An unexpected thing happened to me about a month ago. My fleet of carrier pigeons in the loft brought news from the frozen north. (Yes, Julia thinks the pigeons are just random vermin nesting in the roof, but little does she know that they are in my employ!)
They told me tales of a whole family of ‘goggle-eyed’ sheep such as myself, living just outside of St Andrews. Trapped inside a cold cold house in a cul-de-sac in deepest darkest Fife, they had been sending smoke signals for a week before my minions spotted them. But what could I do to help? I decided to meet with the smallest and wisest of the sheep, Albert, to find out what the situation was.
He said he would meet me in a shop called Anteaques; a tiny place not far from my flat which I had never noticed before. Thinking that it was just a standard antiques shop, I had walked past it for many years not realising what wonderful tea and cakes lay within. In the front of the shop I found 100 different varieties of tea, served to customers in pretty china cups by the owners Cedric and Andrew, dressed handsomely in smart black waistcoasts. In the back of the shop was a higgledy-piggledy assortment of old things: crockery, furs, swords, teapots, pictures, books, candlesticks… I even found this old top hat, which I think made me look quite sophisticated!
I ordered some tea and cakes and sat down to wait for my mysterious guest.He arrived a little late due to the delays on the winter trains and was glad to find a big pot of tea waiting for him. Albert was rather shy at being photographed on our first meeting, so I shall have to describe his appearance to you. He has the colouring of McHaggis, with a black face, green eyes and a scruffy-looking creamy coat of wool. But unlike McHaggis, he sits upright with thin dangly legs that just make me want to fatten him up with a ton of calorific food. He also wears a badge on his left arm advertising a band from Manchester called Fear of Music (who apparently don’t exist any more). Well, I think it’s advertising the band and not Albert’s actual fear of music.
“Lay it on me, brother”, I said. “What can I do for you?”
“Well…” he paused, looking a little shy at first. “There are two things I would really like to happen. The first is that I and my housemates – Fernilee and Maxwell – would love to go down to the Peak District for Christmas. Our shepherd, Michael, always abandons us for the festive season in our cold flat, when what we’d really like is to travel with him to Buxton to celebrate with the rest of our sheepy family.”
“There are more of you??”, I asked in wonder. How could I not have known this?
“Yes! Nine of us altogether I think. You should definitely come to visit – we could have a real party together!” I could see the light shining in Albert’s eyes; it was clearly a long time since he had been to a party.
“I’ll see what I can do. What was the other thing you wanted?”
“This one is a bit more tricky. You see, I think Michael needs some sort of new distraction in his life. It’s getting boring listening to him talk about his chemistry experiments all the time.”
” What can I do about it? I’m busy with my own maths communication work you know!”
“No, but you live with someone, right? Someone female?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes, but Julia is busy finishing her thesis. We’ll have no men around disturbing her, thank you very much. It is my duty to protect her from such distractions until she’s officially a Doctor,” I explained.
Albert looked a bit crestfallen. “But he needs cheering up somehow. What else can I do? He’s been a good master to me; I want to help.”
“Ok” I relented, “we can try getting them to become friends, and they can have tea together once a week. But not more often than that! How about it?” Albert nodded enthusiastically. “It’s a deal!”
In the meantime, a very merry Christmas to all of you. May the festive season bring you much sheepy goodness.