The last 2 weeks are a bit trying. Mr Mason has been away overnight which means Dog and Lark are my sole responsibilities. They also play up because he is not here. Gavin, the gardener, tells me that because the Alpha male is gone, they are anxious. “But I am Lark’s favourite” I say. “Yes,” he says, “you can have an Alpha bitch…” and then tails off, not sure where the conversation is going. Anyway, the second week of nights away is not so bad except my sleep has gone all to pot, as they say. I am so tired I am hallucinating and even when dozing, I wake myself by moving my hands to pat the heads of animals in my dreams and start talking to myself about half empty jars of pickles which don’t exist in my bedroom. It’s a very strange, surreal feeling, this lack of sleep. I become quite unsteady on my feet and have to be careful when leaving my study as the entrance is near the top of the stairs. Even without the aid of a little dog, it would be easy to pitch myself down them.
I am upstairs with Lark when Dog starts up a mighty barking and growling downstairs. This normally means someone is at the door so I wend my way downstairs and find I have left the back door open and there are 2 people standing the other side of the gate looking bemused. Archie quietens immediately, his door duties having been attended to and we stand there exchanging pleasantries for a few moments, talking about the weather, the dogs, the garden. I know what they want and I’m trying to think of a way to deter them pleasantly. I am tolerant of most faiths I have encountered and don’t want to rain on their parade, even if I think they are barking mad. The man has a nasty scab on his nose which keeps my attention and he starts by talking about war and sickness in the world. I slip in that I have terminal cancer, thinking playing the C card might get me out of the conversation quicker. They are very sympathetic and talk about God having a date in mind “and he won’t change it!” the man warns but that after that the Earth will become a paradise and there will be no more need for doctors, no more wars and no more starvation. All the dead will be resurrected and then I got a bit lost because he was talking about sin which doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or have done something bad but that you are imperfect. The woman pitches in at this point asking if I believe in the resurrection after death and I tell her no. “But it’s in the bible” she tells me. I say there are lots of things in the bible which are interpreted in many different ways and that I don’t share her belief. “Do you have faith? What do you think will happen after you’re dead?” she persists. And for some reason, in that moment she just gets to me. I couldn’t put into words what it was she said or what I was thinking but I felt tearful and thought “Bugger! Let them see they’ve upset me” so I just cried and said “I can’t talk about this any more”. They were apologetic for my feelings but still tried to push a leaflet on me so I don’t think they understood they had gone too far. It’s the idea that you have to save someone whether they like it or not I find bizarre. And the idea that being imperfect equates to wickedness. I didn’t know the woman’s name but know she lives in the village so I shall have to watch out for her.
The window cleaner comes to collect his money and asks how we are settling in and whether we like living here. I tell him we love it and he says he does, too. He lives in Skegness and works there and in Horncastle but loves his round in Old Bolingbroke because it’s so peaceful and he’s a bit of a twitcher. I tell him we see the barn owls hunting in the castle grounds some evenings and that I know we have at least 2 species of owl because they have different calls. He tells me we have several types of owl in this area and then says he has seen little owls in a tree around the corner. Little owls, in case you have never seen one, are about 6″ high and incredibly cute. I think I will work my way round to asking him to show them to me.
At night, I go to bed around 9pm and take 2 sleeping tablets, the only ones I have got left. I am so desperate to get sleep of any quality. I sleep in solid chunks, perforated by ten minutes of being awake here and there. In the morning I feel groggy, as sleeping tablets tend to do, so I lie in for a while and then get up and pretend I feel fine. As the day wears on, I actually do feel better. Mr Mason and I go to Horncastle to pick up medication and run errands. We nip into our favourite butchers and amongst all the lovely pies and joints of meat, I see he has some really nice beef brisket. Hmmm. This makes really good saltbeef IF you can get the right ingredients. I sidle up to the counter and whisper at him (only because my voice is so quiet) “Can you let me have any saltpetre?” It’s not allowed to be sold because apparently you can make things explode with it so butchers can only give it to you if they feel you are responsible and will not tell the authorities. You really need about 125g so not a huge amount. He shakes his head and says they don’t use it any more. I said that was a shame because the brisket looked like it was perfect to make saltbeef with. His face lights up. “I have a brine bath” he says. “I could put it in there for you and you could come back in about 10 days. How would that be?” What a brilliant idea. For some reason it cheers me up immeasurably and we arrange the date to come and collect it. “Will you know us when we come back?” I ask him. “Oh, yes”, he says, but takes our surname just in case. This is one of the things I love about Lincolnshire. People will help you out if they can. Putting our meat in the brine bath is no trouble to him so he does it. I know things like this happen in other places but we seem to have a concentration of people who are just willing to be helpful here and I really appreciate it. It was a good decision move and it’s not every day a man offers you the use of his brine bath 😉
On returning home we find Lark has destroyed the other side of her indestructible crate, bending the bars, breaking the wire and attempting to push her head and body through the hole. I am now worried that it’s too dangerous to keep her in there while we go out, even though we were out for less than an hour. What if she gets her head stuck? She could seriously hurt herself. I know it’s only separation anxiety but at this point I have no idea what to do with her. She is just such a stubborn little dog – but incredibly loveable and cute, too, fortunately! Ideas on a postcard, please!