Do any of you remember The Benny Hill Show? The endings, where he was chasing after all those girls, and usually being chased too? (If you don’t, then check out this on YouTube for an idea of what I mean. This is from a play about Benny Hill.)

I mention it because I felt a bit like I was in a Benny Hill Show this afternoon as Chris, Nessie and I were pursuing Brendan the alpaca, first around the very large field above the house lake and then down the green lane that runs alongside and beyond our farm. It’s the first time any of our critters have ever legged it off our property, and I sincerely hope it will be the last!

Brendan has been tethered by the house lake but occasionally the clip gets loose and he gets free. Up to now he’s been a doddle to recapture as he’s always come to take a proffered handful of sheep pellets and, with Seamus, is our tamest alpaca due to the few years he spent trekking with clients when we ran our llama and alpaca trekking business. But today, for whatever reason, he was naughty.

First, as I mentioned, he led us a merry dance around the field. With some enthusiastic but rather erratic help from Nessie (who’s ¾ sheepdog but you’d never guess – she hasn’t got a clue about rounding up!) we thought we’d got him onto the dam wall at the end of the lake. This would have seen him caught as there’s water on one side (obviously), a steep, brambly bank on the other and a wooden bridge at the far end. The animals are convinced trolls live under this as they really hate having to walk over it. Brendan wouldn’t have crossed it voluntarily so we’d have been able to nab him.

But at the last minute Brendan shot away and nipped along the field away from us rather than along the dam wall. Curses! He was moving pretty quickly and anyway, he has a distinct advantage over Chris and I in that he has twice as many legs as we do. I did my best to keep up, anxious to get him before he thought about getting onto the green lane. He was following part of our old trekking route which takes a short path we cleared between trees from the field onto the green lane. It was like Brendan remembered this as that was the way he went, and much faster than he ever did it when trekking!

A young dapper Brendan in his trekking heyday

A young dapper Brendan in his trekking heyday

At the end of the path he paused and I tried again to grab him but he took off again down the lane, heading away from our property. Now, fifty yards or so down is where we used to turn back onto our land, into another field, the one behind the houses. We again cleared a path here, quite a broad one, and it’s still there although a little overgrown now. However, we’ve had to string some cow-deterring blue tape across the entrance to it as we’ve had a couple of unwelcome visits from escaped herds of local cows and that was always the way they got in.

Fortunately the string, despite its scary blueness, didn’t faze Brendan, although somehow he got a leg tangled in it. Aha, surely I had him now!

But no, I didn’t. He got free at the last second as my hand began to close around his collar and darted back the way he’d come. By now Chris was in the lane with Nessie. As soon as he clapped eyes on them, Brendan did an about turn, and shot past my flailing arms again. That was a real Benny Hill moment. I was certain he’d scoot off down the green lane and either come out at Chambon if he forked right, the mill at Les Prades if he forked left, or go through a gateway into a farmer’s field. None of these were pleasing prospects as they’d involve a lot of time and effort, and possibly expose us to the public gaze. Even though Creuse is one of the least densely populated départements of France, it was a certainty that someone would be passing if we ended up on or near a road.

But luckily Brendan is a creature of habit and he again tried to follow the old trekking route, this time hopping over the string. So at least he was back on our land but the chase was still on.

I could see the funny side. There were Chris and I, both on the less popular side of fifty, Nessie, who is about seventy in dog years, puffing along after Brendan, who is barely touching middle-age (for a camelid – very approximately, one human year = five camelid years.) Thank goodness no one was filming us! I think it might have gone viral on YouTube!

Brendan had a breather and a chat with Seamus, who was in his field, and I nipped (in relative terms) back to the house and summoned Benj to our assistance. It still took us a bit more chasing until, drawn like a (hormonal) magnet, Brendan ended up by the girlie llamas’ field and got himself driven into a corner at the end of Rosie the pig’s field. He gave up quietly at that point and is now in disgrace in the stable, cooling off.

The other animals enjoyed the chase. Once we got close to the pig fields, they all started offering helpful and enthusiastic advice and trotted alongside us as far as they could, getting very excited. The girl llamas and alpacas had come rushing down as Brendan approached, and Oscar, the castrated male llama who’s in the field with them as their self-appointed guardian, was charging up and down the fence line closest to Brendan. No way was he letting that little whippersnapper get at his women! Now Oscar is a senior citizen of about eighty but he put me in mind of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army in his gung-ho, repel all boarders attitude. Nessie had a ball the entire time, even though she was definitely starting to flag towards the end.

Never a dull moment chez nous, and I think we’ll all sleep soundly tonight!

Here I am feeding some of our better behaved animals this morning

Here I am feeding some of our better behaved animals this morning