It was a rare weekend away but where to go? Everything inside me wanted to head for the coast; for the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, for the wind to blow through my hair (well, ok, for the wind to blow by my head, about the place where my hair used to be, if you want to be pedantic about such things) - it's invigorating all the same! I love the coast, being there really does restore my soul, although I am a bit of a snob and it has to be rugged coastline, somewhere like North Cornwall, South-West Wales or the West coast of Scotland (other coastlines are available, please see your nearest tourist information centre for details).
However, with driving rain and possible snow forecast we decided that we would stay inland. Shropshire. We’ve never really explored Shropshire so we booked onto a farm for two nights B&B. I was working on the premise that if it was really boring Emily would at least enjoy saying hello to some animals every morning!
Well the weather was atrocious for most of our time away, a strong wind and horizontal rain for the most part. However, being on the farm worked a treat. It was more a smallholding than a farm; sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, pigs, dogs, geese, chickens – all that was missing was Old Macdonald!
We were given a tour of the livestock and Emily even got to give a backrub to Harriet, a very expectant ewe. Nick, our host, told us that Harriet really liked a good back rub and so Emily set about giving her the best back rub a Yorkshire girl could offer. We then said hello to Victor the horse, Charlie the goat and several other new friends before making our way to the pub where Emily downed two halves of shandy without coming up for air.
We discovered that the pub had been at risk of closure so the villagers got together and formed a co-operative as it was a real hub of the local community. Everybody knew everyone – it was a bit like sitting on someone else’s settee but not at all strange – it was a lovely friendly atmosphere – as far away from Wetherspoons as you could possibly be. There was a genuine old-fashioned tap room where farmers were playing darts and when the fire alarm went off due to smoke from the kitchen all that happened was the kitchen door was slammed shut with someone's foot and the barmaid came running to waft the smoke away from the alarm with a bar towel and then opened the front door for a bit of ventilation. How refreshing! It was just like being at home! You got the feeling that Shropshire was a bit like going back in time to a time when people were civil to one another, cared for one another and created genuine community. I liked it. A lot!
After steak and chips we staggered back up the pitch-black lane with only a wind-up torch for navigation, stumbled into our lodgings and bedded down for the night. With no internet or TV, we were asleep by 10.30pm. Bliss.
As we arrived for breakfast the next morning we were informed that one of the sheep had given birth to two lambs that morning and that another was likely to deliver shortly and that we could go and look (after scoffing our full English obviously!).
We entered the barn as a lamb had just been born – the first for new mum Harriet! As we stopped we looked down and another was born, quickly followed by a third. Nick was giving us a running commentary through it all – it was like being on Countryfile! Just as I was looking round for John Craven, Harriet surprised us all with a fourth lamb! This was a first for Nick. He’d been doing this for 8 years and had never had four lambs from one ewe before. We all decided that it must have been Emily’s back rub the previous day that did the trick which Emily was absolutely delighted about.
The following day, just before we left, Nick asked Emily to think of four names for Harriet’s lambs – two boys and two girls. Without a second thought Emily declared, “Frank - you know Frank from church with the ginger beard, Thomas - Sir Thomas - the one who married Kate (we think this may be William but that's between you and I), Laura (after her big sister) and Noelle (one of Laura's friends from America and a fellow bridesmaid with Emily this time last year)”. We then went up to the barn to work out which was which before saying our goodbyes and heading on our way home.
So if you live or pass through Shropshire please do give a wave to Harriet, Frank, Thomas, Laura and Noelle - some of Emily's newest friends.
For this reason alone, we won’t be eating lamb this Easter!