Thursday, 29 December 2011

Confessions of a travelling stockman

Introduction to a book I may just write sometime next year   

“Wake up, ya wee runty English bastard!”
Sharp and excessive pain swirls around my already aching ribcage.
       “Urrgghh! Wh’t time is it?”
      “It’s gone nine thirty. Judging started half an hour ago!”
      Diving out of my makeshift bed of a tangled sleeping bag on top of sweating straw, my head pounds like a smithy’s anvil as I grab for my clothes and hop continuously on one leg whilst trying to coordinate a bare foot into the correct channel of a mouldy pair of jeans. An inevitable fall backwards into the dusty straw doesn’t deter my frantic determination to get dressed and run in the same instant. As though hurrying through a knee-deep swamp of leak and potato soup, I head towards the alleyway where a group of well respected, well dressed and well orchestrated men smugly groom their shiny animals with intricate attention to detail. Mine is where I left it, lying in night’s worth of filthy mire, its hair matted with sweat, still adorned with brown hessian halter, dark green patches on its one side.  Struggling to produce a needle-sharp comb from my pocket, I drag at the tufts of dark hair whist pulling on a once-white shabby smock that looks as though two tramps have worn it in an Olympic mud fight. Whilst the line of impeccable animals disappear into the distance, my hands shimmer with pain as I drag my bloated beast to its feet by the razor sharp rope, pulling it into the direction of the show ring like a fisherman dragging a net-full of flapping mackerel onto a trawler. Somewhere in the distance, someone, perhaps everyone, makes a disgruntled tutting sound, the same one my PE teacher used to make when I failed to complete that handstand on the gym-horse many years before. Yet, somewhere in the depths of my battle scarred mind, I still believe I can win.

     Does anyone else ever have a recurring nightmare such as this? Do you awake in freezing sweat at 3am, tugging the duvet from the bed and yelling: “Come-on, you lazy bitch”? If you do, the chances you are not married? Not for long anyway. If you do, it is very probable that, at some stage in your life, you have earned your living as a livestock showman.

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