About three months ago my work on Neville's property ran out, but being a woman of action, I swiftly acquired temporary work on another orchard about the same distance from home.
I am now tying down kiwifruit canes to the wires after the rest have been pruned out by my new boss, Mr R. Because of numerous other commitments he is frequently absent from his Orchard of Luxuriant Growth and I am able to pretend I am the boss, not only of myself but of a woolly flock of Shropshire sheep as well.
Yes, I am the only current member of Mr R's tiny work-force and I sometimes wonder what happened to the others. Surely there were others? Then I got to hear rumours that some workers have been missing for years after venturing into the three rows in Block 1 where they were advised never ever to go, so wild and tangled are the vines in there. I guess it serves them right for not listening.
The mind really boggles as to their fate. Are there skeletons in those wild and tangled rows frozen forever in trying-to-escape positions, rusty loppers still in hand? I am honestly too scared to go in there lest I also get snatched up forever and would Cossack ever bother to come look for me? I doubt it very much.
There is one non-negotiable rule when entering and leaving the Orchard of Luxuriant Growth and that is, 'Close the gate behind you so the Shropshires don't escape!'
Every other rule is more like a helpful suggestion - I can start work when I like and finish when tired. As for the hours in between, well, when unsupervised the power sometimes just goes to my head all of a sudden and I command those Shropshires to "Heel!" or "Roll Over! " but they just chew away on their stupid grass like I'm not even there.
I spent a whole lunchtime trying to teach the Shropshire with the blackest head to salute me when I clapped my hands but with no success.
The unruly flock mooch around me when I am trying to listen to important stuff on my little transistor radio. Why do I bother trying to improve my mind? Just picture me if you will, trying to concentrate on Hamlet's Oedipus complex or which wine is perfect with Moroccan pan-fried fish but it's all interrupted by "Baaahhahhahhha! Baaahaahaaaa! Baahahhahaaha!" bleated out at full volume in Shropshire dialect?
Don't Shropshires understand that I have lofty ambitions for my life but just do not know what they are yet?
Smoko is a blissful coffee from my thermos while perched on top of a cane pot-plant holder I found in our shed at home. I sit there in the sun and, just because I can, I now and then abandon all the etiquette my mother ever taught me.
For instance, I might stuff my mouth with as much cookie as will fit into it and then spit out the chewed-up bits in a gloriously disgusting sky-ward arc . Then I fling my banana peel and apple-core for the sheep to devour and wipe my hands on my tee-shirt.
I suppose I am a middle-aged rebel without a cause but I do actually know how to behave when society demands I should.
At a dinner-party I know that I grab cutlery starting from the outside and work in towards my plate and I know a red from a white and I can nibble at camemberts and olives like I was born for that very purpose.
One of the Stropshires (spelling mistake intentional), kept trying to steal my chocolate muffin today so I grabbed my pump-action water bottle and squirted it right between its very devious eye-balls which resemble the glassy marbles I used to play with as a kid. It just winced a little, shook the droplets from its evil woolly brow then went back for a second assault so I squirted it again between its hind-legs until it finally huffed off .
If I can disregard the occasional pyscho- sheep that should be a delicious Rogan-Josh, I like my job for I am Captain in my Own Head and what more could a woman in the very middle of a mid-life crisis ask for?
Lots I guess. Yes, there is lots one could ask for but I have learned to boom where I am planted. Or is it bloom? I'm not sure what that fridge-magnet said now.