Tuesday proved to be a fitting end to the survey season as I trudged across miles of marshes in the driving rain. It could have been hideous but, like many things in life, being outdoors in the winter is all a state of mind.
On this occasion, the wind and rain in my face and the vast flatness of the landscape were what I needed. I needed to think and walk under sullen skies with swirling flocks of lapwing and starling overhead. Stonechats hunkering in the bramble, herons, with faces as thoughtful as my own.
The weather helped, the rain in my face and the fact that there was no one but me abroad. The world so empty that it was like walking around in your own head with a window to the outside world, a feeling enhanced by being encased in layers of waterproofs. Solvitur ambulando, You can work it out by walking. Today it helped. I came to a decision while leaping a gate.
Unfortunately I had leapt down into a field of cows. Cows are not my favourite creatures, particularly gangs of heifers as these were. My own internalised problems took a back seat as I was faced with the more immediate difficulty of dealing with a bunch of feisty teenagers, egging each other on to take a swing at me.
“What’s that? Let’s have a look, go on Tommy, have her.” The lead cow fancied his chances and bundled over.
“Back off,” I said. “Back off, I want no trouble. I’m just here to look at that ditch and then I’m gone from your life.”
The cow looked at me with soulless eyes and at that moment I could understand why the devil is cloven hooved. The others pushed and shoved at the back, climbing on each other for a better look. I banged my stick on the ground.
“Geeeerrrrrrtttttt offfff.” I warned trying to sound farmer like and authoritarian. They only took it as a sign that I must be a provider of food and came closer. I was becoming surrounded, with my back to a barb wire fence and a railway track. My heart was pounding and stories of people crushed by cows played out it my head. If I was trampled in this spot then no one would find me for days.
I was reminded of the scene from the film Withnail and I where Withnail gives instructions from the safety of a nearby field. “Hold your bag up. Run at it shouting.”
I looked at this wall of bulk and horns and ran at it. “Ra, RA,” I shouted and slapped the nearest one with my stick. They backed off, hooves flayling. I pounded away across the field before they could change their mind and reached the level crossing, climbing on top of the locked gate I felt victorious.
“Sucks to you.” I shouted back at the herd, jumped off the gate and almost got squished by an oncoming train.
The survey season and my own concerns almost ending in spectacular fashion.