All weekend the firmaments hurled oceans of water at us. The wind howled, shrieked, wailed banshee-like; crashing brutally, tearing viciously. I was as brittle and unstable as spun sugar; as transparent and fragile as old glass. I could at any second splinter into a million tiny fragments and dissolve into a small insignificant stream, disappearing and absorbed by the watery world.

Somewhere in this bruised time I collapsed for an hour into a deep cathartic sleep. When I woke I knew the healing process had begun and though still shocked by graphic replays at the most unlikely times, they’re becoming less frequent and further apart. The show must go on. I have a family, a farm, stock, and a job. Life is also relentless, thank God.

Today the weather changed. I felt it even before I put a toe out of bed and was still warm and snuggled dormouse-like under the bedclothes. The air blowing through the bedroom smelt fresher, sweeter, brighter – less ominous. This was good as today I had to be strong as we were to tattoo the lambs – and I’d be working sheep without Jilly.


Whiteface Dartmoor ewe lambs are inspected and tattooed in the ear with their breeder’s prefix at the end of their first year. They are gathered in, sorted and the best penned ready for inspection and marking. Today, when we’d finished, I wanted to walk them the mile down to the River Meadows which are in need of some winter sheep grazing.


The lambs couldn’t quite believe that Jill wouldn’t suddenly appear, and waited at the field gate looking about as if to say ‘Hey, this just isn’t right – we can’t move in an orderly fashion without our sheepdog’. Needless to say they did, though they were rather askance when Skye decided that she would try to help out by doing some rather flouncy, girly ‘come-bys’ and ‘a-ways’ with a lot of ‘voice’ and no effect what so ever!

I had a hope that my Ness would come into her own and, by some miracle, decide to work. Unfortunately she’s not ready yet, and skulked along behind us looking more wolf than ever.

Still the event went off without a hitch, helped by the sun and clean, cold air. A huge flock of quarrelling, chittering, garrulous starlings landed on Dillings Field as we walked up the lane; the flock was large enough to cover the whole of the eight acre field. A rare sight nowadays.

This afternoon we walked and with the winter sun celebrated Jilly.