Last night when I couldn’t sleep because it’s been a long weekend and my sleep pattern is all messed up, I got to thinking about the Cow Parade and my general experience with Cows. It left me thinking that on the whole, I’m far safer with a Cow Parade.
So experience number one: I’m about three years old and on holiday in Guernsey. I’m a bit hazy about whether it was a cow or pig, but given details like my age, probable height, the size of cows and pigs and what happened I think we can be fairly safe in thinking it was a cow. It was a beautiful green rolling meadow filled with Cows and Pigs and I was possibly feeding one or the other. At this point in my memory I seem to recall no angst at letting huge bovine animal slurp bits of grass off my hand. The trauma only began when I tried to leave and felt myself cruelly yanked back towards the offending animal. On trying to turn my head I also discovered that this was a little difficult and it was probably at this point that I began screaming at the top of my voice (and again this is conjecture, but I hadn’t started school so I’m presuming this is what I screamed) : “Maman! La vache mange mes cheveux!” Of course adults being adults, they found this rather amusing at first, but I had rather long hair and retrieving it all tested their patience and so that little rural image of beauty and calm is now filled with screams, tears and quite a few expletives.
After this initial trauma it seems that for a good long while my experience of cows was limited to watching them through vehicle windows while we sped by on the motorway; however, my favourite cousin’s penchant for favouring butt ass nowhere locations to live meant that this experience was plentiful. And now we arrive at yet another peaceful, idyllic family holiday in Perth, Scotland when I was twelve. We were staying in this lovely white cottage, with a lovely white picket fence a couple of miles from anywhere, but very close to cows. And boy those cows loved us. Yes, at four am every morning they came and mooed mournfully at our white picket fence. Why they couldn’t go and moo somewhere else in their field I do not know. It’s not as if they didn’t have oodles of space, whereas we had a little two bedroom cottage, but no our fence was their favourite place to moo at four am. Needless to say there was no love for those cows and yet again quite a few expletives.
Now at seventeen my father asked me where I wanted to go on holiday that year. We were past family holidays it seemed and I can’t say that I had really thought about it, but seeing as I was being given the opportunity who was I to turn it down. A few months later I landed at Dublin airport and was sped through the hugely moonlit countryside to... that’s right: butt ass nowhere. I was staying with a pen pal at the hub of the village social life; the village pub. I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying, apart from when the Ma and Pa asked me where in the West Indies my parents came from. At the time I remember being quite offended and thinking what sort of people are these who assume that anyone of a bit of colour comes from the West Indies? However, the pub was cruelly lacking in mirrors and it was only when I got my holiday snaps back that I realised that my trendy perm resembled an afro and where the confusion may have arisen. But cows...
Well it seems that the Village pub was the most profitable organisation in the village and Pa having made a pot of gold or two had decided to hand up his jugs of ale and retire to the country house. He had bought this mansion of a farmhouse a mile or so down the road but was still waiting to sell the pub. We kids: me, the pen pal, two of her millions of brothers, Pa and a baby cycled down to the farmhouse and went to take a peek at the property. It was pretty special, millions of rooms as far as I can remember and all very romantic and then the distressed mooing began. As we looked out into the yard it appears that ONE OF US had left a gate open and one of the cows had wandered in and was now a bit confused and couldn’t find its way out. Pa sprang into action goading us all into the yard and positioning us strategically. “Now when the cow comes towards you, flap your arms and scream.”
I have to admit registering a wee bit of surprise at this notion, but I did what I was told ... almost. When a full grown cow is mooing in a distressed fashion and running towards you, yes flapping your arms and screaming seems quite logical. But I then committed the ultimate faux pas; I took one look at the cow which was very obviously bigger than me and I stopped flapping my arms, stopped screaming and ran.
My next encounter is quite a few years later when for some unknown reason I opted to do a ‘rural teaching practice’. So the first of many cow experiences didn’t happen. We were due to stay with families during the week and return to our own lodgings at weekends – painless. Except I was due to stay with a family who ran a meat farm. As a vegetarian I found this a little distressing, but apparently not as distressing as the family lodging a vegetarian. They didn’t want me. What did they think I was going to do? Invite all my hunt sabbing friends up? ... Oh ... maybe they did! Anyway, I ended up with this lovely middle-aged lady who woke me up with a cup of tea everyday and made me lovely meals. So it was day one or two and the aromatic smell of silage filled my nostrils as I ambled back to the cottage when I noticed what looked like a field of auburn long haired, big horned bulls and they were all next to the fence watching me. I edged away from the fence and scuttled along to the security of my cottage. Later that evening as I was being served yet another scrumptious meal I mentioned the field of bulls.
“What made you think they were bulls?” She asked me an eyebrow arched.
“They had horns.” I replied.
“You’ve never lived in the country have you?”
It wasn’t really a question that needed answering.
So the next encounter is yet again on this same teaching practice. As Sadie was zooming towards a particularly nasty bend in the road which was followed by a one lane bridge she choose that moment to inform me that sometimes she forgot which pedal was which. Not feeling entirely confident in her driving I was quite relieved that we had to stop for the cows; a whole bunch of cows slowly but surely ambling shambolicly across the road. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so shambolic if the cows hadn’t been so slow, or if the impatient drivers hadn’t kept edging towards each other every time a cow left an extra inch of space. But eventually it was bound for disaster and one cow got a bit befuddled and decided to climb up a car bonnet instead. As cow and driver regarded each other in a rather confused way I began to realise where the phrase ‘Stupid Cow’ had come from.
The last cow experience is about four years ago coming up to a New Year’s Eve. We were driving through one of those never ending British red skied dusks when we began our descent into the Welsh valley where our friends lived. The sky turned black, the sky turned grey and snow began to descend; slowly and gracefully at first, but then as big as snowballs and before long everything had become white. Whether you’re a city lover or country bumpkin everybody loves snow. The next day we all piled out into the snow and bounded into the nearest cow field to make snow angels, have snow ball fights and take ‘fun’ snaps. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised when the first person to get fed up with all this gaiety was Liam the six year old. He was a kid for Christ’s sake, weren’t they supposed to enjoy this thing? Apparently not. So we tootled off Liam on his Dad’s shoulders so he didn’t have to wade through any more snow. Now where are the cows? You may ask, but this one is a little more abstract.
On arriving back at the cottage we unwrapped ourselves and rubbed ourselves vigorously and stamped and it was probably about then that I noticed my left hand looked a little naked. The ring finger in particular. Sarah noticed me looking in a perplexed manner and asked me if I had lost anything. I could see she was worried so I sort of mumbled: “mmma wing.” And shrugged my shoulders in a nonchalant way.
“Is it an important ring?” Sarah asked.
At this point Ian looked over pointedly to see how I would answer. “Ugh well, but... I’ll have another one to replace it soon and that one’s far more important.”
“Is it your engagement ring?” Sarah looked crestfallen. She felt worse than I did and for years she told me that she looked for it every time they were in that cow field. I just hope they’ve stopped looking for it now.