A little bed-time story – and every word is true…

It was 1.30am. All was quiet at Flindt Towers. The Belgian Shepherd, always wary of the sky falling on her head, was half asleep under the sturdiest table. The idiotic Flatcoat was snoring on the sofa, legs stuck in the air, dreaming of chasing down a runner. I, too, was slumbering gently, with nothing more than thoughts of Kate Humble to trouble me.

Suddenly there was an outbreak of growling from downstairs, and then barking. I leapt out of bed – not easy when you’re 17 stone, eight inches deep in a memory foam mattress – and staggered to the window.

Sure enough, a noisy white van was just pulling out of our gateway and slinking off down the hill. At this point there are decisions to be made. Should I go and chase it? If so, should I get dressed first? I could save valuable time by just putting wellies and a dressing gown on and rushing off in hot pursuit. Then again, confronting Caravan Borne Entrepreneurs as they go about their God-given right to take anything they fancy is a high-risk business; wearing my favourite space rocket pyjamas while doing so might detract from any attempt to be a man of authority. Should I ring 999? If so, how much time would I lose answering questions about my ethnic background and religion?

The van turned at the bottom of the hill, lights sweeping the fields, and stopped. I took a chance on the pyjamas, decided against confusing Plod, and, heart thumping, bravely set out into the night in my truck. I rounded the bend, and there, sure enough, was a van – a camper van. Inside, an oldish couple could be seen making preparations to settle down for the night.

Unfortunately, my relief at realising that I wasn’t going to face several crowbar-wielding travellers was matched by the panic on the old couple’s faces. They had found a nice quiet gateway to camp in, and suddenly there was a noisy 4×4 outside their camper. I thought I’d have a word to reassure them; the panic on their faces just got worse. The 4×4 had now stopped and someone was knocking on their window! As I tapped on the window, two collies erupted from the back of the camper, barking and snarling maniacally. They were only doing their job, but it sure made conversation impossible.

There followed five comedy minutes of them shouting “Who is it? Go away!” while the collies went berserk, and me shouting back that I was the farmer and I wanted a friendly word to explain everything. Finally, during a four-second break in the barking, we agreed to chat in the morning and I made my way back to bed.

Luckily, dawn brought calmer conditions (and collies), and over a cup of camping-gas-brewed tea I apologised for appearing to stalk them and talked them through the siege conditions that many farmers are now living under. They even agreed that 1.30am is perhaps not the best time to be snooping round farm gateways. Next time, I said, come round at a sensible time and knock on the door; there’s always a corner of a field that they’d be welcome to use. We will, they said.

And with that, I prised two soppy doting collies off my lap and headed back for breakfast. Never a dull moment at Flindt Towers.

Charlie Flindt

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