Characters

Amongst all the lockdowns, facemasks and general hysteria stirred by the media, the life goes on as usual on the farm. The blackcurrant bushes are starting to look like someone has thrown a light green veil over them, the vineyard is neat and tidy post pruning, pale yellow primroses spring in every ditch, every hedge and round every corner.

Since the clock sprung forward, somehow I have gained an hour in the morning before the household (by household read My Dear M) wakes up. I feed the chickens and dogs, make myself a cup of tea and sit right here, by my desk, to write another thousand words of my book. Which is partly why I haven’t been sending out these little missiles.

paperweight on paper, next to a laptop
The book is growing.

I always found it a bit pretentious when writers said that their characters did what they wanted and they, the authors were not in charge of it. Well, I know exactly what they meant and believe me, it’s not pretentious at all. Promise.

I sit here, typing away, and my plan is: girl opens the front door and says ‘Hi, Sue’ to her best friend. Instead what happens is: girl opens the front door and says ‘Um, hi Mum…’ And just like that, as I type, my main character’s kitchen fills with extra people (her mother and mother’s friend) before Sue even arrives. Cue much more challenging dialogue scene and my head spinning. Totally unplanned. My next few pages, amongst an unexpected argument, I try to get rid of some of them because writing dialogue with just two people instead of four is so much easier.

The whole process is exhilarating. Writing the story sets me up for my day with the knowledge that I have breathed life into my characters and they live it while I walk the dogs.

Talking of breathing life, we have taken on lambs. They were born only five days ago to a mother who was too weak to feed them. Triplets. A week premature. A recipe for a disaster. The farmer left it entirely to me to decide what to do with them. Did I want to take them? With the view that they might not make it? Of course I did.

a newborn lamb
Resting on straw

So they moved into their improvised lodgings only two days after being born. My brother’s handmade chicken enclosure with a roof, fencing all around and a handy section for all the straw that they sleep on, was painfully moved next to our chickens’ electric fence. Hopefully the knowledge that there is electricity nearby should keep the hungry fox away from the minute lambs.

The two girls and a boy were the smallest lambs I have ever looked after. We tried to give them some more colostrum (the most important part of mother’s milk that gives them their immunity) and then I started them on a formula. One of the girls was hardly able to stand, she was so weak, and the boy seemed to be more and more listless. By the evening, when I moved them into the greenhouse (the beautiful, spring weather turned into wintery winds), both girls were eating fine, but he was refusing. His breathing was shallow and he was shivering continuously.

I have been giving them all some reiki healing during the day and I continued in the evening. While the girls were getting stronger, I knew that the boy was on his way out. I sat with him, my hands on his tiny, shivering body, until he stopped shaking and fell into a calm sleep, his breath still faint but finally steady. He didn’t wake up in the morning. I had prepared myself for that after I left him on the straw in the evening so there was no shock. Just a touch of sadness.

His sisters probably decided to take my mind off their brother and started eating like crazy. A day later they were both walking on unsteady, incredibly long legs, trying to headbutt the dogs.

They still spend the night in the greenhouse and the day in the luxury chicken apartment. They eat more and more. They are becoming real characters, taking over their own story.

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