Sunday, 20 December 2015

"Eat the Bloody Grass!" The Saga of my Other Tutu





  Talking of Regimental Sergeant Major 'Tina' Turner, at the end of the Iraq tour he said, 'That tutu of yours is beyond the help even of a lick and a promise with an antiseptic wet wipe. Maybe for the next tour you should bring two?'
  I said, 'Actually, my other tutu's a classic and hardly fits in its IKEA bag! Let alone that it wasn't quite finished to bring out here this time. The delivery of the beading was delayed by Sorrel and Sage.'
  'Parcel delivery company?'
  'Nanny goats.'

  Katy Lonsdale made the other tutu, in a three feet square workroom on her family's farm in Yorkshire. I went up there for the final fittings and stayed on the farm with Katy, her parents Dilys and Tom, five Aberdeen Angus cows, two mares, four cats, a sheep, a sheepdog, Sorrel and Sage. 
  The Lonsdales hate Sorrel and Sage.
  'Even more so now they've bloody delayed the finishing of your tutu,' Dilys told me. Under greying hair swept back Dilys had the features of Elizabeth the First. 'They always do the opposite of what they're told.  All I ever would need the pair of them to do is go outside and eat the grass, then come indoors again to be milked and bed down. But if you open their gate for them to go out, they trot away from it and stand right at the back of the stall and won't come. I tell them to bugger it and leave them. Not gone two feet and I'll hear the frantic trot across the stall and the clang as they've butted the gate to get out after all. So back you go and it's now impossible to open their gate as they've wedged themselves against it heads stuck through. "Get off that bloody gate, Sorrel!" - or Sage or both, whichever, you're shouting - as you try and push their heads back. And of course they're leaning more heavily on it now, thinking this is the usual fun game of the day with Dilys. A good right hook comes into play. They're off the gate, you open it, and blow me if they don't do their trot to the back wall again. You feel like you've slid down the biggest bugger of a snake to the start square. Eighteen times - eighteen - I've gone through this routine with Sorrel before. 
  'And then when you've finally got them into the field, meanwhile missing phone calls galore - delivery men with some urgent beading for instance! - they stand in the same two foot square area and stare over the stone wall at you. "Eat the bloody grass!" you shout at them. No reaction. And whoever's passing by during the day will shout the same thing at them. "Eat the bloody grass!" No reaction. But when you go to get them in when it turns cold, they're off up to the far wall boundary and heads down to chopse at the grass like they've been starved for weeks, keeping one eye on you dancing to the devil piping and screaming at them to come back. I've often ended up getting the shotgun out at this juncture. Shooting warning shots in the air usually gets them seeing the error of the ways and they'll trot back in the dark. You can just about make out their white shapes. And you shoo them across to the barn. 
  ' "Don't you even think of..." but too late, they've diverted around the back to trample among the ducks who should have been locked up this good while but for the time you've been wasting. Luckily Sage in particular takes her precious time taking aim to butt the poor little things and you've usually got time to grab her beard and get her inside out of the way of harming them.  Bloody aggressive billy goat we had before the two nannies got to one too quick for me one night. We had roast duck that weekend with a ready made dent for the orange sauce. 
  'Anyway, your beading was brought by a delivery company, and their driver went round to the front of the house to ring the doorbell. He must have been southern. No offence. Our normal postman knows to come round to the back and have a look over the wall at the goaticide going on daily and get my attention. So this one delivering for the baubles, bangles and beads fancy goods emporium leaves a card saying he's devastated we were out - where does he expect us to be: farming indoors? - and that we must ring the depot for a redelivery. You'd be more successful table-tipping than raising the dead to answer the phone at those delivery companies, more delays to your beading, sorry, and then when you finally do get through they're offish with you, practically accusing you of living up Wuthering bloody Heights, for them to try and negotiate getting up here with their van. They've done it once, they tell you, remember, or you wouldn't have the card to be ringing them off. And you can't go down and get the parcel because there's no where to get it from. It's in a black hole somewhere just beyond Huddersfield. So it has to be delivered. And talking to me like I'm descended from the black Irish - learned that in my book club that the Brontes were probably descended from black Irish. We're not doing book club down the centre this term it's Just Fitness and the receptionist there, Karen, is an ex-policewoman.  I'm only telling you that because the delivery company agreed to deliver the parcel down there under her auspices. Because for love nor money they won't deliver where they think there might be a shared letter box, or there's been an outbreak of scabies or the landlady's a recently defrocked nun or whatever. So, finally, I could go do and get the beading when I was doing Bikram Yoga. 
  'Anyway, sorry your tutu got delayed.'

  
  

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