I had another embarrassing moment with a sheep yesterday.
It was one of those lovely Indian Summer days, with russet and red autumn tints in all directions, the early morning mists had burnt off, the sun was warm and there was an orchard full of rosy apples to be picked. I took out my large basket and my long ladder, climbed into the tallest apple-tree, and settled into a comfortable fork, having a gentle muse about the meaning of life, where's it all leading to, will String Theory explain everything in the Universe, does it matter that David Cameron is beginning to go bald, is it fair to cut child benefits, is Nigella really as insatiable as she looks, and so on...... Every now and again, I plucked an apple and added it to my apron pouch. The birds were singing, there was no pressure, this was the most perfect of worlds. If this was bucolic, I liked it. I did briefly wonder about the derivation of the word bucolic, as is my wont (to save you looking it up, I can tell you it relates to things pastoral, and comes from the Greek boukolikos, a herdsman, bous being the Greek for an ox). Nothing to do with colic from eating too many green apples.
This bit of trivia seemed very appropriate,since by this time I was aware that a few sheep were clustering around the tree, pushing each other aside to get at the fallen apples which I'd accidentally dislodged. As a trainee shepherd I also knew that if sheep eat too many apples it discombobulates their digestive system, with predictable results for the cleanliness of my orchard. So I shouted at them and threw a couple of apples at them to scare them away. Big mistake! It caused a frenzy of pushing and shoving and my ladder was sent flying.
So there I was, up a creek without a paddle, nobody within hailing distance and no sheep smart enough to put the ladder back in place for me to climb down.
There's always a solution to dilemmas if you're clever enough. My problem was that I wasn't clever enough. I sat and thought, and mused a bit, and thought a bit more, and then remembered that my wife had gone to Bristol for the whole day and wouldn't be back for lunch. When she did get back at 7 p.m., she wouldn't expect me to be sitting up a tree in the gloaming, she'd just start ringing round the neighbours, then various casualty departments and then the police.
There was a time, about 40 years ago, when I'd just have climbed down to the lowest branch, hung from it by my arms and dropped cat-like to my feet, Britain's answer to Johnny Weissmuller (or Johnny Depp in today's parlance).
I have now discovered that cat-like dropping to my feet is not one of my retained talents. I can still do 'sack of potatoes and multiple bruises' though.
Ouch! Bloody sheep!