The Mast

BY A COUNTRY AGENT

Our client, Mr Hull, sat in his Defender, door ajar, feet through the open window and a huge grin on his face chomping on a banana.

I turned to look at the city slickers, and they looked horrified. What lay before them was a scene from Jurassic Park; huge fences and thirty or so 8ft tall, two-legged creatures, some charging around & flapping their enormous useless wings, but most stood staring at us through the fence. It was clear our friends were not particularly enthusiastic about entering the field.

You see, I don’t just sell houses, sometimes I have to deal with what can only be described as the “stuff that the clients don’t want to do themselves”. On this particular occasion my longstanding clients had been approached by a telecommunications company to install a Mobile Phone Tower in one of their fields.

The offer was simple, a 10mx10m parcel of land and they would pay an annual rent plus a sizeable up-front payment as an incentive.  The client wasn’t adverse to the idea so I arranged to meet the representatives from the telecoms company at the proposed site.

Mr Hull owned a few hundred acres of farmland with livestock. It was actively farmed but they wouldn’t miss this small piece and the regular and reasonable income would no doubt be most welcome.

I met with the Surveyor and the Engineer who both looked the part, the former dressed in a suit straight out of the city.  They were clearly not used to having to put on their very, very clean wellies.

As I mentioned, the farm held livestock, not cows, not sheep nor pigs, but ostriches.

If you are one of the lucky few who knows anything about ostriches, you will know that they can not only be somewhat unpredictable but more than a little inquisitive.  I am no expert, and if I’m honest this was the first time I’d seen them face to beak, so to speak.  They are big, scary looking things with enormous muscular legs and huge feet not to mention disproportionately small brains which unfortunately make the decision as to whether or not they will kick any poor unsuspecting souls who cross their path.  

Quite frankly, they look evil and have the attitude to match.

The key point here is that they are not just big, and they really are, but that they are not terribly intelligent.  It’s not that they’re stupid, more that they have absolutely no concept of fear, or for that matter, personal space.  This, coupled with their inquisitive nature, can pose a problem because when an 8ft tall bird wants to know the answer to the question, you better have that answer ready or it’s going to find out in any way it chooses.

Now I am sure that, like me, you have been swooped by seagulls at the seaside when eating ice-cream, but just imagine the same thing but by an 8ft flightless, stupid, humourless bird with legs that’ll break you in two with one kick… you get the idea. 

I’m terrified of them, as were the people from the Telecoms Company. The difference is though that unlike them, I didn’t have to go into the field.

Mr Hull and I watched the pair take off their suit jackets and don their high-viz jackets and hard hat – “protocol” apparently. Mr Hull couldn’t contain himself any more.

Talk ’bout an easy target, I don’t think those hard hats will help!” he sniggered, quietly enough to be polite but loud enough so that they could hear.

Just as I was wondering which one of them had filled out the risk assessment form – how exactly does one do so when it comes to ostriches – they started to walk slowly towards the big metal gate, it was like they were being thrown to the Lions.

“Lads, if you have any problems DON’T scream, it’ll attract ’em all to you, jus’ lie down dead and let ’em inspect you.” 

Mr Hull had a very serious expression on his face but the fact that he said it through a mouth full of banana and still had his feet poking out through the Defender window, told me he was loving every second. 

I suppressed a grin as terror washed over their faces.

“Are you being serious?” the engineer asked, clearly hoping that he was joking.

“Well you don’t wanna run, they’re quicker than you are and they’ll think it’s bloody great fun.”

The surveyor let out an awkward and nervous laugh.

“Is this a good idea?” I whispered, both concern and amusement came through in my question.

“I’ll tell you in 5 minutes.” He gave me a wink as he finished rolling a cigarette, that grin consuming half of his face.

The ostriches had already gathered by the gate to see what was going on, in this sectioned-off area there were eight of the beasts, the surveyor and the engineer cautiously walked through the gate.  I had to give them credit, they were braver than me.

“He’s gonna regret taking in that bag though…”  immediately one of the ostriches made a b-line for the rucksack.

“Told you!”

It pecked at the engineer’s bag, its long neck bending and tiny curious head hammering away, once it had got a purchase it wasn’t letting go.  They began a brief but furious game of “tug-o-war”, inevitably the zip opened up and the contents started spilling out, a small silver box landed between them.  Time briefly stopped, the engineer didn’t know what to do, the bird had released the bag and swung its head toward the digital camera, the engineer screamed “NO!!” but it was too late, the bird was off, camera in beak, designer in hot pursuit, his colleague frozen to the spot. 

Mr Hull was in hysterics and all I could do was stare incredulously at the debacle unfolding in front of me.  The other birds tucked into the detritus from the bag whilst the surveyor seemed to be praying.

Unfortunately the engineer forgot one key instruction from Mr Hull.  No running and no screaming. 

After a short distance he stopped – realising his chase was pointless – and it was then that it dawned on him. He turned toward the Surveyor and they both instantly shot to the floor and played dead. 

Mr Hull roared again, this time turning purple, nearly choking on his banana.

“Err, lads. I’d get out of there if I were you!”, I shouted, and they sprung to their feet and ran like their lives depended upon it.  They had barely made it 5 meters into the compound but it must have felt like a mile, I opened the gate and they darted back through it, bringing their unpleasant experience to an end.

As we drove away I tried to give my most sympathetic look, the silence destroyed by Mr Hull’s deafening laughter.  I turned back to look at the field and saw an ostrich with his head caught in a hard hat, and another with his head buried in the engineer’s rucksack, the poor fellow’s lunch scattered everywhere.

The pair of them sat in the back of the Defender looking thoroughly defeated, I felt bad for them to be honest.  But not that bad.

“Now,” I said chirpily, “let’s talk money…” 

Rupert Devonshire is “A Country Agent”.  A married father of two in his mid-fifties, Rupert has worked in the rural property market, selling some of the North of England’s finest country properties, for the past 30 years. Writing as “A Country Agent”, Rupert shares with us some of the amusing highs, and indeed lows, of his career to date.  Whether he being is attacked by a swan, propositioned by a cougar or watching an ostrich chase a surveyor, there is usually a hysterical undertone. If you have read any of his tales, you will appreciate that Rupert Devonshire is probably not his real name.