Incest at Llanevan, as it is in most places in Wales, is frowned upon. All of the male and some of the female livestock born on the farm unfortunately face the regrettable trip to Alton Towers. Though, some lucky ladies are afforded the gift of a longer life and the chance to have children of their own. The best looking females, in body and buttocks, are selected to re-join the flock or herd and will live to see the enviable age that Dimplex and Mary Sue made it to. Of course when they re-join the living throng they end up in the same field as their father. Yikes. We’ll have none of that thank you. A heifer, a young female cow yet to ‘get up the brook’, will be under safe watch of her father until she sees her one and half year birthday. At this point daddy looks at his daughter and instantly forgets that she is one of his own. We’ll have none of that thank you.
But what’s wrong with that? I hear some of you more friendlier folk ask. Well in practise, with animals anyway, not all that much. The daughter can have a calf by her father, there would be no danger during birth, there’s just a very real chance that it could have five legs or be as mental as a badger in a barrel of diesel. And we’ll have none of that thank you.
There are some cattle at Llanevan who were born to family familiar parents, during previous unobserved years, and they are quite simply ‘nutters’. The kind of nutter that doesn’t see gates or fences or me and attempts to go straight over or through an obstacle. I have been attacked by too many ‘touched’ animals to make it a daily sporting activity by choice. In the long run this does not spell particularly good news for the bull.
Being a bull at Llanevan is a pretty good job. Bullitt is the resident dude. He goes where he wants, does what he wants, eats, sleeps and has sex. A bit like a Politian, really. He turned up at the farm a few years ago with Dax smeared through his hair and a rebel arm hanging from the window of his Ford Capri. He parked it askew on the yard and asked the way to the bar. He was a right tear away in the beginning. He’d pick on other animals, was rude to his cows and would open gates by smashing them clean off the hinges. Though his dander was too be decidedly lowered after one drunken night in ‘The Abattoir’, Llanevan’s nightclub, run by Jeff Beck the mallard drake.
Bullitt sunk one too many Snowballs, picked up a cow at the bar and took her off to the Smatcher Wood for a spot of ‘star gazing’. En route to the wood is a cattle grid. Most sober animals go through the gateway to the side, but Bullitt, wanting to impress his lady, tried to tiptoe across the iron slats. He slipped, there was a snap and Bullitt suffered a clean break of his front right leg.
“Not too spunky now? Are we?” Danger the heron, Llanevan’s vet, had said as Bullitt lay prone on the operating table in the shed. The heron put his glasses on and peered at the leg dangling over the side of the table. “I suggest you swallow a bottle of Scotch, bite on this and pray, because this is going to smart.” Bullitt placed an oak branch between his teeth and closed his eyes. It took Danger an hour to re-set and plaster the bull’s leg. “All done. You won’t be lighting up the dance floor in The Abattoir for a long time to come.”
After hobbling around the farm for eight months Bullitt went to see the heron. “It’s heeled, but go easy or it’ll snap again.” Since that day Bullitt has been a more courteous, caring kind of guy. He still lives the good life, but with a dollop of restraint.
However, Bullitt’s line has been drawn in the sand. Ironically, with his own pencil. His daughters have entered their breeding years.
On a snow thawing day last week, James Johnston stepped pensively across the sodden meadow towards Bullitt who was tightening the fan belt on his Capri.
“Yes spev?” the bull answered from under the bonnet, cracking a spanner with his bent leg.
“A word in your ear tag, ta.” Bullitt suspiciously slipped the spanner into his utility belt and followed James. He was led into the shed where I was seated at a green felt poker table. A framed pyramid of light illuminated the smoke from James’ pipe. The sheepdog bolted the door behind Bullitt. The on edge bull, fearing an ambush, removed a hammer from his belt and spread his legs.
“If I’m going down, I’m taking some dented skulls with me.” Bullitt is one metric tonne and can move swiftly despite his crooked peg. I’ve seen him got through a brick wall just to hear the football results. If I didn’t have certificate proof of a ‘clean’ birth I could easily suggest he was, well, a ‘nutter’.
The atmosphere condensed. The bull added a screw driver to his arsenal. Steam shot like firework trails from his nostrils. James looked to him; I looked to the bull; he looked through both of us. Good job we weren’t in a China shop. Bullitt swung round and pointed the blunt driver at the very end of James’ nose.
“You’re first, mutt.” He jabbed the screwdriver and swung the hammer. But no one should mess with James Johnston. Before Bullitt could say ‘Dairylea’ his face was slammed down on the green felt inches from me.
James and I slipped into, Bad Dog, Good Farmer mode as smoothly as a WAG slips into Heat.
“You’re done for bull! You’re dog meat! You hear? Hey? What are you?!” Bullitt struggled but James held him in a paw put down that sent spiteful pain pogoing in his healed leg.
“Hush James,” I tempered, the dog’s eyes were out on their stalks, “come bye.” James threw Bullitt into a chair. “We’re not going to get any trouble from the bull. Are we Bullitt?”
Bullitt looked over his shoulder at James, but the sheepdog had regressed into the shadows and only white exhales of pipe smoke suggested his presence.
“Do you know why you’re here Bully?”
“Speak up you cow!”
“Hush James. Hush. Bullitt? Sweet beef? Brandy?” the shaking behemoth edged out his trembling hooves and sunk the liquor. “Dunhill?” I lit the bull’s cigarette. He took two gasping puffs before James shot from the dark and slapped the fag to spark on the wall.
“We’ve seen you! Fornicating in the field! Snuzzling up to the cows! Riding them in the moonlight! Hey! Hey?!”
“Down doggy, down. Good boy.” Once more James evapourated into the shadows. “Bullitt here was just doing his job. Isn’t that right Bullitt?”
“Ye-ye-yes,” the usually formidable bull stuttered.
“But the problem now is that your daughters are, well, how would you put it James?”
“Ripe, Tommo. Ripe as an old rope left in the damp with the mice and moths to fray at the edges.”
“Thank you James. The thing is, Sweet beef, we’ve seen you looking at them.”
“And not the way a young boy looks at his tricycle.”
“Thank you James. We’ve seen you Sweet beef. James has photos.” The savage sheepdog was back into the light as swift as a wired squirrel from a partying drey. He slapped the dossier in front of the cowed bull.
“Thursday noon. Look! Friday early evening. Saturday afternoon. Here you are staring over the daisies at your own blood line! If I wasn’t so in love with my fur I’d wear you like a duvet, you filthy beggar!”
“Sit dog!” James eased himself onto the table and static electricity crackled the thickening air. I leafed through the photos tutting and shaking my ashamed head. “These are incestuous waters. What are they James?”
“I’m so in-cest-ed by all this, Tommo, I can’t say.”
“Nice James, nice,” we high fived and I slipped him a bone shaped biscuit. Minutes ticked by. Feather fluff floated like cherry blossom from the rafters as Poland the First watched entranced from above and only the lick of his tongue on a Rizla cut the caramel air. Time hung like a frosticle from the brow of a Yeti. “Of course you know what this means, don’t you Bullitt?” The bull began to sob. “Do you know what this means James?”
The sheepdog frowned and stroked his whiskers. “You’ve got me there, Tommo. Throw me bone.”
“What is Llanevan’s number one hot spot James?”
“Uh. Hmmm.” He lit a match and sucked the flame into the pipe. “Oh yeah,” he leaned forward and snuck his nose into the bull’s waxy ear and whispered, “The Abbatoir.”
“No!” the bull cried. “No!” he bellowed. “I’ve been a good bull! Don’t kill me!”
“You’ve been nothing but a festering little volcano since you arrived!” James clambered onto his back and rode him like a short legged pig being waded through a flooded river.
“James, that’s enough! Get off the suspect.” He married his black fur into the nether light.
“Hush Sweet beef, hush pusskins. It’s just life, Bullitt. Your daughters are ready to breed. With a bull. A new bull. An unrelated bull.” James threw the remnant of a fish into the air and it fluttered down to land in front of Bullitt.
“What’s this?” Bullitt asked, his voice resembling that of a chorister’s.
“It’s a fin.”
Bullitt shot a glance between us. “What does it mean?”
James tapped his pipe on the back of the bull’s chair and gently nudged tobacco in the empty bulb. He lit a match off one the bull’s hooves and Poland the First teetered on his roost in fowl suspence. “It’s French. For ‘The End.’”
Bullitt howled to the tin roof, sped from his chair and splinted the four inch thick door is if it were nothing more than a matchstick shower curtain.
James un-wrapped a Tripe kebab. “Reckon he’ll look at them again?”
“I think he’ll keep his eyes in their sockets from now on.”
“There’s only one issue now though. We’ve got some unloved heifers.”
I snapped my fingers and a six year old Hereford bull with horns as wide as Saturn’s rings, stepped from behind a puce curtain. James spat lamb fat down his chin at the size of the beast, but then recovered his composure to compliment, “nice jacket.”
“Ta, bach. Leather, ironically.”
“Vince, James, James, Vince.”
“I admire your work James.” They shook paw-hoof.
“Vince there’s six young ladies in the Cadeon meadow with no-one to love.” I fished a dirty twenty out of my pocket and handed it to him. “Take them down ‘The Abbatoir’ and show them a good time.”
“You’re the boss.”
“Oh, Vince,” James said, chilli sauce dripping onto his fur, “don’t worry about Bullitt. He’ll be nowhere near the place.”
Red Hot beef burger.
Don’t eat what James was getting all down himself. The burger is the champion of fast food. Don’t use the anaemic bright red, still mooing mince from a SuperMalice, best to create your own from scratch. If you must, you can use beef from a SuperMalice, but buy a non minced piece preferably with some fat on it (this will help lubricate the meat and create a delicious dripping). If you are the proud owner of a mincer (most food mixer’s have a made to measure adaption for such purposes) you can purchase a forequarter piece of beef (best from the butcher), but if you don’t have access to a mincer buy a roasting joint: silverside, top rump, topside or ‘mouse’ joint. A keen edged knife will slice a joint into tiny enough pieces to create a pulp of lovely burger meat...
10 oz of beef mince
One large red chilli
Jar of strawberry jam
Salt and pepper
Flat leaf parsley.
One bun, mate
Right oh. When you have purchased your forequarter beef for mincing, or joint for fine slicing, stick the bugger in the fridge on a plate and leave for a week to ten days. When beef has not been hung for a minimum of 21 days a fair amount of blood will evacuate for the meat. Drain this off over the sitting period. If the beef grows a mould DO NOT PANIC. Two days before you bring the beef in from the cold, prepare your Red Hot jelly. You are extremely honoured that I should divulge this two hundred year old recipe. A creation that has been modified and mastered by the wise and wrinkled hands of my foremothers..... Take a large red chilli and chop finely. Get a jar of homemade strawberry jam (if you haven’t got a home, buy it from a shop) and mix the chilli, plus seeds, into the jar. Whirl it all around until it is evenly distributed through the jam. Replace the lid and leave in the fridge overnight. Two hundred years of secrets and whispers dispelled in three and a bit lines. After your given sitting period remove the beef and scrape, do not wash, the mould from the beef with a sharp knife. The beef should smell as funky as James Brown’s old dancin’ shoes. Mince or slice. Take 10 oz worth and place in a bowl with a heaped tablespoon of shredded onion and three finely chopped leaves of basil from your plant happily growing in the garden or staring forlornly at the dripping tap in your kitchen. Mix by hand. Go on, get in there. Make into a burger. Put a pan on the hob with a thrice glug of oil. Season each side with salt and pepper. When hot place the burger in the pan. Brown both sides. Best eaten pink in the middle, but cook to requirement. If you have bought the bun from a SuperMalice toast it to give it some purchase. Place the parsley on the bottom half of the bun, place the burger on that and dribble any juice from the pan of top. Place a spoonful of Red Hot jelly on the burger and close its eyes with the t’other half of the bun. Sit down with a bottle of Hobgoblin and enjoy.
Tell your friends, tell your mum, tell the squint eyed Raven in the garden, tell the postman, but don’t tell Bullitt; he’s having a lie down in a dark cowshed.