The trouble with jumpers
It was a stunning day in Africa, the sun shone like there was no tomorrow and the sky flashed a brilliant blue.
I thought of home constantly as I walked down a faded narrow pathway, I was quite literally in the middle of nowhere, no houses, shops, offices, not even a bus stop, just a tree in the horizon and a small termite nest. In case you’re wondering why I was in the middle of nowhere, it was not because I was taking a hike around Africa, nope, I had a job, I was to help on a farm of sheep, cows and hens. And no, I’m not dotty, not yet anyway! We needed money for my sister to get into a good school, and this job apparently paid pretty well which is why I was shocked that no one had taken it.
It must have taken around about an hour to reach the farm. It was not recognisably a farm. It looked more like a herd of strange monsters. For starters, there were large lumps of straight cream white hair stomping around. They could not run from the heaviness of what looked like sheep hair. Then there were enormous rugs running around in black, white, red and yellow with four hooves stuck out from the bottom! But queerest of all was a herd of walking jumpers. They were small and made a peculiar soft clucking sound.
As we got closer, I realised what the ‘monsters’ were! The hairy white things were sheep. They just hadn’t been shaved or cut before so their wool lay over the ground in heaps. As for the giant rugs, well they started mooing so it became obvious that they were cows. It was after this that a jumper bumped aimlessly into my legs. Surprised, it toppled over; the jumper fell to the ground that revealed a ginger hen.
I felt that I really must meet the one only Hopeful Lambeley. He owned the place and I was his employee. I looked for a house but saw just a cave made of rocks. I wondered inside, it was dark and damp, I heard the constant dripping of water and the walls were covered in chalk sketches of giraffes.
I spotted an elderly man, he was dressed in a crimson woolly jumper with a straw hat on his bald head, his hands were wrinkled and skinny and his feet completely bare. He had piercing blue eyes that made me immediately dislike him; he was sitting on a boulder at the back.
“Mr Lambeley?” I asked,
“Who else would I be? The real question is who are you?” He snapped back. He spoke in a voice that meant to be aggressive but instead was quiet and ruffled.
“Henrietta Paley, of course, you wanted help on your farm. I see you have a large problem with children dressing up your hens and cows.”
“Well, Henrietta, if that is your real name, there is not a village or child for a whole mile.” He said it with pride and gave a smug grin and folded his arms. It was then I noticed a pair of gloves lying next to him.
“Who is it then? And what type of sheep do you own – they have already got hair down to the ground.” I explained carefully.
“I put the clothes on the animals to save money on sun cream.”
“Sorry?” I asked.
“What for” He spat out then burst into hysterics, I just stared at him. He frowned and answered simply;
“I don’t want to pay for two hundred and two bottles of sun cream every week. No, no that would never do; and I can’t leave the sheep, myself and you to burn every day from the sun, so we all dress in jumpers so all our skin is covered. That way no one gets hurt.”
I was stunned, but this was just the start of the events yet.
“I feel quite over whelmed by the long journey; may I rest in the house?”
“Of course, I’ll show you to your ‘quarters’”
He stood up with a crooked back, and I followed him, we exited the cave much to my relief and, passing the animals, arrived in a neighbouring cave. I suspected that there was a house on the other side of it but then he stopped at the end of the cave. I figured that he’d gone the wrong way but instead he announced;
“Here’s where you can sleep, there is fresh bats if you get hungry during the night.”
I just stared at him, gaping.
“How long will I be at this job roughly,” I asked, to break the silence.
“As long as possible, business isn’t good out here.” He replied.
So that was that. After that was dinner, he had caught a rainbow trout for me and filled a barrel full of fresh water.
As I sipped the water, I felt refreshed. Maybe this was all a dream or maybe he wasn’t as strange as I was making him out to be, maybe he was normal out here and I was being the strange one. It was a lot of maybes. I looked down at the barrel and noticed it was already half empty, but maybe I was being silly I told myself, the barrel wasn’t half empty, and it was half full. Its strange how things like that can cheer you up!
I awoke at a start; all the sheep had crept into my cave over night and one had accidently stepped on my toe. I think it must have jumped more than me! It even started baaing its apology and I suddenly felt a great rush of affection for the sheep, they were so helpless and clumsy with all their wool that I felt I must do something for them.
So I did, I knew there was a pair of scissors somewhere since Mr Lambeley did not have long nails. They were hung up on his cave wall.
Each and every sheep now had just a slim layer of wool on their necks. They looked so pleased, one of them was so ecstatic that it started darting to each of the corners of the cave.
It was not until then that I had remembered Mr Lambeley. So I said to the sheep these very words;
“Look you sheep, I have made each and every one of you a living masterpiece, now do this for me and you will be the most exquisite sheep alive or dead.”
So we all marched out of cave together, then the cows and hens wanted to join in. So we all paraded to the river. Mr Lambeley went fishing down here, you could see since his fishing rod sat on a rock.
One of the hens slipped over since it was particularly slippery over here. I landed with its two legs swimming in the air! Then an idea struck me, my mouth the shape of a banana. I picked up the hen, it was the same one that had bumped into me when I had arrived, and peeled of the jumper, it gaped at me and I carefully rolled it around in the mud until it had a thick coat of mud. It danced around and soon all the hens stood in an orderly line waiting for their turn. They all blinked when they saw the sun which was presently appearing in the pale sky, before diving into the mud and splashing around; getting slushy, brown cement like coats on their delicate feathers.
Mean while, the cows all shook off their rugs and rolled inside the mud, thoroughly enjoying it. The sheep soon joined them.
My plan had proved to work brilliantly, the cows, hens and sheep stood proudly in twos. Not only did they look like a rare breed of sheep, but also they were completely and utterly saved from sunburn.
When we arrived back, Mr Lambeley praised me highly for my brains. Then I thought of another idea.
“Why not knit woolly jumpers for England? We have enough wool for the whole of Mombasa (that’s the capital of Kenya,) we will be able to afford a house and everything!”
“A house? I agree with everything but honestly you want a house? Ha ha ha no child we will buy sun cream for me and you, as well as a good school for your sister and most importantly, sleeping bags, one for me, one for you and one for each of the animals.”
I did not bother argue, he was as dotty as a Dalmatian but had the heart of a lion. That I will always remember.
But our plan worked as planned. My sister was in a private school and my mama moved in with us. Our woolly jumpers were soon famous; Mud bath – soaked in beauty. No one but us knew what it meant.
I would not leave my job for anything, the hens are still clumsy, and the cows still follow like sheep and as for the sheep… well they still wake me in the morning!