Two days ago a close friend of ours had a car crash.
It was a serious accident, and as another friend, a New Yorker, said when she phoned me five minutes after it happened, his car was 'totalled'.
She would know. As lucky chance would have it, she and her partner - also friends of the victim - were in the car in front of the accident, so they witnessed it all and were able to rush to his aid and call the Gards.
Thank heavens no one else was in the car and no other car was involved, and apart from being understandably shaken and in shock, our friend seemed unscathed. The car had, as it were, taken the strain.
His wife was away on business, and the New Yorker was, literally, on her way to New York, so I hastened to the scene and being of a bossy disposition, insisted on taking him to be checked over in A&E, or the ER as Americans would call it.
While I was sitting waiting for him, I couldn't help but reflect on the day.
Like the Curate's egg, it had been good only in parts.
It was, for one thing, Valentine's Day, but as the In-Charge was in Berlin and the first man I set eyes on during the day was a car park attendant, it had brought forth neither roses, champagne, nor fondly inscribed cards.
In fact my morning had been disastrous.
Knowing that I was going to Sligo's One Billion Rising to help the new PRO of Beltra Country Market - she who has so recently and competently taken over where I left off - I set out to walk the dogs before leaving home.
We got as far as the courtyard gate and the two dogs sat down obediently, waiting. I had their leashes in my hand, as I am very cautious - the TeenQueen has not proven herself trustworthy yet where the hens are
concerned. Only last week we had an Unfortunate Incident, when she pulled Marie
Walewska out of the nesting box leaving her injured and nervous. Happily, my adolescent's reputation is taking longer to mend than my little white hen.
But then it happened.
I turned, for a moment only, to close the gate and in that second a distant hen must have scuttled across the drive, busy about its private morning routine, but it was enough to trigger the TeenQueen's inborn hunter instincts.
I didn't even know she had gone until it was too late, and although I yelled, called, ran, fell over, skinned both knees and hurt my wrist - it was to no avail.
Eventually, shaken and filled with dread, I caught up with her on the far side of the house.
Of all the hens, she had my beautiful, special Golden Princess in her mouth and it was snowing golden feathers.
It says much for Model Dog that through all the commotion and noise, she never left my side, or even considered joining in the chase, but seemed instead distressed by the whole sorry sequence of events.
And it was she who found poor Mrs Smith for me after we had grabbed the TeenQueen and locked her inside.
I searched and searched, dog-less, fearful that even the sight of a hound would send my traumatised hens into spin mode, but unable to find the poor little hen and in despair, I brought Model Dog out, and she found her straight away, tucked behind a bush that I had passed several times. She was almost invisible, camouflaged amongst the dead leaves. Model Dog didn't touch her, she just stood and stared until she'd given me the message.
We nursed the little Princess, cleaned and anointed her wounds and did everything we could. I was even hopeful when she seemed a bit.more like her old self yesterday, but this morning she is dead and the In-Charge's first job on arriving home has been to dig another grave in the orchard.
I am very sad.
And I blame myself -
It has brought back all the thoughts I had sitting in A&E the other day.
I remembered Jeanette Winterson's words in her book The Passion: 'It is hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.'
On the face of it, it doesn't seem hard to remember that. But at the infinitesimal level, it is almost impossible to act upon it.
It seems to me that we measure life by major events, good or bad. And they take up acres of space in our heads, or our hearts, or our memories. But in reality few events are large.
It is the consequences that are large, but most of the key things in our lives hinge on a mere moment.
A momentary loss of control, a decision, an impulse, a flash of anger. Even a hand reached out, a hug, the light kindling in someone's eyes - or not kindling, when it should have done.
It is the tiny, momentary things that make or break the sequence, that knot the thread so that evermore it catches, catches....
It is sobering to reflect that we are never more than a heartbeat away from irrevocable change.