EVERY few minutes I jump with surprise as I think there is an intruder looking in through the window. Then I realise it is a sheep, or even several, grazing just outside the shepherd's cottage we have rented in Scotland while we fish.

Our sheep have been left in the capable hands of Ian, a friend who helps John run his shoot.

Last time we went away another friend house/dog/sheep/poultry sat. He has not again. I think Smiley left completely exhausted by early morning rising, streams of callers checking he was okay and three dogs harassing him for a walk all the time.

Everything survived, however, and I think the only lasting ill effects for him was being egg bound for a month. I exaggerate. But he did keep sending me pictures of piles of eggs and asking “what do I do with these?”

A gamekeeper is required at home as John has recently taken delivery of more pheasant poults for his shoot. Although they have all been released into “fox proof” pens in several woods, no pen is ever fox proof.

Recently, a friend lost more than 100 young birds and the only explanation for Fantastic Mr Fox finding his way in was that he had read how to disable the alarms, found a way to tunnel under the fox proof fencing, discovered the power of flight or, most likely, shinned up a tree and dropped into the pen via an overhanging branch. But then how did he get out unless he could also do a standing jump of six feet or more? Perhaps four legs helps there.

To deter any late night callers, John has been skulking around the pens at night to see if word has gone out among our local foxes that some delicious take away dinners have arrived in the area. With us away, reinforcements in the form of neighbouring gamekeepers are coming in. The heavy mob, I call them. Any couples fancying a private meet up in a quiet wood could be in for a nasty surprise.

Which actually used to happen quite regularly on a quiet lane that ran down to a friend’s wood. Young (and not so young and also those who should have not been there together at all) seeking a little seclusion, would park up off the road, assuring themselves that their liaison would be unnoticed. Only to spot men, in camouflage gear and face masks, in the woods as well. Had a significant impact on the lover’s ardour I would think.