In the Sticks: For the love of a sex-starved cow

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The Independent Culture
IT'S BEEN so wet even the dogs have been watching too much telly and playing video games. I gave up worrying about the kids wasting their childhood in front of a screen when we all spent a Saturday afternoon indoors watching a 1956 Tony Curtis movie and reading seed catalogues. All the usual pleasures of this time of year have been rained off. Blackberries are too mouldy to pick, garden bonfires too soggy to burn, and the field with the best mushroom crops is under two inches of water. All the little house repairs I never did because the summer was so wet are taunting me now. The damp patch at the back of the living room cupboard is spreading and the blocked guttering outside our bedroom wakes me every night as the British monsoon pours out of it as if Gene Kelly were waiting underneath.

What's worse, poor Doug has had to be out in it, lugging a greenhouse piecemeal from a field in Cornwall. It's been like dismantling the Forth bridge and transporting it by pick-up to Colorado. The glass was the worst thing and it brought him as near to stress as is possible for a plantsman.

And Bridget was no help. Bridget had been living alone in a field for five years with nothing for company but a vast glasshouse. So when Doug arrived, she couldn't believe her luck; a big hunky chap in her field all day and every day. She fell in love immediately, following him everywhere, examining the inside of his van, staring with abject devotion into his eyes. Had she been a lovelorn farmer's wife, he might have got a few cups of tea, some cake; maybe a pasty out of it. But Bridget is a house cow,* the darling of the village where she lives, and with no other bovine company, she has come to think of herself as human.

Normally Doug is pretty tolerant of adoration, but Bridget had one particular way of showing her love that made transporting five-by-three panes of glass tricky. She would creep up behind Doug as he was standing still, engrossed in removing a wet, slippery pane, then, as he lifted the glass free, she would sigh, suddenly and soggily onto the back of his neck. It never has any effect when I do it but I guess my nostrils aren't four inches apart and I don't have silage fermenting between my teeth. Anyway, I have to stand on a chair to reach the back of his neck which removes the element of surprise.

After a score of Bridget-induced breakages, she had taken her toll on his nerves. He arrived home ragged. Grey. With knots in his shoulders. All of which got me very worried because Doug is more laid back than a flat deck-chair; more physically invincible than the North face of the Eiger. Here was my hero brought low by a bit of chippy silicone and a spot of hot cow breath. Everything, he felt, was going pear-shaped: "... and the gable ends won't fit in the van." It was 10.30 pm, the rain lashing on the back door. Things looked black. But then the Good Fairies called in on their way home from the pub - Richie and Jules, our nearly-neighbours from three fields and a hedge away.

"We could use the works truck, for your gable ends," said Richie. "I'll borrow it one Sunday and we'll all go down. Great. I haven't had the chance to drive a fully loaded flatbed in years."

With his gable ends sorted, Doug was more positive. He was on the phone to Josh immediately, no longer too proud or despairing to ask for a little help.

They were off together the next morning. Two men, off to do Real Men's work, unafraid of sex-starved Jerseys and breaking glass.

"We'll be done by five. No probs," said Josh.

"Bridget or no Bridget," added Doug bravely.

By 10 that night, I had started to pace the kitchen. Had Bridget found two hunks in her field just too much and run amok? Or had the glass sliced them after a skid on the soaking roads, like two salamis? I expected the two bloodied corpses to be revealed from under a sheet within the hour.

Then they came home at 11.

"Moved her into the next field. She went bonkers."

"Ran up and down the fence, head-butted the gate."

"Nearly drove us mad mooing."

"But we got it all done."

"Not a pane more broken."

"We went to the pub opposite."

"And watched her mooing under the street light."

"And ate a huge dinner. Roast potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire pud."

"And lots of freshly-cooked cow."

*A `house cow' is a single cow kept to provide a household with milk