A blog post has had to go on hold for a while due to the birth of our first lamb of the year.
Born in brilliant, blessed sunshine this morning was Basil, named in honour of our own Dom Basil Gwydir, whose centenary of death we keep this year. He was one of several of our monks who served as military chaplains in the Great War. He died when the hospital ship, HMHS Rohilla, sank off Whitby on 30 October 1914, not long after the war had begun. It is said of Fr Basil that he remained below decks with sailors who were immobile and unable to escape, and so drowned with them.
Maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet, ut animam suam ponat qui pro amicis suis. (John 15:13)
The new Basil is hale and hearty, and of full voice.
The cold still bites here in Royal Berkshire, but at least the sun has managed to put his hat on occasionally, and to lovely effect. That said, yesterday was mostly filled with flurries of snow flakes, and the daffodils are terribly confused.
One effect of the sunshine is to encourage a little ritual lambs are fond of indulging in. After joining in the feeding frenzy on barley and hay with the ewes, they like to have a little chill time and think on the eternal verities. And they like to do it together. Normally in the sun they would play, but in the recent bleak and freezing weather they prefer to act like solar cells, and soak up as much warmth as possible. It begins when a nice bed of strewn hay is found in full sun. A couple will settle, satisfactorily gorged for now, and other lambs decide that they have the right idea.
Quickly you have five settling in for some sun.
And soon there are six, as a couple of the early comers start warming to their task of… warming.
After some maternal intrusion and subsequent re-arrangement, they resettle to reveal the sun-and-slumber party has grown to eight.
Malcolm, the youngest, is very much his own lamb and sits off a little to the side, balancing community with independence… and sleep.
And looking back to the main assembly we find the other nine have finally settled together, Cher, the only girl among them, showing a suitable juvenile female disdain for boys.
And they shall stay till the next human diversion arrives; for now, I have become far too boring to notice.
The Triduum is a busy time for a monk who is both sacristan and cantor. Unexpectedly, my shepherd’s hat was on today as well – a surprise lamb born today, Holy Saturday, in the midst of our first period of sunshine for quite a while (though it still be chilly).
Though untimely born, she is well-omened. So Frances is our Easter lamb. 11 live lambs this year, our best crop ever (and this after three dead at birth). Alas, only two of them girls. A weird year. Given North Korea’s excessively loud belligerence, perhaps the end of the world is nigh. Repent, while we have the light of life.
Below is the little girl and her young mother (barely over a year old herself, and rejected by her own mother last year), taken with shaky, frozen hand on a mobile phone.
Yesterday afternoon two more lambs were born, which makes 7 in three days, and 9 in total – an ovine novena. Alas I only heard yesterday’s twins had arrived after dark, so after a fretful night I went out, after an earlier breakfast, through the sun-pierced fog and across crunching frost hoping for the best. And it was granted. A first time mother, Josephine, had given birth to a loud twin-set of lungs on legs. After her panic as I hoisted the lambs into the nursery pen, she followed us in and calmed down to the point of serenity. Having docked the lambs’ tails, and realised I had yet two more boys, I had a little play with the lads before they fed from mother while she wolfed down some barley (all photos should enlarge on being clicked): In light of the papal theme, it seemed apropos to name these two after the two most favoured papabili for the upcoming conclave. Our new albino boy, Angelo, declared approval: His brother, Marc, looked equally pleased, though he was forced to keep quiet by his more urgent need to lick his lips after downing a warming draught of mother’s best: When I let in the others, who were all waiting expectantly by the gate, there was a wonderful confusion of excited lambs escaping briefly the maternal leash, and of mothers frantically trying to put them back on the leash. All sorted in time: Returning this afternoon with some long-awaited mineral lick, it was lovely to see Cephas (at right) sitting near his grandmother with her boys Joseph and Benedict. The sunshine was very popular. Sunbathing was order of the day. Sonny and Cher slept through most of my visit: Joseph and Benedict showed already signs of being scallywags, trespassing on other mothers and then sampling the mineral lick when they thought no one was looking: The two eldest, Alban and Bartholomew, seemed lost in contemplation of the sun among the molehills, and I thought I might get quite close for a promo shot: But I was spotted and cast a disdainful look: Meanwhile the new boys were finding their legs and learning the art of brotherly love: In light of this preponderance of boys, 8 out of 9 lambs in total, surely there is a clear omen discernible. This is a near-certain sign that the next pope will be male. You heard it here first.
Another chap born at the end of High Mass today, in glorious sunshine. I waited around in case a twin was still to pop out but the mother happily munched away without any sign of impending delivery, so this lad is a solo act. That makes 5 in 24 hours – the nursery paddock is abuzz with doting mothers and inquisitive lambs. But 6 boys and 1 girl makes for an annoying gender imbalance.
Cephas! (If you know your gospels, and you know this week’s events, you know why.)
Meanwhile Sonny and Cher spent their second day, with Mum, sunbathing.
Joseph and Benedict likewise took some sun, and seemed destined to stick together like limpet mines.
Meanwhile the two eldest boys do not know what all the fuss is about.
Yesterday four little bundles of ovine joy were delivered here. One ewe had twin boys, who light of the current situation just had to be called Joseph and Benedict. Benedict is the one who has more papal white about him:
Another ewe had twins covering both sexes, and to balance the sacred with some profane, they are now Sonny and Cher:
May they graze as safely as we have under our good Shepherd, Benedict XVI.