Every day I take the children to their alternative playground. We call it The Farm, because it is, quite simply, a farm. A proper farm, with sheep and lambs and chickens and two shire horses and a ton of cats and three sheepdogs and some puppies and a pig. There are old tractors to climb on, we feed the sheep hay, we throw our potato peelings and rotten apples to Le Pig and often go and have a glass of juice cordial with the farmer and the real boss of the farm – his wife. If we go late afternoon/early evening, Tommy helps the farmer bring the sheep in and he is now quite the expert in French sheepdog commands. Sometimes it’s the farmer who brings his sheep up to the village and down the valley, in which case Tommy is allowed to go and join him and vanishes for an hour or so, happily chattering away about the pros and cons of sheep bells. He has become so at ease with the animals that he’ll swoop a lamb up and carry it to its mother, who in fact probably wanted five minutes peace and quiet nibbling on some fresh tufty grass around the corner and having a chat with her woolly mates.
Léonie has spent months watching her big brother with big, round eyes, totally fascinated by his relationship with the animals, but she has always kept her distance, as though she was a bit wary of them. Until now that is. All of a sudden, she’s down there, on the straw’n’sheep-poo ground, feeding them hay, jangling their bells, patting their heads and even kissing them, much to my concern that she might catch a dodgy sheep-virus (I remember being pregnant and having to stay away from birthing ewes as they carry a disease which pregnant women really MUSTN’T get and I wondered if this applies to little children, which it doesn’t, according to the farmer). I think it was the wellies that gave her confidence – from the moment she put them on she suddenly “became” La Bergère. A lot like me, good old actress-mummy, as my persona is radically transformed by the costume/footwear/hat I happen to be wearing. At the moment I am limited to two characters : Tracky-Bottoms-Slightly-Sporty-Slightly-Slobby-Mum and Mutton-Dressed-As-Lamb which is what I was today, dressed in a tight, bright pink vest top and a short, flowery skirt. It was an accident – this morning I was wearing jeans with that top and that was okay and then it got really hot and I put on the nearest skirt I could find and off we went to the farm and I realised halfway there I looked like an absolute old tart. The skirt was given to me a few years ago by my sister who said “I can’t wear this, I look like mutton dressed as lamb” which I didn’t get back then, seeing as I’m 4 years younger, but lo, 4 years have passed and unlike her, I’m still wearing the skirt and I do now look like an old sheep. Thankfully, no-one saw me, except for the other sheep, and they also looked like mutton so I felt quite at home. Like me, like ewe. Ha ha ha ha. God, I should really go to bed. Baaaaaaaaa.