Reasons why Fran tries to engage sheep in conversation

I think I have a lot to offer sheep.

I leaned on the fence of a nearby field recently and gazed at the flock owned by a local farmer. I told them how cute they were, with their woolly coats and soft black noses, and how glad I was to be there, watching them nibble grass. I was sure the farmer didn't have time to pay them such close attention and I knew they'd be grateful.

I explained how sheep were my favourite animals and how much I'd like to hug them, telling them about when I cuddled a fat woolly-woolly sheep once at a wildlife centre and would have married it had this been socially acceptable.

I told them how sure I was that my visit to them and my obvious admiration would boost their self-esteem and make them feel proud to be part of the ovine community.

One sheep wandered nearer the fence and I felt privileged that it had come closer, clearly uplifted by my presence and wanting to hear more. I fished my phone out to take its picture.

Here it is, hanging on my every word.

Hm. Perhaps not so fascinated.

It's particularly galling to be ignored by a sheep. They're not exactly Michael McIntyre themselves when it comes to offering entertainment or sparkling repartee.

Not that I'm bitter, or anything.

'What are your greatest fears?' someone asked me the other day.

'I'm terrified that I might bore people,' I said. (I didn't add 'or sheep'. Not everyone would understand.)

It's true, though. If at a social gathering I see people's eyes wandering while I'm talking to them, I feel a bit sick. If I thought you were bored now with this blog post (although you probably wouldn't have got to this point if that were the case) I would be ashamed.

And in my work as an English teacher, if a student ever says they're bored in my lesson, it takes me months to get over it.

I was teaching a lesson at an independent boys' school once where the behaviour (mostly) was good and pupils were generally polite and mannered. As I spoke, though, one pupil suddenly stretched his arms into the air as if just waking up, yawned, and said, 'Oh, I'm so BORED!' The class guffawed and he opened his eyes wide, clearly horrified at what he'd done. 'Miss, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.' He couldn't stop apologising. He was one of the most respectful boys in the class and genuinely hadn't been conscious of saying it out loud.

I wasn't comforted to know that he had been SO bored that he'd been semi-comatose and not in control of his own speech organs.

The class never let him forget the incident. And I found it hard to erase it from my own memory too.

I know it's irrational. As a teacher, or a friend, or a blogger, or a sheep-conversationalist, one can't be hugely interesting and gripping all the time.

But I still worry about it.

Perhaps the reason I like talking to sheep is that they look pretty bored anyway so I can kid myself they think I'm an absorbing raconteur but that it won't reflect on their faces.

But the truth is probably more this ...

'She's as tedious as cardboard, isn't she? When will she shut up and go away?'


  1. A lovely image of sheep with their famous boredom tolerance threshhold Fran! I know what you mean though about the fear of being boring. Perhaps it does rank as the writer's greatest fear. This must be the worst kind of rejection: 'I'm afraid your work failed to enthral me....' or equivalent.

    1. Goodness, I hadn't even thought of the rejection letters! Yes, you're so right. One that really hurt was, 'We're sorry but we can only take manuscripts we fall in love with and this wasn't so in your case.' Brutal! Or the one I got that said, 'There's so much of this kind of stuff already out there.'

  2. Haha! Brilliant.You could never be boring. Not ever. That boy was a buffoon. My favourite part was the bit about you wishing you could marry a sheep (has Paul read this?) Genuinely lovely, funny read. As far from boring as... two very different things are.

    1. I think he might have got the idea anyway while wearing the thick white woolly jumpsuit I bought him, ha ha.

  3. That fear of being boring is one thing that keeps me from blogging more. Some days I can convince myself that it doesn't matter and some days I can't :)

    Somehow I can't picture you ever being boring, although I do know that when we write we generally put our best (and funniest) foot forward, so it becomes a competition with our very own selves to keep up the good work!

    Perhaps you should switch to talking to dogs. They seem to be intensely interested in listening to humans, just in case the words t-r-e-a-t or w-a-l-k enter the conversation . . .

    1. Jenny, your blog is called Procrastinating Donkey and you describe yourself as a full-time short person. I think this tells us everything we need to know about whether you need to be afraid of being boring! Thanks for the dog tip. I will approach dogs in the street now, try a few of my life stories on them, and see how that goes.

    2. As another blogger also afraid of being boring, please tell me how I can find Jenny's blog. It sounds great!

    3. Click on her name, Deborah, and you'll find her Blogger blog list with her own blog at the top.

    4. Oh no! Now I have performance anxiety and writer's block!! Thanks for your encouragement, both of you.

  4. I have never stopped to talk to sheep, I'm too boring even for them, but I am thankful there are sheep with their lovely warm woolly coats that in turn provide us with lovely warm woolly coats and hats and gloves and jumpers.

    1. I never know whether to mention this directly to them. (Thank you for that lovely warm woolly coat that will be sheared from you mercilessly, leaving you shivering, for my benefit.) It seems heartless.

  5. They always seem to shear our poor sheep, just before a cold snap with snow dusting the mountains.

    1. I know! Imagine having your sweater ripped from your back in the middle of winter and being left shivering in just a thin vest :(


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