The fun never starts. Which is an ancient Sticker family mantra going back before the dawnatime, or probably a few years ago. Today the source of the ‘fun’ was two of Colum’s horses getting out of their usual meadow and going for a trot up and down the lane. I was busy in the kitchen when I saw both of them heading across the yard into the busy little rat run which passes our front door. By the time I’d got my shoes on, a passing truck had sent them trotting southbound faster than I could run. So I didn’t bother trying.

Next thing, I’m on the front doorstep, having phoned Colum to let him know his horses were out, and a neighbour had found them heading in his direction and had shoed them back north past our front door using his car. I managed to get the side gate to the farmyard open and whistled and shepherded the errant horseflesh back into the yard, closing the gate behind them.

The horses, thinking obviously that this was a grand old game, headed back around the yard and out through to the main gate through which they had first escaped. Fortunately, the neighbour stood his ground and shooed the animals back toward the entrance to Colum’s farmhouse. Unfortunately, Colum’s dog up at the farmhouse decided that these two interlopers needed a telling off and began barking madly, scaring the two horses in exactly the wrong direction and back out toward an exit I hadn’t had time to secure.

Fortunately for Colum and his horses, yours truly took proper riding lessons when he was knee high to a grasshopper, meaning that I know how to sit on a horse so they don’t throw me. How to lead, steer, walk, trot, jump and canter and even get one to walk backwards. How not to spook them so they don’t get upset and try to kick me off this mortal coil, and how to calm them when they’re skittish. As well as learning how to shovel stable shit and comb them down after riding. That and fasten a saddle so I don’t end up upside down underneath the beast with a fractured skull.

A horse, when you know what you’re doing, so I was taught, can be a fairly biddable animal and responds well to soft speech and low whistles, which is what I did. After a few false starts when neighbour tried to shoo them like cattle or sheep, I managed to get the gate to the next door meadow open and steer the errant animals into it before they could make a break past me out to the road again or into our small garden.

Once in the field, they both broke into a happy canter over the fresh new grass and neighbour and I phoned Colum to let him know his livestock were safely confined.

Then I went back indoors to spend the next two hours on the phone to a call centre, trying to get them to understand that yes, we have a moving in date. Yes we would like the service to begin the week before when we take possession of our new house, then phoning the moving company to confirm our New Year move. Am I speaking English here? No, I’m sorry that your computer isn’t working properly too. Fortunately, cool heads prevailed and everything slotted into place, an experience akin to pulling teeth.

At this point I am wont to remark that living next to a livestock farm for the last year or so has been interesting. The bi-monthly chasing around the yard when animals decide to go walkabout onto a road to compete with often fast moving traffic has drawn heavily upon micro-skills obtained during my aggressively rural upbringing, but honestly, bees are more my speed. Bees don’t leave large smelly piles for you to step in, or keep you up all night complaining loudly when they’re feeling a bit rough. They may even sting you when you annoy them, like Jeremy Clarkson found out in his own rural adventure, but on the whole they don’t make a break for it at the first possible opportunity, and providing you inspect the hives properly at the right times in the right manner, stings should be a fairly rare occurrence, but watch me eat my words next September when it’s swarming season. That’s when the fun will really get underway.