Sci­en­tists say that sheep can recog­nise faces – or was that in the Wool Street Journal?

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - FEATURES -

When she started giv­ing me the dag­gers, I had a quiet word with my dad. So Dolly had the hon­our of be­com­ing the first of the flock to be­come chops in the freezer. I could have told those sci­en­tists that sheep recog­nise peo­ple

To look at them, you would think they are very dozy and stupid and only in­ter­ested in eat­ing and drink­ing. You as­sume there is noth­ing go­ing on in their sad lives but fol­low­ing each other around and be­ing herded around to do what their masters please. No, I am not talk­ing about mem­bers of par­lia­ment. How dare you? I would never say such a thing about our won­der­ful and hard-work­ing elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. No, I am talk­ing about sheep.

If a Black­face sheep looks at you funny, be care­ful. A weird news items the other day claimed sheep are not as dumb as we think and that they can recog­nise hu­man be­ings. What did I think? I knew that all along. Since that sheep Dolly with the white eye kept star­ing at me when I was 10, I knew there was some­thing odd go­ing on be­tween those horns. Maybe I had roughly punc­tured her ear with the tag ma­chine or slashed her with a badly-wielded pair of shears in a fank. What­ever, there was some­thing on her mind.

And there was some­thing on my mind. When she started giv­ing me the dag­gers, I had a quiet word with my dad. So Dolly had the hon­our of be­com­ing the first of the flock to be­come chops in the freezer. I could have told those sci­en­tists that sheep recog­nise peo­ple – not just celebri­ties like Barack Obama and the news­reader Fiona Bruce. And I could have told them that some­times you have to do what it takes to stop the star­ing from the sheep pen. Don’t mess with me, Me-aggs.

I could have also told you that hav­ing two air­lines serv­ing the Western Isles will bring down prices. It has. Now that we have both Flybe and Lo­ganair in a tus­sle to get us up their steps, they are deadly ri­vals. Glas­gow-based Lo­ganair has re­branded from deadly dull fuse­lages and uni­forms to vi­brant red tar­tan to em­pha­sise its Scot­tish­ness. Ex­eter-based Flybe, well, hasn’t. The im­por­tant dif­fer­ence is the fares though. How­ever, some­times Lo­ganair seems to be cheaper and then at other times you are bet­ter go­ing with poor old FlyMaybe.

The big sell­ing point that Lo­ganair had was the free lug­gage al­lowance. That could make all the dif­fer­ence to the fi­nal cost. So much so that last week the Scottish air­line claimed it was grind­ing its big com­peti­tor into the dust. Within hours, Flybe was re­jig­ging its prices again – and also be­gan of­fer­ing free lug­gage. It’s war. It’s ba­nanas. It’s great. At this rate it won’t be long un­til they start pay­ing us to fly.

Not ev­ery­one is de­lighted. There are many peo­ple in the is­lands who are too scared to fly. Many is the time I have been on the flight when it has hit tur­bu­lence, I have heard some­one in the seat be­hind me putting up a not-so-si­lent prayer. It is re­ally dis­con­cert­ing. You feel very con­fi­dent that it is just a tem­po­rary wib­bly­wob­bli­ness un­til you hear the cove be­hind you promis­ing the Almighty he will re­nounce the bevvy and all his bits on the side if only He can get the Saab 340 down safely in Mel­bost. As my old neigh­bour once said: “If God had meant man to fly, He would never have given us Cale­do­nian MacBrayne.”

And an­other thing – the cabin ser­vice on flights is not as good nowa­days. You don’t get a wee dram when you go to Glas­gow any more. Al­though I did last year when Mrs X and I flew down to Lon­don on the Shut­tle. That ser­vice used to be pretty good but the ser­vice has slipped a bit. Half­way through the flight, the at­ten­dant came up and asked: “Would you like din­ner?”. As I pulled down the tray and slipped my han­kie into my col­lar I asked: “So, what are the choices to­day?” The prissy one snapped back: “Yes or no.”

The choice to have sheep is a big un­der­tak­ing. A crofter was tend­ing his flock when he saw a man drink­ing with a cupped hand from a stream. He shouted over in Gaelic: “Don’t drink the wa­ter. There’s sheep poo in it.” The man at the stream lifted his head and car­ried on drink­ing. Re­al­is­ing the man couldn’t hear him, the farmer moved closer and shouted in Gaelic again. But still the man couldn’t hear him. Fi­nally the crofter walked right up to him and re­peated his warn­ing.

The man replied: “Dread­fully sorry, my good man. I can’t un­der­stand the Gaelic. I’m English, you see.

“Ah right,” said the crofter. “I was just say­ing if you use both hands you can get more in.”

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