There is uproar in Weston-super-Mare after last week's not overly complimentary column about the place. TV crews asked irate locals what they thought of Dom Joly. None of them had ever heard of me but they were furious and calling for the guillotine to be brought back.
I should have known better: it's not like this is the first time. I suffer from a very severe case of aesthetic depression. This is an incurable affliction that leaves me paralysed with feelings of deep unhappiness whenever I'm forced to sojourn in an ugly place. I write this on the train as we wait in Swindon station. I already feel slightly maudlin. Ah, that's better – we're moving. Half an hour until Reading – be strong. I am now very much 'persona non grata' in both Swindon and Weston-super-Mare and must stop slagging places off in print otherwise I'll have nowhere to go on holiday.
So I'm going to write about the killer cows in the meadow behind my house. I've always thought that them a particularly sweet, doe-eyed bunch of bovines. This, according to Stacey, is not the case. It all started, like a lot of trouble does, on the internet. Stacey claimed that she'd read a story about a man being trampled to death by a herd of cows in the UK. I was fairly sure that this had never happened and, if it had, the guy was probably not the sharpest tool in the box. Nobody listened to me and both the kids and the dogs were informed of the new danger facing us on our daily walk.
Jackson will now not enter the field in question unless the cows are in the opposite corner and then we have to run, very fast, while he shouts: "They're coming, they're coming, the cows are going to kill us all."
Huxley, our beloved Labrador, gets really worried about Jackson and so hangs back and attacks the killer cows, even if they are just lounging about peacefully chewing grass. "Never trust a bloody cow," he growls. "They're born killers. You're lucky that you've got me here with you or you'd all be dead. Of course I'm going to need more food to keep up this level of protection."
Huxley is not a stupid dog and knows when he's on to a good thing. Oscar, our flatcoated Retriever puppy, is a little less intelligent. On the first "running of the cows" experience he assumed that I was the threat to the family and savaged my ankles. He now seems to have understood the word "cow", but has decided that this is the trigger for him to roll around in cowpats while Huxley does the security.
Disturbed and somewhat embarrassed by the daily ritual of my entire family sprinting past ramblers shouting: "Cows, cows, cows!" I decided to research the story myself. I Googled "man killed by cows" and the only things that came up were stories of people being killed in their cars having collided with a cow. Thinking I was being a great dad, I assembled the family in the drawing room and told them of my findings. There was a long silence as they all took the news in. Then Jackson piped up: "So they're attacking cars now?"
The drive into Cirencester is now fraught with new dangers. We have to speed up past open fields. If we stop at a crossroads we are expecting a surprise attack at any moment and nerves are very much on edge.
I have to go to Milton Keynes soon to attend an "urban safety workshop" in lieu of three points on my licence for doing 35mph in a 30mph zone. They've got their famous metal cow statues there. Best not mention it at home – cyborg cows. I bet it's a lovely-looking place as well.