Any half decent guide to the countryside should include the following tip: if you find an owl by the side of the road, don’t pick it up. I was riding along the lane on the skewbald pony when I suddenly realised there were two huge eyes staring up at me. It was a beautiful brown owl that kept falling over on to its side and then righting itself as the traffic swept past.
I got off Gracie and bent down to see. He was pretty beaten up, poor thing. I put my hand out and he hopped into the ditch and fell over. This was clearly a job for the gamekeeper, the source of all natural wisdom, as well as logs and legs of venison. Plus he is always 30 seconds away.
‘What’s up, mate?’ he said, on a muffled line. He was having his lunch in a village three miles away. ‘What on earth are you doing there? You’re never three miles away. You’ve never had lunch before either.’
He told me to wait and not touch the owl until he got there in ten minutes. Unfortunately, the only girl I know who is blonder than I am then came round the corner, pulled over and wound down her window. In between crying into her phone she put her head out and said to me, ‘Oh, my god, I’m having the worst day. That guy I told you about…’
‘Never mind that. I’ve found an injured owl. Help me.’
She got out of her car, went straight into the ditch and before I could say, ‘Don’t touch the owl,’ she scooped the owl into her arms and let out a bloodcurdling scream. The owl had pushed one of its talons deep inside her hand.