Writing yesterday evening about charging down a potholed driveway, trying to catch a bus, got me thinking this morning about what other strange adventures my work out at Langford entailed.
Essentially I worked for an Architect who lived and worked out of a converted barn, with 17 acres of land attached to it. I was employed as a CAD technician doing drawings for all manner of new houses, extensions and barn conversions, among other things, a nice clean desk job, well so you would think.
As I wrote yesterday, I had a long walk down the drive to the barn, the drive was in need of repair, there were deep potholes and if one of the neighbours came down the drive, I had to step aside into the hedgerow, in my nice shoes and trousers!
But I couldn’t get into the barn/offices unnoticed! No, there was no way I could ever do that, before I got into the office I had jobs to do, I would be reminded every morning as I walked down that drive, sun, wind, rain or snow, it didn’t matter, they would let me know every morning, like I was ever going to forget.
I was greeted every morning by the hungry cries of a pair of donkeys and half a dozen geese. There was also a pair of Guinea Fowl, with which I had a real running battle with the male, it really hated me and I didn’t care him much either, you can read about the time the bloody thing tried to blind me here !
My first job was to tend to the animals every morning, feed the donkeys, replace their hay, top up their water and from time to time clean out the hooves, not a nice job, getting your face close to a third of a ton of donkey, who wanted to kick your head in, luckily the pair of them never got me!
Then feed all the birds and replace the geese’s water, not a pleasant job at all, needless to say I smelt of geese droppings most of the day, nice!
It didn’t matter where the donkeys were in the fields, they seemed to know when I was due, they would spot me and let out a loud cry as I approached. James was shy and quite timid, he rarely let you get close to him, but Sophie his sister was the complete opposite, she didn’t mind, she had a habit of trying to eat my coat and as I was getting their food ready, she would rest her head on my shoulder or just nudge me out the way in eagerness.
The geese on the other hand could be aggressive, but never really attacked, they would make lots of noise, rear up and flap their wings, but that was about it, they could be intimidating at times though.
Apart from having to stick my hand in to bath of water full of geese droppings, the funniest story of the geese and I, came when the barn was put up for sale.
I got a message one morning there was to be a viewing, the estate agent was handling it, but could I make sure everything was tidy. No problem, that should be fine, that was until I got down to the gates to the barn and found all the geese running around the garden!
They had all found their way through a very small opening in the wire fencing that separated the garden from the fields beyond. With about twenty minutes to spare I had to get these bloody geese back through the fence, close it up and quickly feed everyone and tidy up, a sense of panic set in.
My first idea was opening up the hole a little wider, then throw a bowl of feed over the fence to the other side of the opening, good idea, they would follow the food, wrong, the donkeys came and ate it all, not a good start!
So I grabbed a long stick and went about trying to round them up and herd them through the gap, it seemed to work until one made a dash in the other direction, then as I tried to get the gathered up the rest scattered and I had to start again. I persevered, over and over again, eventually I got them all safely through the gap in the fence, closed the gap behind them, chucked them some grain, sorted the donkeys and then rather sweatily and very late got into the office to start work. There was definitely some serious bad language going on that morning, I’m glad there is no CCTV footage of me trying to round up the geese, it would be one of those shown on those TV clip shows or YouTube!
The other interesting time that came to mind was trying to get James, a full grow male donkey into a horse box and then the after care!
James had somehow got an insect bite on his, shall we say, private parts, which had become swollen and infected, so much so it required an operation that needed to be done at the vets. So the first task was to get a shy donkey, which liked nothing to do with humans into a horse box!
Sophie & James, The Donkeys
Now Sophie his sister, she was inquisitive and was easy to get into the box, but we didn’t need her, so we had the idea he may follow her in, we could get him in, secure him and then get her out.
He wouldn’t have it, we pushed and pulled and he dug in, when they say donkeys are stubborn, they aren’t kidding, James was the epitome of stubborn, he wasn’t having any of it, after a few hours of trying everything, we called in the Vet, we were out of ideas and he was scheduled for his operation the next day.
While waiting for the Vet, we kept trying, after about five hours the Vet arrived, a big Nigerian fella who I could hardly understand, when I say big, I mean I’m only five foot four and half inches tall, he towered over me and was twice as wide as me also.
He gave James a bit of a sedative injection to calm him down, then said the only way was to physically lift him in!!
Was he kidding, this was a third of a ton donkey, his idea was for the two if us to lift in this donkey who was fast becoming docile and even less responsive.
We got James to the door of the horse box, we both stood either side of him and locked hands behind the donkeys backside, James had no intention at this point of moving anywhere, so with a massive effort we managed to lift his back end and push him into the box. I think I got the short straw, as Jeff was so much bigger than I was, I’m sure this imbalance meant I carried most of the weight of a dead weight donkey, needless to say, I tore a number of back muscles, just the day before I was due in London for a three day Karate course, luckily my friend practices Shiatsu, he treated me a few times over the weekend and I got through it.
It didn’t stop there, when James came back after his operation, the area needed keeping clear of any further infections. Essentially the bite that had become infect was on his foreskin, so basically he had been circumcised! But the area needed keeping clear of further insect bites, the Vet’s had provided an ointment that would keep flies and other insects away, it just had to be applied around the area, daily!
I’m sure by now you’ve guessed who got that job, oh yes, I can’t remember volunteering for it and I can’t say that putting ointment around a donkeys privates was I my job description, but I got the task.
So I had to find a way of keeping a nervous donkey calm, he probably hated me for manhandling him anyway, whilst I smothered a thick ointment all around his privates and his stomach! The first few days weren’t easy, but I put food down for him to keep both of them occupied and applied the stuff to the area as required, not a pleasant job, I can also say I do know where the term hung like a donkey comes from also! But after a few days it was a lot easier, I think he understood I was only trying to help. After a couple of weeks he was healed and no longer needed treating, so we went back to our normal stand off relationship, although he was after that a little friendlier to me.
I once had to treat Sophie also, this time a syringe of medication to be squirted down her throat, making sure she took it all! This was probably harder than treating James’ bits, she hated it, day after day I had to try to hold her head, nose to the air with one arm, whilst using the other to get the syringe as far down her throat as possible and then squeeze, then holding her head up and rubbing her throat and neck until she swallowed!
I miss the donkeys now, I saw them last in December of last year for the first time in over a year, they still seemed to remember me. Sadly they escaped from their paddock a few months ago, they found themselves on the main line rail tracks, where they were hit by a high speed train and killed outright.
There were lots if things I did whilst working for the Architect that you wouldn’t expect to do in your day to day duties, the donkeys and animals were one thing, but I also ended up baby sitting from time to time, decorating, cleaning and gardening, amongst many other things. I spent most of my working life working for small companies, usually just me and my boss, in that environment you just get used to doing whatever is needed, being that baby sitting, looking after donkeys and everything else in between, so I have that whatever needs doing I’ll do it attitude.
The sad thing is though, I lost that attitude for a while, when I lost myself in a bottle, there were lots if things I needed to do, some weren’t pleasant either, but I just gave up for a while, the only thing I managed to do was create a real mess.
Now I’m trying to get back into that attitude at work, do whatever is needed, not just what my job description says, then to carry that attitude to my Church duties and karate. The hardest place is to do this at home, but I’m trying, I just need to try a bit harder.
DISTANT MEMORIES by REVIVE
Flash forward a century
In an overgrown cemetery
My tombstone lays so peacefully
Dirt and grime over time slowly cover up the line: “He lived a full life, and so wonderfully”
But no one remembers that life I’m just history
Nothing more than distant little memories
But I am in a place where I never felt more home
And now my old life seems to be Nothing more than distant memories
Sadness strangely fills the mind
Of a young girl trying to find where
They say her great grandfather lies
And as she gazes at the stone
Of a man she’s never known
She doesn’t think that’ll be her one day
Where no one remembers your life
We forget the treasure to come
In a life that won’t let us down
Where we’re much more than distant memories