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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Old Goats. And young

The Thursday before Christmas, first thing, Beloved said: ‘Mr Handsome and I are just going down to the village in the truck. We won’t be long.’ Granny did not take much notice. Beloved and Mr H from Blackburn are always disappearing on errands of one kind and another. A little later she saw the truck on the land, but thought nothing of this, either: or nothing beyond ‘More bloody materials for the putative goat pen.’ And – ‘I wish they wouldn’t drive the truck onto the land. It degrades it.’ ‘When I’m ready,’ had been – yet again - Beloved’s response that very morning when she asked him when he was going to get his goats. After so much time, she’d begun to think – hope - the time would never arrive. Silly her.

Next time she looked out of the window at what had been originally the donkey house on the far side of the land, she saw something moving in the enclosure. Had Beautiful Wimp got himself locked in there? More wishful thinking; though a similar colour to parts of the BW, the animal she saw was not the Beautiful Wimp. It was…no, not a donkey, but.. ‘A bloody goat,’ shrieked Granny, at the very moment Mr Handsome arrived in the kitchen behind her. Mr Handsome looked between bashful, awkward and amused. ‘None of my doing,’ he said. ‘I know what you think. But I can’t get into this. I just do my job. You’ll have to talk to him.’ A classic excuse if ever there was one. And did he have to find it so funny at the same time? He was right on one thing: no use talking to him. But Beloved, alas, was not among those present. He’d already sneaked off to do his teaching on the other side of the island, having decided - probably rightly - that coming in to say goodbye might not be prudent. And that facing the music later might be easier too, because, in his absence, Granny was going to the airport to meet aged bachelor cousin – his – and that Granny’s response if not muted by time, would necessarily be muted by the presence of the aged bachelor cousin – his: damn it.

Altercation was indeed, much later, conducted in furious whispers, plus the occasional – shush – equally furious - from one or other of them. ‘But I didn’t know you didn’t want goats,’ claimed Beloved with a familiar kind of smirk, the kind men have when admitting to hanky panky with some new woman, halfway between guilty and smug; disgustingly smug. ‘You knew I was getting them. Why did you think I wanted that cheese? And you were asking me when I was getting them only this morning. Asking what I was going to feed them on?’

‘Only to point out the problems. And the expense. If you didn’t know I objected why were you so sneaky about it? Of course you knew!’

It was not much comfort to Granny to think afterwards that the adulterous smirk contemplated new adventures around the mammaries of females other than human; a rather different kind of faithless. But still, in her view, faithless. Especially in view of experience two weeks in; of Beloved’s twice daily disappearances – one of them early; even on Christmas day; even on New Year’s day. (No late mornings in bed these days -not that there ever were many; Beloved is not the kind of sybarite who likes to linger on the pillows with coffee and the Sunday papers and so forth; more a siesta man, him.) And one of them late. And there they stand, now, still, Granny’s two relentless, single-breasted (a bit like Granny that, she thinks) rivals, one between pale brown and cream-coloured, the other, smaller, prettier, a mixture of black and white. There they go spending their days in that impregnable Colditz of a run – Mr H and Beloved both promise it is impregnable - it had better be – on the far side of the land. Granny can see them now, from where she is sitting. But wishes she couldn’t. (And no, till Telefonica has been, she cannot offer any pictures.)

Let’s make it clear. She has nothing against goats as such. These are nice goats, as goats go. They are beginning to sniff her hand and accept offers of apple pieces. The thought of two kids – little black and white nanny goat is almost certainly pregnant – has its charms. She just doesn’t want them round – or at least so close to - her life; which she wants to be nice, uncomplicated, both her and her Beloved free to come and go, while they still can like normal retirees of their age, not lumbered with Beloved’s view of himself as farmer, in a small way. (When she explained this image of himself, why, up at the market, Beloved was buying the kinds of woven straw band people on this island use to contain their newly-made cheese, the comfortably rotund seller, sitting there in her local hat and skirt and scarf, rocked merrily, could not contain herself for laughing. Clearly such an Englishman had never come her way before. ‘Why should it be so funny? And I don’t see myself as a farmer anyway?’ said Beloved, a little offended. ‘Because it is funny; and you do a bit,’ said Granny. ‘IT IS FUNNY.’ Inasmuch as she is amused; now and then.) And by the way; the fresh cottage cheese for breakfast each day is nice, too. She has to admit it.

And this; the aged bachelor cousin – his – was a nice enough man; a sweet man even; but not entirely house-trained; the kind of bachelor who sits around like a baby bird waiting to be fed; by someone else. And without any obvious enthusiasm for anything, except the legal niceties by which he earns his living; (though he did appear to get fond of Granny's cat.) Granny might have been more patient with this if she hadn’t spent the week of his stay feeling mildly ill what with her lurking bugs and all. If she hadn’t she might have made use of the words of one of those bossy Christmas advice columns offering advice among other things on what to do with shy guests: ‘invite him to join in the preparations! Give him jobs' !! Etc etc. But things being as they were in her head, nose, belly, she didn’t feel strong enough to invite shy bachelor cousin to inspect her back kitchen; to put him to sorting out its by then fairly evil sink. Etc etc. He did - twice - sit in front of the fire selling peas bought in the local market, otherwise he remained, in the sitting-room, in the dining room, with his beak open. Taking anything that was offered, more or less.

And this too, she was thinking afterwards. Maddening as Beloved is he is a wonderful madman; an enthusiast; funny. She cannot see shy bachelor cousin – his - maddening her with goats or anything else. Beloved’s likes and dislikes may drive her nuts but she is glad he has them. Really. Some of the time.

She has a piece of fruit now– some pear- all ready. Maybe it’s time for her morning visit to the goats. Which have names now, by the way. They have been called – at their request, not Granny’s - by and after Beloved’s daughter’s Beloved’s daughters, if you can work that out: Cabra Ruby and Cabra Isabel, in other words. And no, she cannot be heard summoning them by name in her not so bell-like tones. Even though, for better or worse - a bit like marriage - there they are, till death - theirs, his or hers? - do them part, by the look of it. MEN.


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