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Its a fine spring day.

Benedict Bartholomew is up with the sun,

He lets Beauty the sheep dog out of the shed.

We don’t know the dogs age but unlike her owner she is fat and covered in burrs.

He retrieves three warm eggs from a patch of nettles under the fuchsia bush and throws some grain from his pocket to the hens.

He feeds Beauty next, stale crusts soaked in cold tea.

He washes his face in the rain barrel and dries his beard in a hessian sack hanging from a nail in the doorway.

The sack is damp from last nights rain, the only hope it has of ever being washed.

‘God made rain for other things besides annoyance’ Benedict remarks stooping to pat Beauty’s head, but the old dog, finished her food is too busy rooting out an indignant hen from the nettles.

Breakfast for Benedict is a fresh egg and fried bread washed down with strong tea.

The tractor starts easily, He leaves it ticking over.

Beauty licking her jowls in the hope of stray crumbs is too fat to make the jump so Benedict hoists her into the tractor box with difficulty.

He climbs breathlessly into the cab and they head down the hill.

Susie the sheep is due to give birth. She is in the field down by the river.

Benedict plans to bring her back to the shed and keep an eye on the proceedings.

The lane is lined with blossoming Hawthorn tree’s.

White lace and a Woman’s scent.

If he’d married she’d have smelled like that.

He sighs.

A flock of goldfinch flash by and a thrush sings.

Beauty leans forward, ears back, tongue lolling, enjoying the breeze.

Susie is standing at the gate, lamb at her side, umbilical cord still wet.

Benedict lifts them both into the tractor box anyway.

Beauty sniffs the lamb and Susie butts her crossly.

The old sheepdog squeezes into the cab beside her master, tail wagging.

Benedict lays his hand gently on her head.

A sudden breeze picks up and the hawthorn blossoms blow across the lane covering the passing tractor in confetti.

(Cycling around the west of Ireland I met many bachelors living in isolation, who never had a chance of marriage. This is a story about one of them. Benedict was not his real name but I think he would have liked it. )

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