Friday 28 October 2016

Counting sheep in daytime

Fiona O'Connell

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

Maybe she's just tired of counting sheep.
Maybe she's just tired of counting sheep.

Advent begins today, when we pay homage to the Lamb of God and the Lord our Shepherd. Though such meek metaphors surely contradict the belief in our uniqueness that western culture also teaches us. It is an irony that comedy troupe Monty Python mined in The Life of Brian, their satirical film about a man who is born at the same time as Jesus.

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Brian urges the crowd "to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!"

"Yes!" the crowd respond. "We're all individuals!"

"I'm not!" a lone voice objects.

For most people are desperate to fit in and be seen as 'normal'. Yet, as Dr Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex quipped: "There is no norm... Norm is the name of a guy who lives in Brooklyn."

The same, it seems, is true of so-called dumb animals. Especially those stereotyped as submissive followers. Or so one not remotely sheepish being that lives in a field across from me proves. Correction: that is supposed to live in the field.

For while the rest of the flock obediently stay put, Miss Maverick regularly slips through the bars of the gate to feast on the greener grass on the other side.

This fleecy female, with a poignant but pretty pink smudge of paint across her coat, is the size of a dog. Which explains why I looked across one day and thought I saw a man sitting on the bench, while his messy mutt mooched about before him.

"That mutt could do with a haircut," I thought. Until I looked again and realised that it was the libertarian lamb, up to her trailblazing tricks.

This egalitarian ewe's domain now encompasses the entire riverbank. And while she used to hurry back to her flock when dog walkers approached, now she just gives them a wide berth.

Or else she saunters back, saving them the bother of corralling her, by taking the initiative.

A word, let's face it, not commonly associated with sheep. Then one morning the flock was gone. All that was left was a tell-tale straggle of fleece snagged on the path. But I soon found them tucked up in a trailer parked nearby. Some stared back at me through the slats and tried to edge closer. Others merely glanced my way. I couldn't see Miss Maverick. But I realised that, though the other sheep lacked her sangfroid, they all had their own personalities.

I wondered sadly if someone would eat lamb cutlets for lunch that afternoon and remark on their flavour. Not knowing that it was due to a fleecy little female who flouted the rules. But they will have to wait for that experience, thankfully, as the flock were back the following day. Their friendly farmer had kept them inside overnight, because the weather turned cold.

As I write, the liberty-loving maverick is prancing about on the riverbank, chasing the ducks.

Maybe she's just tired of counting sheep.

Sunday Independent

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