Jonathan: Digital-Analogue translation – 11 Bun a Mhuillin, Isle of Eriskay (Sheep Flock): U9 and 4/4. They’re growing up fast, and I thought it was time to introduce them to sheep costume jewellery – or ear-tags if you prefer. Although the regulations requiring all sheep to have tags in both ears, and at least one electronic tag came in January 2011, there were no lambs last year so these are the first I’ve tagged this way. The officially allocated numbers re-started at 000001, so U9 being the older of the two, she got that, and 4/4 followed. (When I get round to it there’s another 15 to do.) The bizarre thing is that, having only relatively recently started to keep sheep, I still have older sheep with these numbers, a fact which in my view is likely to give rise to some confusion and mistakes, but which the authorities seemed untroubled about when I pointed this out. According to the combined brainpower of bureaucratics in Brussels and across the European Union, the increase from five digits to six (namely 000001 instead of the previous 00001) makes all the difference: these are different numbers. Not sure what my maths teacher from secondary school would have said to a similar justification, offered by myself when when delivering up an answer a factor of ten different from that expected by himself: he would have said nothing I’m quite sure, but the cane he habitually flexed between his hands as he discoursed on mathematical problems involving the thickness and length (or lack thereof) of two planks (a steely gaze directed at whichever individual at the time seemed to be the personification of the said mathematical problem) would have twitched and twirled more vigorously than usual, and as we all filed out of the classroom a the end of the ‘period’ I would have been pulled aside with a curt ‘Bridge! A word, if you please‘. But I digress, as I’m wont to do when bureaucracy crops up. So, my two little black shadows are not my little pet darlings any more, but are officially sheep of the flock, and in with the rest they must go – and stay. Unfortunately they don’t seem to understand this, and whilst other lambs seem willing enough – for now – to forego their constitutional rights of escape (for escape they certainly can if they put their minds to it) in the interests of having the milk tanker handy for a wee snack when they feel like it; U9 and … I mean 000001 and 000002 (have I got that right?) have only me to run to. And they do, they do! The new fence (more of which in another blog) seems not to be content with its purely non-judgemental, iimpartial role of containment, and has already exceeded its authority and neglected its core duties on a number of occasions, because there I am working away at this or that, sit down for a rest, and then there’s something soft and warm tickling my ear – a lamb’s nose. Drat! It wouldn’t be so bad if they were content with that, but as soon as I’m back at work they get bored and set about nipping off all the tasty buds of the young trees around the lower croft. I must be firm, I must be detached, I must be … not heartless, but practical, yes practical, Back in the field they go (my, but they’re getting heavy!) and walk away … just walk away … don’t look back. Whatever happens – don’t look back. I look back: they’re following me down the road!