Monday, 3 March 2008
Baa-ram-ewe . . .
One of my favourite country programmes from years gone by has always been "One Man and His Dog". Mum and I ALWAYS watched it together. For the uninitiated, it is a programme about sheepdog trialling, where the shepherd and a single dog, or a brace in some competitions, have to persuade 5 ewes to go through/round/into a series of obstacles such as a pair of gates, a shedding ring, and a pen. Points are awarded for the out-run, the lift, the gates, the cross-drive, the shedding ring (where two ewes have collars and either the ones with collars or without have to be seperated from the others), and so on. It is always filmed in the most STUNNING scenery (it's worth watching just for the views of the North Wales mountains around Lake Bala, or up in the Lake District). The BBC saw fit to drop it from their programme listings despite it having very healthy ratings, as they apparently considered it "too white and middle class". Fortunately, it has now reappeared as "Come Bye" on the wonderful new Horse & Rider channel on Sky tv.
I was fortunate to see last night's programme and I can safely say I have never seen such a stroppy, awkward, more belligerent load of sheep in my whole life. I have seen sheep assert themselves with a dog before, stamping their feet and standing their ground. I have seen awkward sheep before - "you want me to go that way? Well, I'll go THIS". You get the odd ewe that will stand her ground, but this lot, to a ewe, had been programmed (seemingly at birth) to give the dog a hard time and have the shepherd reduced to a quivering wreck, ready to be carried off by the St John's Ambulance crew because of palpitations! I think only three of the competitors even finished the course - having run out of time after the ewes refused to be penned. These ewes (obviously hand-picked, and by someone with a lifelong grudge against sheep-dog trials and their competitors) weren't just awkward, they were out to get the poor collie. Several dogs finally lost their rag with the ewes after they stood their ground and refused to move and went in and nipped - which means instant disqualification, for all it was justified in the dog's eyes! Others bit their tongues until charged by the bossiest ewe - several dogs were bowled right over, with the ewe going back for another go, and not many dogs kept their temper after that - and who can blame them. These sheep were the biggest load of bullies I have EVER seen. I should think some of those dogs were pretty battered and bruised at the end of the day. These ewes were the bullies of the Ovine race. If they'd been human they would have been the bane of the office, hard and ruthless, always having the last word, treating men like dirt and calling all the shots. You could see that the presenter, wonderful Robin Page, really felt for the shepherds - the creme de la creme of trials shepherds at that, the best in the country - and he kept saying that he had never seen such difficult sheep. From memory, they were Texal crosses. I've just Googled the following entry - apparently this was filmed during the foot and mouth restrictions and these particular sheep had to be used again and again, and what's more, they were used to being rounded up by a quad bike. Personally, I think they'd been watching Babe - you know, Baa-ram-ewe, Baa-ram,ewe . . .
Meanwhile, one of their friends had a restful time at the Three Counties Show . . .