Well, it’s back. The weather, that is. After a glorious day on Saturday, the clouds moved in just in time to obscure the total eclipse of the moon that I had been looking forward to all day. Come Sunday, we awoke to steady rain which lasted all day.
Two of our guests braved the elements and managed to get in a six-mile walk before deciding that Aspen House looked far too cosy to ignore. The others had taken one look at the weather and settled themselves in the lounge with the papers. Hats off to the walkers, though – three hours in the rain is pretty intrepid by anyone’s standards. We just hope that the meal we served last night hit the spot.
Just for the record, and also in a poorly disguised attempt to cajole some of you into booking in for a two-day foodfest, we served pigeon and partridge breast on a crispy crouton with a creamy bacon and parsley sauce, followed by slow-roasted Berkshire belly pork (with crackling to die for!) with a garlic, sage and rosemary gravy on a bed of steamed roasted buckwheat. To round this off, there was Sally’s famous chocolate, pecan and date sponge puddings with butterscotch sauce. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, but I couldn’t help thinking that John Torode and Greg Wallace, of Masterchef fame, would have hated it. But then, those two do look really hard to please . . .
As for the weather, it looked fine first thing this morning, but soon clouded over and now, as I write, I can see the river coming up fast. No doubt we will again get an emergency flood warning some time in the middle of the night, telling us to move ourselves, our family, pets and valuables to safety.
This must be the fourth time the river has been in spate since Christmas. It appears to be rising faster than usual. Oh well – if it keeps coming up, we’ll be in trouble. The sandbags provided by Herefordshire Council have all rotted, so no chance of using them to protect ourselves. Every year, the Council brings us sandbags, and every year the bags from the previous delivery have all perished in the heat of the summer or the rains of winter. I asked the guys that delivered the last lot why the sand can’t be put into bags that would survive. The answer I got, after a short reflective pause was, “Dunno mate.” So that’s that then.
Putting sand into bags that disintegrate within twelve months looks to me like a ploy to keep Council workers employed, which is okay by me, but really rather irritating when it comes to facing the possibility of the river reaching our back door without our being able to use the bags to stop it. Did you spot the gerund there? My old English master would be so pleased – after telling me how useless I was at school. Oliver Goldfinch, where are you now?
With the river coming up so fast, our neighbour, Frank, had to move his sheep to higher ground from the field behind the pub. This of course involves letting the sheep out onto the road by the New Harp and guiding them across the T-junction and up Tresseck Lane. Easy, you might think. Just get yourself a couple of energetic sheepdogs, lean nonchalantly on your crook (with the hand-carved sheep horn handle) push your cap back, to give you better vision, and control your dogs with a few well-judged whistles.
In Frank’s case, it would appear to be not so easy. For a start off, Frank’s collies have no sense of responsibility. They seem to think that sheepherding involves riding around in the back of a short wheelbase Landrover with their heads in the wind and their tongues hanging out, barking abuse at passers-by. With sincere apologies to Frank, they look like a bunch of hooligans, and about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.
This makes the job of moving sheep through the village harder than it should be, and today’s performance confirmed this. One minute, it appeared that success had been achieved and all the sheep were dashing up Tresseck Lane, their noisy bleating betraying their state of confusion. Next minute we see a whole bunch of them coming back down the lane, heading for the pub again.
Finally, though, despite the absence of working collies, it all seems to settle down. All the sheep disappear around the corner up the lane and all is quiet once more.
And that was when we spotted Fleur, the New Harp landlady, striding determinedly across her car park with a little back lamb tucked under one arm. With her free hand, she opened the boot of her car, popped in the lamb, got into the car herself and drove off.
Was this Fleur being the good shepherd and rescuing one that had gone astray, or was it just blatant sheep rustling? I’ll leave you to decide.