Mark Twain was a clever chap.
One of his most famous sayings is 'Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.' That's where the orange sheep come in. Our family holiday took us to Glenlyon, a glen just north of Loch Tay in Perthshire. Imagine the rolling hills, clouds that hang on the mountain sides making the dark pine plantations seem like they are on cold fire, the birds of prey poised over prey, glorious stone bridges arching like grey cats stretching over a peaty rivers, green fields full of orange sheep with black faces and legs...
Yes, orange sheep. Not the usual mark of tupping on the back or ownership smudge but completely orange. If you don't believe me, here is the picture.
Please note the rectangular plantation behind courtesy of the Forestry Commission - the Scottish landscape going very post-modern. The vision of tangerine sheep provided my family with an hour of speculation, ranging from the boring (dipping treatment) to the fashion statement to the invasion by alien sheep theory. The problem for a writer is that you can't just drop that into a passage of description without it seeming, well, very odd and in dire need of explanation. In the real world, such things aren't explained, they just are.
As if to underline this point, just down the road from the orange sheep is the noted village of Dull. Twinned with Boring, Oregon.
How can we be expected to drive safely, people of Dull, if you sprinkle your fields with alien creatures? Now I am having nightmares about what exactly you might see on one of their highland safaris!
Mark Twain had clearly come across a few of his own 'orange sheep' moments to make his comment. I wonder if any reader of this blog has one or two to share with us, particularly if they have found them as part of research for a historical book and had to discard them as too unusual to fit in fiction?
(P.S. My latest book, Dusk, is now out. Sadly lacking in orange sheep but there are some very surreal 'real' moments from World War I, taken from diaries or accounts of the time.)