I first met Mr Brooks on the second day of my new job with the Kentish Stour Partnership way back in 2009. He instructed me as I teetered on top of a ladder in his cattle barn trying to put a number disk on the side of his barn owl box which would allow us to monitor it’s progress.
“Do you know one end of a drill from another?” he called in his upper class voice. “Next time bring a man.” I felt suitably slighted.
A few weeks later he wanted a second box put up. I agreed this was a good idea but there would be a charge for installing the box. Mr Brooks was aghast. “I don’t deal in money,” he said “We barter.” Ah, now he was talking my language. A box, I told him, would cost him either a bottle of whisky, a goose for Christmas or a brace of trout from his trout pond. Once I got off the phone I was told off by my boss who suggested that, as we sat next to Trading Standards, this was not the way we should be doing business.
I returned to his land with a box and three men but went up the ladder myself to install it. Mr Brooks, true to his word, appeared in full fly fishing gear and tried for those trout but with no luck.
Years passed, the barn owls refused to take up residence. Instead stock doves moved in,
filling the box with their twiggy nests. Me and the professional ringers would extract the birds. “Don’t ring their bally legs, ring their bally necks.” Mr Brooks called in the background. We refused.
Then, yesterday, I returned. We climbed the ladder expecting to find the twiggy nests once again but, no. Instead we found a barn owl and three fair sized chicks. Mr Brooks, now in his eighties, has his barn owls at last and I, for one, couldn’t be happier for him. I am still waiting for the trout.