Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Heartbeat

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.


  1. I am glad to hear your friend survived the accident. I shan't say unscathed, as you don't say what the result of your A&E visit was. As you say, we are only a heartbeat away from grief or joy and the simplest thing can change the course of our lives. And a wonderful quote from Jeannette Winterson, a woman who seizes life by the scruff of the neck with unequalled zeal. So sorry about your little hen. Blame is futile. You cannot have your attention everywhere at once and Supermodel was, as you say, obeying her instincts.

    1. Thank you Isobel. My friend is shaken. I think the momentum of something like this gathers pace after the event - especially as all the consequences unfold.

      Yes, I agree that Jeanette Winterson seizes life by the scruff and doesn't hestitate to shake it hard. I love the way she writes.

      Perhaps you are right about blame. Mostly we all do the best we can most of the time. It's hard not to feel responsible though.

  2. What a thought provoking and melancholic little post. It's so true though, which is why we need to learn to treasure every moment, because we don't know what the next moment will bring.

    I'm glad your friend is okay. I'm sorry about your hen.

    1. Hello Lisa. It's so nice to see you here again! Thank you for your kind thoughts.
      Yes, we don't do enough treasuring, that is so true.

  3. It must be in the air, my sisters birthday is the day after valentines, but the day before she got a call to say that her daughter 'the elder' a student at Leicester Univercity was being shuttled between; GP, A&E< and medical drop in centre, Was in great pain and floods of tears.
    My sister who works for my husband was told by her boss to drop everything and just she did! 3 hour drive with only what she had gone to work in that day.
    By the time she reached Leicester daughter was in hospital surgical unit, nil by mouth awaiting a slot for surgery. She was there for the next 38 hours....right through Valentines and into Birthday!
    After yo-uoing between being on standby, to 3rd most necessary to 1st most necessary and 3 times being taken down to surgery then returned to ward at 4th attempt she was taken through the double doors to the clean, shiny white place (another version of which is where my daughter the elder is curently working) and got her apendix out!
    She was very, sore, very hungry and very grumpy.....not necessarily in that order. My sister was still in her working clothes and silly smart boots, my brother in law who had also sped from work was likewise in his.....2 days in police inspectors uniform prowling hospital corridors not good!
    So birthday girl, my sister, having ferried grumpy daughter from hospital to place of abode (grumpy refused to recouperate at home as having already missed valentine ball did not want to miss Toga Party) sped back across Penines (still snow on tops) to pack for 4am flight for birthday holiday treat next day.
    Car windscreen smashes on way home, she thinks stone, I think geven her current run more likely metiorite.
    Grumpy niece too sorry for self to attend Toga party after all!

    Am very sad about your hen they dont seem to survive the shock, worth giving rescue remidy a try!

    I am designing fox proof pen here before I get my new Polands, as there has been a fox population explosion. Have never seen one here in 17 years but have seen several in the last few months, they are starting to behave like Londons urban foxes, so bold, out in daylight and living amongst houses.

    1. Hi Skippy - goodness, what a saga. I'm so glad that despite the ins and outs, your niece is ok. Apendicitis can be very worrying. And at least your sister got to go away despite all!

      I was so sad to lose Napoleon last year, he was such a dear, but I don't think I will get a Polish again, as their elaborate hats seem to cause them problems and the weather is too wet for them here. A fox or dog proof pen sounds a good idea. The only trouble is that mine are used to having the run of the place - they would be very unhappy to suddenly be penned in. I shall have to see...

  4. I often remember my own moment on an Irish lane on the way to the airport - life does indeed change in a heartbeat! My only real regret is that I hadn't tried surfing but then if I had and I had been stopped from pursuing it ...

    1. Yes, funnily enough I was thinking of your calamitous moment on the mountain too.I can't remember exactly when that was, but it seems like a long time ago.

      Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

  5. Lorely you have such a great way of making our day to day country events seem so important. The death of a chicken on a given day can not be explained but mirrors life at times. Love your writing.

    1. Thank you Niall. I suppose because our day to day country events ARE our lives, they are important in their own way. For each of us,whether hen or human, it is our 'one wild and precious life'.

  6. Good observation--that the one instant can be shorter than the repercussions....

    So sorry about your feathery friend ...

  7. A beautiful post written straight from the heart.

  8. Thank you for sharing your reflections; beautifully written. A good reminder for my day to live in the present moment, appreciating what is before me.
    Am sorry to hear of the loss of your chicken, sure the way she died must have been most upsetting for you. Please don't blame yourself though, it seems life is seemingly cruel and painful at times... we can't foresee nor control every thing which happens. Glad your friend escaped and the car took the strain.. Bless the little chick.. with love for your day..Rachel

    1. Thank you Rachel. I know lots of people would think I am daft, but she didn't deserve to die like that. I miss her - I miss the beauty she brought to my days. She was the prettiest hen you could find.
      Thank you for your kind thoughts.

  9. So glad to hear your friend is ok. I've covered enough inquests to know that life can end very quickly and unexpectedly, especially when cars are involved.
    Sorry to hear about the Super Model's misdemeanors with the hens. Not that our Lab would be any better I fear - he takes an somewhat unhealthy interest in our neibhbours' hens but fortunately there's a gate between them.

    1. I can't tell you what a relief it is Mairead - and what a miracle, that there literally wasn't even a scratch on him. It could have been such a different ending.

      The mention of your Lab has given me great heart, because I often find myself thinking 'Why don't you just go for Labs like normal people?! Why do you always go for lurchers that are bred to hunt?! Why do you make your own life so difficut?!'
      It's good to know that a Lab wouldn't necessarily be a walk in the park as far as the hens are concerned!

    2. Oh Labs are no angels! They are incredibly sweet and loving, and great with children. But our first one was a devil as far as sheep and cows were concerned - all he wanted to do was chase them which was not very good as we're surrounded by sheep.


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