Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Under fire in the milking pit

Through the outer reaches of Blackpool - a town that goes on and on, belching out more and more Tudor-bethan semis and endless roundabouts until, finally, you reach the M6 and all its outlying towns. Burnley, Preston, Chorley, Blackburn, Wigan. Wigan Pier! I went and got stuck into a bit of Orwell nostalgia - and the rain came down to assist in the scene setting.

Onto Manchester and through to Wilmslow, Knutsford, Alderley Edge: prime WAG territory and not disappointing on the bottle blonde/CD shades/jeans and Jimmy Choos count.

And then I went to Staffordshire. It was supposed to be an innocent stop-off in a B&B while I gathered my thoughts. I was met by a very jolly, rosy cheeked lady. All I did was mention my growing interest in the thought process of bovine life when she pushed me into the cloakroom, put me into some overalls, got me some wellies, wrapped a great, vinyl apron round me and drove me over the field to her husband.

There he was milking the cows, down in this deep, dark, clanging pit. Overhead a loud, ominous clunk sounded, signalling the twice daily routine of milk pumping from resigned cows. I guess it's just like work to them: fairly dull and not hugely stimulating but quite a relief I'm sure once they've been relieved of those great swollen udders.

I was put in charge of disinfecting the teets. I had to get right down there at the back of their hind legs and sort of swish this jar around their nips. some had mastitis and needed to be lubed up with Vaseline. It made me wince with female empathy. Every now and again a tail would lift up and out would gush a loud load of something smelly. "It's only grass" said the farmer as if this made it pleasant and then went about his business, oblivious to the large moist patch of brown on his shoulder.

I learnt a lot about cows down there and have had some of my questions answered but he was kind of full-on, this guy. He loved to talk! Dios mio - eventually I managed to steer him towards the great bucket of bright yellow milk, colostrium, which I drank from with a mix of repulsion and glee - you could make some pretty interesting milkshakes with that stuff.

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