SALLY AND NINER
Sally and Niner had been intending to call out on the Sunday to give me some practice at maneuvering Thebus. I have quite large drives here to the house and stables so I thought we could keep off the road till I got a bit of confidence.
Now Sally never lacks confidence in anything - well certainly never appears to. She is a beautiful girl, bubbly and full of fun with lovely long legs a slim figure and long blonde hair and she is an HGV driver. Her parents have a transport firm and somehow Sally got involved and for the last eight years has been driving sixty foot artics which can carry up to twenty nine tons, and every so often they move the extra wide loads or extra long loads as well!
I met her and Niner by chance one Sunday back in the summer. Quite late in the day I had an odd phone call about an advert I had put in the paper and enquiring if I had any gates for sale – well though there were lots of things in the advert there were no gates. I did have gates which possibly would be for sale, but had not advertised them in case wanted by a prospective purchaser of the house who intended to keep animals. Anyway the upshot was they called that evening and took quite a few of the oddments one collects over the years in half a lifetime of keeping poultry.
They bought so much in fact that they couldn't get it all on the trailer which they had on tow behind a beat up estate car. Nor could they pay for it all, but they seemed such nice genuine folk and Sally said she would transfer the extra when she got home so it was fine
I can't really remember how it went on from there but I think when they came back for what they couldn't take the first time they found some more bits they needed, and then they had some of my crested geese and then had the last of the crested ducks. Now you may wonder why the lorry driving daughter of a transport firm is doing wanting poultry and gates and “stuff” - but it is Sally's dream to run a small-holding. Though I think it may have to be a petting farm, as so far lots of stock has been bought, but little (or non to be accurate) sent off to market so to speak.
Niner (Sally's nickname for him) is wholeheartedly on board with this smallholding scheme, and works up there whenever he can, loving this massive change in his life from owning and running an engineering firm. He has known Sally and her family for years, but he and Sally certainly make an odd couple when you first meet them. Though I have seldom seen two people hit it off so well together and work so well together - happy and at ease with each other's company.
When they first called I assumed they were a couple – mainly because he called her babe, and she gave him regular tongue lashings, and of course they are partners in the potential smallholding.
When did the meaning of the word “partner” get stolen – I remember the first time an architect was speaking to me about his partner and I cheerfully assumed they were drawing plans together, not making plans together. But now if a hairdresser talks about his partner I think they must be curling up together, not just curling hair together. Its all too confusing for the likes of me - we need two completely different words. I suppose it could be life partner but that implies they will be together for life, which is rarely the case nowadays.
Anyway although there is quite an age gap that's not unusual nowadays so I cheerfully referred to him as her boyfriend to be sharply told that was not the case, suitable chastened I amended it to father – misfire again. I was about to try Grandfather but discretion got the better part of valour. Sometimes I am not sure if Sally and Niner really know themselves what their relationship is, but whatever it is it is certainly a good one. I have rarely had such a good time with two such genuine people as them, and having now met some of their relations I can include them in the description
Over the passing weeks they bought more and more of the equipment I was parting with and on the day of the auction were major purchasers, though it was not just the farming lots they secured - they went off with a truckload of china and cut glass, furniture and even Christmas decorations.
On the night they took a huge van and trailer load back to Sally's house and stayed up till 4 am putting up Christmas decorations, then drinking port from some of the decanters they had bought. It was a good job it was a Saturday sale and Sally didn’t need to be driving early that morning. I really don’t know where they find the energy, but just being around such positive and genuine folk is enough to give you a boost in itself.
So that is a little introduction to Sally and Niner who will feature strongly over the forthcoming days, and I hope during the rest of my life.
Although in the event they couldn't make it on the Sunday they said they would call early on the Monday (we were still in the Christmas holidays), but by the time they had sorted the stock the day was drawing on. A phone call from Sally said they may be quite late – then she casually asked how many Thebus sleeps. Now when I was looking for a vehicle I didn't imagine I would ever have anyone to stay, maybe a brother occasionally or perhaps the niece and nephew as they get to driving age.
Could they stay over? – Of course they could.
I had only slept in Thebus for two nights myself and had kept no spare linen, or duvet. No problem - they would bring sleeping bags and something for breakfast and we could have takeaway that night. Now I have always been the sort of person who likes to have my life organised and sorted out well in advance, but these last few months I have been learning some different habits and very quickly
They arrived after dark with Sally looking a picture, especially as I have normally seen her in either farming or trucking overalls, and as all the takeaways had shut up shop for the Monday after Christmas Sally and Niner generously treated us all to a steak at a local pub.
Back to Thebus for cheese and port though they were disappointed I hadn't saved at least one decanter to take on my travels. Then it was decided we would play dominoes. Now I haven’t played dominoes since I was a child and somehow thought it involved dice as well, and perhaps it did the way we played it, and I most certainly hadn’t kept a set of dominoes for entertainment on my travels. But no, they had bought some with them as a moving in present. Now how they remembered the dominoes when they forgot their bedding and toothbrushes I don't know, but after two halves of Herefordshire cider and a couple of glasses of port I didn’t really care.
I am not good at games of any sort really but Niner patiently explained the principles and it all seemed pretty simple. One thing I had remembered about the game was that you build a wall of the bricks (or is it tiles) so no-one else can see them. This is great when there are four of you seated at opposite sides of a table, but not so good when two of you are side by side on a banquette and the third is just at your elbow at the end. But off we went and Niner won. I needless to say was last
As the game progresses Niner boaster about the fact that he had been Wolverhampton Champion Singles Domino player of 1987. Now personally I never realised that dominoes was a competitive sport, and had no idea that there were leagues and singles and doubles. Do they have mixed doubles at dominoes I wonder? But Niner said it is quite a gambling game and at a penny a spot the stakes can be high, or I suppose that was the case in 1987!
Sally and I were getting much the worse for wear as the port disappeared and probably getting a bit too giggly, but Niner was taking it all quite seriously. Sally won the second game, and by then I was getting the hang of it and won the third. From then on Sally and I won by rotation with Niner the loser each time. I am not saying he got a bit cross but I was glad the table was firmly fixed to the floor. After just a few games I think he had felt he had quite enough of us not taking it seriously and still winning so the dominoes were put away, but I shall keep them for the next time they “stay over“ with me
Now I haven't mentioned Phoebe in all of this.
Over that last weeks and months it has been a very stressful time for her. Many strangers in the house and going into areas she really feels aren't allowed, then all the furniture being moved, then the days of the auction. She is an old girl and it has taken its toll on her health. And the last few weeks have involved a couple of emergency vet calls in the wee small hours. Then of course we had moved out of the house and into Thebus, and though things seem a bit more settled for some reason on the night of Sally and Niners visit her tummy decided to play up. In the past some of my Great Danes have been real stinkers in that department, and when I say real stinker I really do mean that. Phoebe on the other hand has been a proper lady with very little of “that sort of thing” but almost as soon as they arrived she started
In a house, or even a large house its bad enough, but in a motorhome with something the size of a Great Dane it really is a case of everybody out. Its no good putting the dog out as it is all too late by then. She kept it up pretty well all evening, so what with that and the drink, and the dominoes it was quite a raucous evening and Niner took the most incredible teasing about his Dominoes Championship title of 1937 (as by then it had drunkenly deteriorated to) as well as the fact that he only won one game playing with two novices, and female at that!
Sally admiring Niner in Night Attire