I was just watching my screen having a major case of writer’s blog, a name I wanted to give this blog, funnily enough, but is taken by some other word player. What I noticed, apart from the annoying screen-dulling effect of the Mac when you turn up the lights, is a tiny money spider determinedly making its way from the left of my screen all the way to the top right. I was entranced. I should have been writing reports but this was infinitely more interesting.
As it triumphantly reached the top it swayed a little in the breeze from the heater and then all of a sudden, as though it noticed I was staring, it started at speed on a collision course for my right eye. Sending me leaping from the table flapping and beating at my face as though I were on fire. After making my husband check in my hair and down my top I settled back to the keyboard. Pathetic really.
I am simply not at one with nature. I am not a fan of creatures. This can be problematic as a teacher because you are supposed to embrace the teachable moment where the pet snake makes it for morning sharing, or the rat, or even worse both on the same day when you have to stop one being breakfast for the other. Most kids, except those I have a distinct empathy for, love creatures, great and small.
Then there are those that are immune to the realities of living alongside animals. I always make a mental note not to do the home visit to the one with six dogs, three cats, four guinea pigs, one rabbit, a lizard and two stick insects.
Farm kids are by far the biggest culprits. They name their cows Sirloin and T-Bone, when you really would prefer not to think about those red chunks on neat black trays, tightly bound in clear plastic, as once coming from something with big sorrowful brown eyes. I had a vegetarian friend who said she refused to eat anything with a face. I understand, but prefer denial.
My husband, once being a farm kid, is the least empathic of all when it comes to animals. I have a cat. I always have had cats. They tend to look after themselves and only annoy you for food and the occasional vet visit, which I loathe. Last time I skipped the flu injection and the vet kept sending my jolly reminders, addressed to my cat, by name. Someone should tell them, that not having opposable thumbs makes it very difficult to open the envelope. Finally the terse reminder came addressed to myself and though the words said one thing, the tone was definitely get your ass down here with the cat before it dies from some feline terminal illness and we say we told you so. Sigh. So I took my terrified ginger tom, Bluey, in the car and on arrival, the place wreaked of cat urine. Mine looked at me pleadingly as if to say why are we here, where my country men toilet themselves?
When my last cat disappeared I was bereft. My husband was willing for one hour of grieving but when it went on for days he became very impatient. We weren’t married at the time and another male friend came to my rescue, having just had root canal surgery and helped me hand out “lost cat, much loved by owner” pamphlets to four blocks in the neighbourhood in the freezing cold, because my then boyfriend refused. If he’d been attractive I would have left current husband, at that moment, in a heart beat. Farm people just don’t seem to feel the same about pets.
When I visited my brother in-law’s farm for the first time his daughter was down with the horses mucking out the stables, and would we like to go and see her. No. No really, no.
So off we went to the stinking stables where the horses were staring over their stalls, with that faint speck of madness in their deep black eyes. I felt I should at least pretend to be impressed and tentatively patted the long brown nose. They know, you know. It abruptly turned around and showed me it’s big silky brown arse cheeks. As if this was not enough, it then lifted it’s tail and farted in my face. I hate horses.
Once when Leon and I were having dinner with his parents, both retired dairy farmers, I attempted to make conversation. This is difficult because Leon’s dad is as deaf as a post, despite the hearing aids. Our steak arrived and it had a solid thick rind of fat all around the edge.
“Look at that, ” I say slapping my ample thigh, “Cows eat grass right, if I ate grass for a year, I would have no fat, but cows have fat right? What’s that about?”.
Mistake. Because after making me repeat my less than funny remark three times, Leon’s father went into the process of telling me about the insides of a cow. Something he had witnessed first hand on many occasions,
“A cow has two stomachs you see,…”
I felt as though I had two stomachs, and one of them was resolutely making its way to my throat as I visualised the slaughtered mess, being graphically described.
“Okay, thanks Frank.” I said signalling enough was enough, I had steak to eat after all.
It took Leon’s mother to shout, “SHE DOESN’T WANT TO HEAR ANYMORE ABOUT THE COWS, FRANK” to the startled diners, before we could move on to some less controversial topic.
I can’t bear cruelty to animals. But I just can’t bear being around them either. So I put my hand in my pocket for the RSPCA and the WWF, shell out for the vet, swallow my guilt, and my steak, and hope for the best in terms of my animal ancestors and my Karma in general.