The Sheep and the Grey Horse part 8 ­– When Naresh and Neena came for tea (2/2)

The scene is still roughly the same, but it’s slightly more complicated. Some of the players are in the kitchen, while others are still down near the field. With all the commotion, the sheep and the Grey Horse are befuddled and feeling slightly tired. There are still many moving parts, but our focus must shift. We still have the sheep and the Grey Horse; the marooned car is still marooned and so is the Caterpillar tractor; the important visitors are also marooned, stuck on a busy road hoping to reach their lunch date and that the posh rented BMW recovers from its flat tyre. We also have a recovery vehicle and an additional tractor in the picture. Their drivers are wishing they’d stayed in bed this morning, with cups of tea and a cat purring on their laps. Watching the scene and the fascinating snake flying through the air had proved alarming for the sheep and the Grey Horse, but there was to be no respite to the day’s dramas. A loud rumbling and a shaking of the ground was making their hooves tremble and the rumbling was getting closer and the trembling more violent. The Grey Horse’s head was shaking convulsively and the farmer’s wife and child plus the brother-in-law and his wife were still standing in shock waiting for the farmer to come back. The people in the kitchen watched a huge blue beast of a tractor, its roof barely making it under the overhanging trees, as it headed down to the field. No one could resist following it. She had called the AA in readiness for the call from Naresh and Neena. The AA had said that the rented BMW would have special run-flat tyres, and advised that they drive to meet the AA man at their destination, preferably in time for lunch. This they had reluctantly agreed to do, so they were now wending a slow and cautious way towards said lunch. The big blue tractor was of a seriously modern variety, laden with features, levers, lights and switches, air conditioning and a heated seat. Driving it effectively would be tricksy so how would this beast be persuaded to drag not one, but two heavy vehicles stuck in the mud? The farmer and the man were in conversation with the brother-in-law who was standing patting the Grey Horse and trying to explain that it had been twenty years since, as a farmer himself, he had driven a tractor. Technology changes he kept saying. It’s the same basic thing the farmer and the handsome man were saying back. The sheep was on the wrong side of the Grey Horse and alarmed at the patting and at a conversation he could not really follow. He leaned into the Grey Horse for comfort and the Grey Horse leaned into the brother-in-law for more pats. The Grey Horse was starting to calm down to the point where the whole chaotic morning now early afternoon, was becoming quite pleasant. It might have been the gentle absent minded patting that was so soothing. But the Grey Horse could feel some growing tension in the pats and an increasing strain in the brother-in-law’s voice. And just as the Grey Horse’s head started nodding up and down again, the hand was gone and the brother-in-law and the man were deep in a new conversation beside the giant tractor. Now the brother-in-law is clambering up the little ladder into the cockpit of the beast. The farmer is back up on his Cat linked once more with a new cable to the car, where the man is also back in place. Wisely the man had reversed the car a little, so that the bumper was out from beneath its grassy enhancement, the new cable fully horizontal and properly taut. The beast of a tractor is revving up and being reversed into the field, very, very slowly and the brother-in-law’s mouth is pursed up tight and he is peering over his glasses at the many dials and lights in front of him. His hands clutch the steering wheel with grim determination and he glances constantly from side to side to where the wing mirrors have been carefully adjusted using fortuitously discovered electronic controls. It might have been more luck that located the more serious controls, especially the creep gear: max power and min speed. He manages to get the tractor in position and jumps down to check the cable connections. He waves away the audience and scares the sheep and the Grey Horse into a corner of the yard. Back in his cockpit the brother-in-law goes through a final few revvings and reversings. He puts the monster into its creeper gear, trusting that the engine, the transmission system, the drive train, the torque and his driving would be up to dragging this massive load. The thumping tuba roar of hundreds of horse powers was deafening. The continued and complex tangles of smoke and noise were starting to develop their own personalities, bellowing across the greying skies in noisy danger-laden arguments. As the cables tightened the people and the beasts drew back even further into themselves as wide-eyed they watched and waited, numb beneath the roar. The huge black and chevroned rear tractor wheels slowly turned, their gleaming black picking up dirt as they gripped tight into the shallow mud at the edge of the field. The cables twisted and glinted in the sallow sunlight and imperceptibly first the Cat and then the car were moving. The brother-in-law crept up the tractor’s power and in a moment of terrible energy which all saw and he felt, the front wheels rose and bounced up and down as the huge weight of the load and the clinging earth fought against the tractor’s immense and resolute strength. Agonies of moments ticktocked in the grubby air as the brother-in-law pushed harder and harder for the revs, a stink of diesel fumes clouding around his windows obscuring his rear view. The blue beast moved forwards in microns and then millimetres and then, like ice slowly creeping across a deep pond, it started to reach inexorably forwards. And down deep in the field many wheels were rolling at random as the vast power of the tractor hauled its load through the embracing mud. Already wide and deep trenches grew wider and deeper until gradually the towed vehicles started very slowly to rise up and out of their cosy ditches. As the tractor crept forward the two vehicles followed, skewing sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right wrenching at the earth. And breathless the watching people saw that this awesome power chain was working. Now under control, all of the tractor wheels remained on the ground and the cables stayed straight, strung out, taut and gleaming. The sheep and the Grey Horse were losing interest and waiting for it all to be over. But as the tractor hauled forwards the brother-in-law found his way blocked by a very smart and shining BMW. It was creeping down the drive towards him, with a recovery vehicle close on its elegant and immaculate beemer heels.  Reverse was not much of a challenge for the recovery truck guy, but for the driver of the BMW it was extremely confusing to have to steer and go backwards at the same time. He appeared not to understand that going backwards in the same direction as going forwards requires no steering. It took some few minutes for the steerings to the left and to the right to eventually cancel each other out, so that the BMW could go forwards again to get out of the way of the oncoming tractor and the Cat. Their way cleared, the tractor continued straight ahead and the Cat with the farmer, his wife and their child on board, soon followed. Eventually the car was also finally on the driveway and ready to drive to the station. In place of the distant memory that was the original objective, was a sense of time restarting, of a surreal reality distortion coming to a close. The handsome man stood still beside the uncabled car watching the tractor and the uncabled Cat go back to the farm. He was aquiver with an adrenaline hangover and feeling the effects of excessively low blood sugar levels. Along with the remainder of the party he walked slowly up the drive in time to see the tractor and the Cat pass in quick succession through a long muddy puddle causing an explosion of dirty water to cascade over the slick BMW. It was now only slick beneath a veneer of brown filth. Its occupants peered through grimed windows at their assailants, confused and afraid to leave the car lest some other onslaught of muck assault them. Shadows of the horror closing behind all parties and with waving and smiling now the order of the day, everyone shifted gear into a fresher and lighter zone. They went from mechanics and mud dramas into hosting mode. Due to relief at the successful conclusion of the chaos, that mode was rather more than slightly hysterical. In the yard the sheep was explaining to the Grey Horse in nervous tones that now was naptime. In the kitchen welcoming noises of hospitality and relief washed over the people. And the magnificent lunch, having survived the general lack of attention, was laid out steaming and enticing on the table. The driver of the recovery vehicle had changed the BMW’s tyre. With the loan of a pressure guage, which he had forgotten he might need, he was getting ready to declare the BMW fit for purpose. The guests were seated and toasting one another in robust terms. Tucking into the veg lasagne, the garlic bread, the salad and the wines, the business visitors were smiling broadly. Everyone complemented the food and beamed at one another. The BMW visitors overlooked their hosts’grubby clothes, mud streaked faces and general disarray. But unspoken was a mutual understanding that there would be no hanging on for afternoon tea.