I am back in England for three weeks. It’s terrible weather ( as usual): rain, snow, wind, with the occasional blast of bright sun. I have a heavy sweater on and an open fire in the grate. The river outside my door is a swollen vein of mango-coloured water. It’s a hard time to be born for the lambs, struggling to their feet in the fields. I live on the English-Welsh border, smack under the Black Mountains, which Bruce Chatwin made famous in Under The Black Hill. It’s marginal land, mostly only good for sheep. My neighbour, Richard ” Dick ” Prosser and his wife, Doris, are busy day and night, going back and forth to the barn on a quad bike, armed with bottles of milk, towels and syringes. When I walked over yesterday, I found Dick standing outside the tin-roofed barn in a blue, plastic anorak with the hood up. He was soaked to the skin ( and he is not a young man) but as cheerful as ever, with that quick wit and teasing humour typical of the area. About twelve lambs were housed in makeshift pens with their mothers. It smelled of hay and sheep shit.
” They should be outside by now “, said Dick, shaking his head. ” Eating grass. They get sick if they stay in here too long. ” He pointed to a cardboard box.” I’m running out of room, too. ”
In the bottom of the box was what looked like a dirty rag.
” Is it alive ? “, I asked, worried.
” I hope it is. ” Dick bent down and tickled the lamb’s neck. It was barely able to raise its head from its pillow of dirty straw.
The lamb’s mother, a heavy-set ewe with a fleece of wool the colour of dirty snow, came over to the box and sniffed the lamb.
” Thinks the world of him, she does “, said Dick,with a wink.