Sunday, 26 April 2015


I have known Jack for a year or so.  I don't know how old he is, but like many of the characters on and around the farm he just appeared one day.  Whenever I come home to the boat Jack is usually here.  He doesn't wait for me, but he is often simply - well, here.  We stand and mardle a while.  He is a stunningly good-looking lad and I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, he has probably set some lady's heart a-pumping.  He is strong, broad in the shoulder and stands tall; tall, dark and very handsome.  Frequently, and when he thinks I'm not looking, he rushes about and he can certainly put on a turn of speed.  He runs so fast and so hard that, even from the boat moored below the narrow field that is his racetrack, I can hear his feet pounding.  He tries to break his own personal best getting from one end of the field to the other.  As he listens to an account of my day I think he would usually rather be somewhere else.  Often he'll just wander off when I'm in mid-sentence, but not too far.  He'll look over one of those broad shoulders to tell me he's still listening.  I know he doesn't want to though, so I peter out and bid him farewell.  Then he'll resume whatever it was he was doing before I interrupted him.

If I go up to the farm to collect my post Jack will often be standing on the bank that rises above the boat.  I always share a few greetings with him and sometimes he even approaches as though he wants to confide.  After a year, though, we still haven't got to the stage where he feels able to tell me something of any real importance.

A few weeks ago Jack was standing in his usual spot where he often likes to contemplate the Fen skyscape or gaze at the horizon and I realised I hadn't seen him for a while.  I felt terrible that I hadn't noticed he hadn't been there.  I could have asked after him, maybe even sent him a postcard to let him know I was thinking about him.  I don't suppose he missed me for one moment.

The farmer's sister, who brought Jack home again, told me once that he was very wary of men.  Apparently as a youngster he was abused - by men of course.  Why is it nearly always men?  Sometimes I am deeply ashamed of my sex and yet I cannot fathom it.  I have never felt the need to abuse another and the thought that I may have got close to losing my temper a few times, even under extreme provocation, fills me with shame and horror.  If I feel so powerfully that I should be above such behaviour what is it that is missing in men who can abuse?  Or what is it that is missing in me?

I realise now that everyone here loves Jack.  I think that even the farmer may have a bit of a soft spot for him, although I'd never suggest such a thing to his face.  The farmer's sister told me she wept for two days when Jack went away.  She was so pleased when he wanted to come back.

Two days ago I came home after a day of running workshops and something was not right.  Jack was standing in his favourite field with four women, but there was something about his bearing and demeanour that was definitely not right.  The farmer's sister was standing close to Jack while someone I didn't recognise was feeling her way along his back and applying pressure to an area around his hip.  Jack was looking very unhappy.  I stood a way off for a while and then slowly approached the other two women who were sitting on the grass behind Jack in an attitude that seemed almost as though they didn't want to distract or disturb him.  Something was definitely up.

"He's concertina'd hisself," said the horse lady who was sitting next to the farmer's girlfriend.  "He went into one of the bigger fields today and we think he was chasing round after the other horses."


When I left for the band rehearsal this morning, poor Jack was lying on his side in the field.  As I drove past he raised his head, but he was clearly in pain.  When I returned, some hours later, Jack was still in the field, lying on his side.  This time he did not raise his head.  I parked the van and walked back to where he was lying.  As I got closer I was relieved to see that he was breathing and when I spoke in greeting he managed to lift his head and twist his neck to look at me.  I thought I could see his distress, his pain and his confusion.  We communed in silence for a while.  Then I went to see if the farmer's sister or the horse lady who lives next door could tell me the latest.  Both were out with other horses at a show, but the farmer's girlfriend came out and said she could see I was worried about Jack.  He had managed to get up a few times during the day, but it was too painful to stand up for long so he got down on his side again.  She'd come out to sit with him for a while and the farmer was going to bring some water close enough for him to reach.  The vet will be here tomorrow.  


  1. Oh, such sad news. Jack was eventually diagnosed with laminitis and prescribed box-rest. Unfortunately that hasn't helped. He has been on pain killers for weeks which, of course, bring their own problems. The vet is making a final visit tomorrow to help end Jack's pain and misery. The farmer's sister put him out in the paddock today, so he could spend his last day eating grass and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible. Everyone on the farm is talking in hushed voices. We are all very sad. Jack, it has been a real pleasure knowing you.

  2. Unbelievable further update. Jack has been reprieved for a while. After being allowed out and enjoying being out on the grass it has been decided to hold on to him a while longer. He was more attentive to his surroundings than at any time I have seen him over the past few weeks. He is being kept on the painkillers, but we have had our first conversations in quite a while.