Whilst Loveridge and many like him show no fear of cows or their male counterparts, others are scared stiff, including Cliff Hatton.
Loveridge has never understood my fear of cattle. He can not fathom my perfectly logical contention that a three-quarter ton juggernaut of steak and horns is a lethal combination designed NOT to hilariously pitch you over or into a prickly hedge, but to crush you against an oak or dry-stone wall, there to furiously kick and trample the life from your tackle-laden body.
He’s the guy who scoffs at your fear of flying, explaining that the design of an aeroplanes’ wings make it impossible not to take off and remain airborne; he and his ilk, however, refuse to recognize the irrefutable argument that whizzing through the skies in an elaborate cigar-tube 35,000 ft above terra firma and with no external means of support is just begging for trouble. Similarly, Loveridge patiently emphasizes the cow or the bull’s herbivorous status and its lack of canine teeth, but is dismissive of my fear of the beast’s sheer size and weight and territorial nature.
You might think you’re all countrified and animal-friendly as you swing your legs over the gate and stride off across the meadow because you’ve done it so many times before, as have I. But there are plenty of herds out there harbouring some really troublesome individuals - and I seem to meet more than my fair share. You, along with Loveridge no doubt, may laugh, your only experience of this potential killer-species being purely fortunate or limited to contented milch-cows or, possibly, those docile, brown-eyed, bell-jangling jobbies that graze the Swiss foothills. Alternatively, you’re Hereford Man and regarded by the herd, quite rightly, as one of their own.
If, in fact, the Loveridges of this world are correct in defending the reputation of the bovine community, I must assume that however dumb these creatures may be they still possess the ability to smell or detect fear and exploit that vulnerability. It has, fleetingly, occurred to me that perhaps they can identify an outsider, a townie, the wind-borne suggestion of the M.25, eau de Londre. But then, Loveridge qualifies for all of that….
Two summers back, we took a spin up to the north of Essex to investigate the mini-Redmire I glimpsed at 50mph the week before; I’d been on business, suited and booted, behind schedule and in no position to slam on the anchors for a quick recce - not this time. It would have been anything but unusual for me to pull off the road, lock the car and gingerly ease my pin-striped form through the barbed wire in search of water…all part of a normal day’s repping really. But it did occur to me on one such investigation – and every time subsequently – that what I routinely do on crossing a brook or on catching a brief frame of sparkling ripples must be viewed with both curiosity and great suspicion by farmers and dog-walkers. It just ain’t natural to see a middle-aged male in full business-dress pick his way across a ploughed field to spend the following thirty minutes peering into a lake; it must have been noticed on numerous occasions...have the police been alerted at any time I wonder? (And would I have had the presence of mind on their approach to seat myself upon a log and announce ‘And now for something completely different’?)
|'I think I can smell eau de Londre!'|
Anyway we found the lake hiding in the fold of a modest valley some three hundred yards off the road to Braintree; we parked-up and ventured into the field. To my horror it was host to a motley herd of a hundred or more, many of whose number were NOT of the amply-uddered black and white ‘Daisy’ variety….these were extras from Rawhide, liver-red, muscular, alert and very obviously put-out by our intrusion.
What would Rowdy Yates do now I thought, picturing a certain Chris Yates on horseback, gents umbrella erect, shouting - ‘Head ‘em up! Move ‘em out!’
‘Keep walking. Pay no attention to them.’ advised Loveridge with what I believe was genuine nonchalance. But they were already huddled together and discussing tactics.
‘Just ignore ’em’ urged my pal.
I tried to, but within half a minute they’d decided on their game, forming a seamless wall of bowed heads and advancing up the slope toward us, the more threatening beasts coming round in a classic pincer movement.
I was already a respectful two paces behind Loveridge so he didn’t notice me slide off and run pell-mell for the fence, shamefully leaving him to his fate. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN, in fact, run very quickly in Wellington boots. Not daring to look back and absolutely convinced that a horned head was just inches from my backside, I figured he could better handle the situation without me in the way.
On reaching that beautiful, beautiful fence I executed a sort of diving-roll under the barbed wire and turned fully expecting to see a steaming bull hot on my tail – as a pike might pursue a spinner to the bank.
But no! Only acres of pat-pocked meadow greeted my eyes, and there – head just visible above the immediate grassy horizon – was Mr Loveridge, all but fully encircled by a great ‘C’ for cattle.
It is to my eternal discredit that I ventured back into the field no more than six or seven paces, just enough to afford a full-length – if distant – view of my mate and of how he was handling the situation. I was somewhat alarmed to see that he’d taken up arms, well, an arm, but was nonetheless calm, in control and deriving, apparently, a degree of satisfaction from his ‘power’. As though inspecting troops, and with one arm behind his back, Loveridge paced a small circle ticking-off the merely curious, but having to reprimand the bully-boys with his stick.
Two in particular though were clearly stroppier than most and even at a hundred yards Mick’s body language began to betray his unease.
Safely up the slope and behind that beautiful, beautiful fence, but beneath a curious cloud of concern, guilt and fascination, I duly witnessed the truly unforgettable spectacle of Mr M. Loveridge dismissing the entire herd with a yell and one resounding clap of the hands.
For a minute or two a small corner of North Essex became Britain’s answer to Calgary, the panic becoming a full-blown thunderous stampede for the adjacent field across the valley. I had never witnessed a proper stampede before but I had this strange hunch that one hundred-plus galloping, jostling beasts would either slow down and form an orderly queue to pass through the narrow gateway or simply bull-doze the posts and fencing flat, then into matchwood, then into pulp and, d’you know, I was dead right!
Udder articles from Cliff will follow soon, Ed. (couldn’t resist that one!)
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