Talk to farmers and almost immediately they will regale you with the two most repeated animal husbandry mantras: where there is livestock, there is dead stock and sheep come into this world looking for a way to leave it.
Although I do my best not to repeat these refrains, I acknowledge their truth and I have just had to accept these inevitabilities.
But someone has to clean up and so this blog is dedicated, with my deep gratitude, to the Huntsmen of the East Devon Hunt. But, in the first instance, Bella Bathurst deserves an accolade. In writing for the Guardian on 13 April, Ms Bathurst produced a sensitive, kind and thought-provoking read entitled The Knackerman: the Toughest Job in British Farming. As someone who has had to face many of the situations she described as she accompanied a Knackerman on his daily route, her piece meant a lot to me and it is well worth the read.
In practice, I only speak to the Huntsmen when I need them. But when I need them, I really need them. Every single time I have called them out, they have come swiftly and with utmost professionalism, courtesy and kindness, and have done what is necessary.
Invariably they find me in the barn, in tears, and bless them, the Huntsmen rise to the occasion, knowing that my sheep are more like friends to me than merely livestock. Like the time, Bill, my lovely huge Ryland ram, succumbed to old age. Sure enough John from the Hunt found me snivelling next to the dear departed sheep. John looked at me for a moment and then said, why don’t we give old Bill a bit of a send off hey? With that, he loaded the dead sheep into my wheel barrow and with a combination of a theatrical expression of melancholy on his face and a kind, humorous glint in his eye, he steered the wheel barrow around the barn for a couple of circuits before loading old Bill into his truck. It was so spontaneous, bizarre and sweet of him, I just burst out laughing. Then, with a wave of his hand, John drove away, leaving me sitting in the straw, simultaneously crying and chortling, which I discovered is quite an undignified state of being.