Sunday, 18 January 2009

1981: The Sheep Shelter

Jack was not happy when Matt suggested buying a sheep shelter from Clifford Longthorn. He wanted to invest money in starting organic farming at Emmerdale, although Joe was in opposition and the other members of the household had misgivings. Jack was even more disgruntled to discover that Matt had been to see Henry Wilks to discuss the financing of the shelter. Matt had seen the shelters in action on a visit to Smithfield in 1980, and been highly impressed.

"Matt, not another new fangled gadget, eh?" groaned Grandad Pearson.

"Oh no, Grandad, it's just a shelter for sheep, that's all," said Dolly.

Grandad was not convinced of the need for such a thing: "Well, they never needed shelters in my day!"

"Ah, but they did, they just didn't 'ave 'em, that's all!" said Matt. "They save a lot of money in lost lambs, do them shelters."

"Aye, Matt, well, we did lose a lot in the old days - especially in a bad winter," Grandad conceded.

Jack was still not happy.

Then Matt dropped a bombshell: asked where the shelter would go, he announced: "I've thought about that. There's only one place that it can go."

"Where's that?" asked Joe.

"Well, it's got to go round the back for a start," said Matt. "And it's got to go on well-drained land. I mean, that bit of land has got the right gradient. There's no other land round the back there that's really flat enough. "

"Well, which bit of land?" asked Joe.

"I don't really like to say..." Matt was looking very uncomfortable.

"Come on, Matt," urged Annie.

"Grandad's vegetable patch," said Matt.

Grandad was most unhappy. When Dolly asked how he was a day or two later, he bellowed: "Nobody round here takes any notice of my feelings anymore!"

He was promised another patch, but still felt he was being ill treated.

The rest of the family, and Henry Wilks, backed Matt's sheep shelter plan, but Jack - who was still fixed on the idea of investing in organic farming, tried to stall things. When Matt showed him a photograph of the shelter, he announced its appearance wouldn't fit in with the existing buildings.

Matt did not understand Jack's view of farming at all sometimes: the sheep needed the shelter - aesthetics didn't come into it!

As the days passed, Annie grew increasingly annoyed with her eldest son. Until, realising that her intervention was needed, she decided to take action.

Jack was feeling misunderstood - but was convinced he knew best:

"We're still spending too much on concentrates. I'll be glad when I can cut back on them and start using the grass better. Of course, it'll take time. The others don't really understand the principles involved. You can lead a horse to water, but if he thinks he can do without it..."

"I wish you could hear yourself talk, Jack - if only you knew what you sounded like!" cried Annie.

"What?" Jack was puzzled.

"You really do think you're the only person around here with any sense, don't you? You've been carrying on on this farm as if you owned it!"

"I haven't, Ma!"

Annie ignored him: "Well you don't own it - just remember that! I'm getting so fed up of you and your grandad behaving as though you're the only two people that matter!"

"It's not me I'm talking about - it's the farm!" said Jack, startled.

His mother glowered: "We agreed on this sheep housing for Matt, didn't we?"

"Aye. I've not forgotten that."

"No, but you're ignoring it - you're putting it off, hoping he'll forget the whole thing. Well, he won't forget it and neither will we. You can think we're a lot of idiots if you like for not understanding your farming principles, but let me tell you this: Matt knows more about sheep farming than you'll ever know. He's more expert in his field than you, with or without book learning!"

"I know that, Ma, but..."

Annie bulldozed him: "Happen you do! And happen that's why you're being so pig headed about letting him have his sheep house!"

"Oh, that's not fair, Ma..."

"Then why hasn't he got it? It's been over a week since we decided!"

"I don't mean to be pig headed. I know Matt's good at his job. Oh, he's a bit slow sometimes..."

Annie rose from her chair, furious.

"No, I didn't mean it, Ma!" Jack was shaken.

"All right, go and talk to him!"

"Aye, I will..." said Jack, playing for time.

"GO ON!!" cried Annie.

"What, now?!"

"No point in holding back!"

Jack scuttled for the door: "I'm going!"

Annie watched her eldest son scuttle out of the kitchen, like some daft little lad, her face stony.

Then she turned...

... and burst out laughing!

Jack sought out Matt and soon Matt was smiling.

The sheep shelter went up.

Matt was thrilled with it. He showed Grandad the ventilation system: "You can have a howling gale blowing outside, and in here all you get is fresh air!"

Later, Annie asked Sam about the loss of his vegetable patch: "You're not too upset, are you, Dad?"

"No, of course I'm not, love!" said Sam. "He's a good lad - and to see him running around like a spring lamb is worth any amount of vegetable gardens! Mind you, as long as I have another one as good!"

"What do you reckon, Dolly?" asked Matt.

"Seven!" said Dolly.

"Eh?!" Annie was puzzled.

"I've been counting up how many times he's said 'What do you reckon, Dolly?'!" grinned Dolly.

A hay fight broke out between the Skilbecks, and Matt chased Dolly to the nearby barn...

... where Mr and Mrs Skilbeck indulged in a quick kiss and a cuddle - both well pleased with the outcome of the sheep shelter affair - and with each other.

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