Monday, October 29, 2007

Rissoles at Dawn

Frozen Moment, Leicestershire. By Pants

Cows will actually stand and stare at you if you point a camera at them, which is, I guess, the reason that there isn't a Big Cow Diary on one's beloved BBC2 with Saba Douglas-Hamilton tucked up in a Prada fleece waiting to pounce on a rarely spotted beastie. In any case, cows don't have spots, only the occasional patch, as far as I know. I'm no zoologist.

I call them 'cows' as a shorthand but interestingly, there seems to be no word to describe this animal that can be either a cow or a bull. There is only cattle, which is a plural describing a group. I know it's the same with sheep but you can't say 'a cattle' in the same way as you can say 'a sheep'. Sheep are clearly designated as either rams or ewes. Goats are divided into billies and nannies. Pigs are gender defined as sows and boars. Even chickens are either hens or roosters. So how come the big guy misses out? Not even Wikipedia is sure how the whole mess should be presented.

No wonder these guys sought out the Kodak last weekend in the Leicestershire wilds. Clearly, they were pleading with me. 'Pants, tell us who we are and why we're here.' Fat chance of me being able to solve the bovine conundrum. I can't even get a fix on my own future. I might have simply spray-painted a large yellow 'M' in the frozen ground but that would have been cruel and sent the wrong environmental message. It most certainly would have attracted carrion from miles around and possibly a fleet of people carriers to boot.

Being out in the countryside very early in the morning has a profound impact on the way one perceives the world. At the very least, it requires you to reconsider the received wisdom that 'Britain is getting overcrowded'. Unless you think these bovine creatures are somehow a contributory factor, space deprivation doesn't seem much of a threat.

A weekend idyll can't be appreciated in full relief unless it's prefaced and epilogued by passing through an emotional passport control that leaves you in no doubt that you've simply attained a limited visa to explore a kindlier world. As a wakeup call to re-entering the urban jungle, the Number 30 bus to Hackney Wick rarely fails.

'You fuckin' caaaarrr', remarks the polite young lady as she shoves me aside and stomps up the stairs. There's no way that a demon vixen from Haggerston will stand between me and the top deck - the only bearable location on any form of London transport. I follow her up, hoping to secure a seat at the opposite end of the bus.

No such luck. Two seats, right at the back, facing each other. Defiantly I sit down opposite my insolent disparager, stow my weekend backpack under the seat, shoving aside several half-full KFC cartons and ... open The Guardian. It does the trick. She gets off two stops later.

Reflecting on the whole experience, I pause to ponder the original of the expression,

How now, brown cow?

I google it and discover it has no purpose other than to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of rounded vowels. Perhaps no one told the cows. Possibly they've considered the question and have come up with a bovine solution to the perplexing notions of 'how' and 'now' and could even have mathematically linked them. We may never know.

I've been fine tuning The Full English and fleshing out the scene I found hardest to write in which Ben attends a bullfight. In the time I lived in Spain I never went to the toreo. I did know a few bullfighters though and I was often invited to go. I'm against gratuitous killing. I understand that there are elaborate rituals that humans have devised to allow male domestic animals for which we can find no other purpose beyond the plate, to display some semblance of their natural behaviour via a battle. The question is whether or not there's any point in breeding domestic animals up to adulthood for the sole purpose of allowing them to display their 'natural' behaviour synthetically. Bulls would have once fought each other for breeding rights. I'm guessing that human intervention has rendered inter-bovine dating slightly more scientific.

When the lot of almost every living creature on the planet is controlled by some idiot politician, capitalist or oligarch with a jacuzzi-centred agenda, we could say we're all being milked, whether we have an awareness of it or not...


Wisewebwoman said...

I've always loved the passive curiosity of the heifers and bullocks, ('steer' in Americana) and I must say your photo, Pants, is reminiscent of John Constable. Well done. I admire how you draw all your threads around and tie them up neatly at the end of your post.
Let us know when more novel is ready for exposure.

That's so pants said...


Constable! Holy cow. The Kodak will be happy with that.



Andrew said...

Not so long ago I was struck dumb in the middle of speaking when we were observing a paddock of those creatures. I knew there were some bulls in the paddock, but if there are a lot of them critters, there must be some cows too. It did strike me that there should be a word.

You did well with the lass on the bus.

Being a stalker type person, I looked at Hackney Wick on Google Earth. Gosh you have a lot of green spaces around you.

That's so pants said...

Hi Andrew

Well, I live right next door to the Olympic site. It is beautiful (for the moment). Ours is just one street of houses and flats with parkland on either side and a canal in the middle. I can see my place from the plane and pinpoint it on the East Enders map.



Dame Honoria Glossop said...

They look like a load of bullocks to me.

That's so pants said...

Your Dameship

If you say so...



Seachanges said...

I am just trying to get past your word scrambler now: have tried several times to leave deep and insightful comments....

That's so pants said...

Hi Seachanges

You made it. Let's be having those deep and insightful comments.



NMJ said...

I love this photo, Pants, it is like a painting. It makes me want to touch the cows, cheek to cheek, and feel their breath. It makes me feel serene, which is not a state I find easily. x

That's so pants said...

Thanks NMJ

I will pass your compliments on to the Kodak who will be pleased.