You may recall that a couple of times in the last month or so we have mentioned the imminent arrival of a new stud llama. Well, today should indeed be the Day of the Arrival. I say should, rather than will, because, as with so many of the things that we plan oh-so-carefully, the Universe has a way of getting involved, just to disabuse us of the laughable notion that we are ever in control of our destinies. As we all know, there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.
Lenny the Llama currently lives in the very south of France, on the far side of the Provence Alps. He is owned by an English couple who seem to spend most of their time in England, and who have a local man-who-does for them (their ‘gardien’ actually, who lives on site) back at the French ranch. They used to have three llamas – Lenny, a female and her young cria. But the female and her offspring died recently, leaving Lenny all alone and lonesome, as only a lonely llama can be. Concerned for his emotional well-being, the owners contacted our friends Mike and Sue, to ask if they could offer Lonesome Lenny a home. But Mike and Sue already have a plethora of entire males that keep them on their fence re-building toes, and suggested that we might like to have him instead, to take the place of poor old lusty-but-unfruitful Pedro as the would-be Father of the Tribe.
We considered it, and worked out a fencing plan that would make it possible for us to keep two rampant males within sight of each other without all hell breaking loose. And then, way back in December, we agreed. The couple didn’t want any payment for Lenny, and offered to get him identi-chipped before his move, so long as we could collect him.
So we waited for them to get a vet to get him chipped. And their local vets were all busy, busy, busy, and couldn’t find the time. And then it snowed, snowed, snowed, so the vet that could find the time, couldn’t get to their place in the mountains. And then eventually, twelve days ago, we got an email to say that Lenny was chipped and ‘ready for his girls’.
But by then, the land rover had suffered a nervous prostration, and couldn’t lift itself on its self-levelling suspension, and needed surgery to replace its ailing compressor. So Simon had to order a part from Ingurland, and then work out how to fit it on and then actually fit it on, using only an internet diagram, a piece of cardboard and a toolbox full of optimism to help him. I think it was round about this time, when conversing one-sidedly with Simon’s overall’d legs projecting from the greasy underside of the jacked-up vehicle, that I first muttered that irritating phrase that so often tumbles from my lips when Things Go Wrong – the one that goes, “Maybe The Universe is trying to tell us Something”.
But Simon is a Man, and as we all know, Men don’t Listen. Not to their wives. Not to instructions about how to make/assemble/install things. And especially not to something as wishy-washy, airy-fairy and illogical as The Universe.
It was also around this time that I had started to have my doubts about the wisdom of keeping and breeding animals in the face of the problems of this full-to-bursting planet, and I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps… just perhaps… we didn’t really need another llama. But it is hard to go back on something you have agreed, especially when there has been such a long lead up to it, and anyway, Simon was still whole-heartedly committed to our original plan of breeding llamas, rather than just having a number of lovely, large and familiar pets to grace our fields and keep the grass under control. And Lenny does look like such a handsome llama after all…….
So, I told the Universe and that nagging feeling at the back of my mind to “Shush up”, and we continued with our plan. And Part One of the plan, involved moving Pedro to the furthest field, where Duc and Valentine used to hang out, so that he wouldn’t be sharing a boundary with the New King of the Castle. But since we have yet to fence the land that spans the stream dividing our land, this meant we would have to lead him there. And having seen how stroppy he had got when he saw me putting a halter on one of his ladies a few days ago, I was not relishing the prospect of trying to get him to leave all his women behind, and walk calmly out of his field, past the watchful eyes of his two male rivals, into unknown territory.
But Sweet Old Pedro surprised us all, and with the encouragement of a constantly full hand of tasty concentrate just in front of his nose, he duly allowed me to be guide him out of his field, through Duc and Valentine’s field, down the steep slope, out of the gate into no-man’s land, across the rushing stream, past the scary big white coil of land drain (which, dammit, we meant to move first) and into his new home. Then Simon brought Ana across to keep him company, because those two get on like a house on fire, and the other girls tend to give Ana a bit of a hard time, and Ana is such a friendly, obliging llama that she will go pretty much anywhere you want her to.
So we came to Part Two. Yesterday, Simon set off in the newly fixed land rover with a Very Big Packed Lunch, a boot full of llama-related paraphernalia and a horse-box lined with hay. And after nine hours driving through rain and twisty mountain passes, he arrived safely at the hotel which was about an hour’s drive from Lenny’s current home. So far so good. Apart from a little difficulty in finding a place to park the car and trailer in a small village square which was due to be closed off the following morning for market day, everything had gone fine.
On to Part Three. After a good night’s sleep, and a wifi-enabled google chat with me over coffee and croissants, Simon set off to meet Lenny. I waited. An hour passed. He should be there by now. Another hour passed. He should have got Lenny loaded by now. Another thirty minutes passed. Surely Simon would be ringing or texting any second to let me know he was on his way home.
My mobile rang. It wasn’t Simon. It was my son, who rang off before I could answer it. And as I was faffing with the technology, trying to call him back to discover what could be so amiss with him that he would ring me on my mobile during the morning of a working day, the land line rang. This time it was Simon.
“So… how’s it going?” I said, as always filling the short silence before the response with a million and one imaginary catastrophes.
“Well…..” he said, “in some ways it has gone very well. And in some ways it has been a disaster”.
Already, in my mind’s eye, I could see the car broken down at the side of the narrow road on a hair-pin bend, and imagine the difficulties Simon would have in getting anyone to recover a car and a trailer with a llama in it.
Simon continued, just loudly enough for me to hear him above the adrenalin rush pounding in my ears.
“We got Lenny in the trailer quite easily. Much easier than I expected. But…” (here it comes) “… somehow in the process of me getting to know him, he bit the back of my leg, and I think I need stitches in it”.
Now that was something that I really didn’t see coming. A curveball if ever there was one. The story continued, getting worse as it progressed. He was with Dom, the guardien, looking for a doctor. The one in the village is closed on Tuesdays. The next nearest one was apparently open, but there was no one there, because the doctor was out on a call. He would have to wait.
So Simon waited, and I looked for his attestation from the MSA to find some sort of reference number he could quote when asked about his health insurance. I texted him the details, and took advantage of the wait, to call my son and discover that everything was actually ok with him – it was a mistake and he hadn’t really needed to talk to me after all.
A little later I got a text from Simon saying he was still waiting to be seen by the doctor, and that Dom had gone to find a pharmacy to buy a tetanus shot.
Another phone call. The doctor had examined the wound and declared that he needed to get it stitched at a hospital because it needed soluble stitches on the internal damage around his tendon, which the doctor wasn’t equipped to do. He suggested Simon should go to Nice. Mindful that he still had a trailer-full of llama waiting outside, Simon asked if there was a hospital in a town in the direction of his journey home that could do it. The doctor suggested Digne-les-Bains, and gave Simon a letter to take with him.
By this time it was gone midday, and even if he was very quick at the hospital, the nine hour trip back would mean it would be more than dark when he eventually arrived. I asked whether maybe he should take Lenny back again and stay another night before attempting the return journey, but Simon was in a rush, and they were already committed to going forwards now, and he had to go because Dom was waiting for him in the car outside…..
Then nothing. Silence. Zilch.
Another hour passed.
I considered ringing Simon, but then imagined him crashing the car as he tried to answer his mobile while driving.
I fed the llamas. I watered the pigs. I walked the dogs – and lost them for half an hour, during which I stopped worrying about Simon for a few minutes so that I could worry instead about the possibility of an irate French farmer appearing at the door complaining that my out-of-control dogs were worrying his cows, and threatening to report me to the mayor. Eventually the two wayward hounds appeared on the horizon, and came running to the sound of a shaken box of dog biscuits. We got back into the house. Still no phone calls.
Three-twenty and the sudden ringing of the phone makes me jump. I had convinced myself that the phone silence had meant that Simon was on his journey back, and not stopping to ring, as he was keen to make as much progress as he could before stopping again. The line cut off before he could speak. I tried to call him back and got his answer phone. I waited. The phone rang again – this time calling from his English mobile number. There was something wrong with his phone – he didn’t know how long he could talk before he’d lose connection again.
Simon was not on his way home. He was still at the hospital in Digne. They had looked at his wound and decided they needed to get a surgeon to look at it before they sewed him up. There was a possibility that there was some damage to the tendon and ligaments that could cause all sorts of problems in the future if it wasn’t dealt with properly now. He would have to wait, He may have to stay in overnight. Lenny was still in the trailer in the hospital car park. Dom was still there waiting with Simon.
And that was an hour ago, and I am still waiting to find out what will happen next. Somehow, I really don’t think Lenny will be arriving here tonight. Somehow, I’m not sure that I ever want him to arrive here. Somehow I think maybe we should have listened to the Universe after all.