced and faced well. I did what I hope anyone faced with such horrors might do in my stead. I stripped off all of my clothing, rolled around for a few minutes in the damp grass and the moist droppings, and then I ran full-tilt and yodelling at those who attempted to block my route. Yodel-ey-ee yodel-ey-ee yodel-eh-he-he (I was chanelling Maria from the Sound of Music). All but the rabbit took flight, and the rabbit and I settled our evolutionary differences with gentlemanly fisticuffs. I came through victorious, happy and glorious, returning to Hutson Towers to walk again another day. It’s a lousy, rotten job – but someone has to do it.