Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This One's a Cow - This One's a Sheep; A Townie Goes to the Country

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This One's a Cow - This One's a Sheep; A Townie Goes to the Country

Article excerpt


Alex Renton takes a weekend break - and discovers what a difference a disease makes

9pm Friday

"WELL, we may have been infected already, " said my girlfriend. . "You 're definitely showing at least one of the symptoms. "Which one?" I asked. .

We 've only been in Herefordshire for a couple of hours. She is busy with the fact-sheets we downloaded from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food website before venturing beyond the M25. "Well, there 's slavering, shivering, mouth blisters, reduced milk yield and dullness.

You 've definitely got dullness. "

Not really a country person, my girlfriend is actually quite keen on this trip to my cousins ' cottage on the Welsh borders. Plague or not. One of the happier effects of foot-and-mouth is that no one is going to make her go for long, bracing country walks, for once: such things are strictly ruled out by Maff. Studying the Hereford Times, we find that most other rural activities have been cancelled - there 's no daffodil-picking, metal-detecting or golf allowed - so we 'll spend the weekend drinking and eating too much, just as if we 'd been in London.

The other happy side effect is that there 's no traffic on the M4.

10am Saturday

GIRLFRIEND wakes up complaining of sore throat - I peer down it to see if I can spot any of the pustulous vesicles that present themselves in cows ' mouths - the Maff fact-sheets include garish photos of them. Cousin suggests everyone leaving bedroom disinfects their feet. Girlfriend not amused.

We are in an official "exclusion zone " because of the outbreak 10 miles to the north-west beyond Hay-on-Wye.

"Exclusion zone " sounds gloomily like something from the Falklands War:a place where you 're liable to get torpedoed. We will certainly get into trouble if we walk onto any farmland where there 's livestock. Or go anywhere near any animals.

Chris, my cousin 's neighbour, comes round. He hasn 't been able to go to the cattle farm where he works for a week. We talk about how Herefordshire has been paralysed by what everyone calls "F and M ".

Efinem? The toxic rap star?

What does Chris do at the farm?

Milking, or something? "No, I 'm in computer software - it 's the farmer 's other business. "

Noon Saturday

Ignorant townies we may be, but it was the sheep 's idea to play Escape from Colditz, not ours. We 've all just spent half an hour chasing eight hungry, pregnant ewes across the garden.

Their daring escape plan took them through a thick hedge out of their quarantine field:we spotted them as they tried to make a break down the drive for the main road. We believe they were then planning to hijack a Range Rover and take F and M on a terror-dash down the M4, bent on contaminating the Jack Russells in Kensington Gardens. …

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