Amy rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, opened the curtains and looked out.
Just beyond the sheep fields was the vast expanse of the ocean.
She could hear the yodeling calls of gulls as they followed the fishing boats and fought among the waves for fish offal scraps thrown overboard. She was completely fascinated as she watched the terns hovering and then delicately diving into the sea among the throng of rabble gulls.
She loved staying at Seafield Farm during the school holiday break. Auntie and Uncle spoiled her – they didn’t have children of their own.
“AMY!! Need to get up if you want to go to market with Uncle Ben. He’ll be off in half-an-hour!”
“I’m up already Auntie, be down in a jiffy.”
They set off without breakfast. Amy’s Uncle Ben said, “We’ll eat in the market café.”
It was Amy’s first visit to the market. Auntie Maggie had tried to dissuade her, “Cattle markets are mostly a man’s thing – you’ll be lost for something to do. Why not stay at home? We’ll go blackberry picking.”
She had pleaded, “Oh, please Auntie I’ve never been to market, please let me go.”
“You’ll have to stick close to Uncle Ben; it can be dangerous with all those animals around.”
The livestock market was still several hundred yards away when they hit the usual traffic queue: tractors and trailers, old lorries with makeshift pens on the back, hauliers’ contract vehicles and small vans with specially adapted mesh backs to give the animals light and air.
The noise of pigs squealing, cows mooing and sheep bleating, along with the putrid stench of animal dung, was just a diluted foretaste of what was to come.
“Pooh, Uncle Ben it smells awful, even worse than the farm yard!”
“Be up to your knees in it soon, good job you brought your rubber boots.”
After Ben had dropped off his sheep, he and Amy headed toward the Tavern (the farmers’ nickname for the café because they sold ale) for something to eat.
A chorus of, “Good morning Benjie,” met them.
One called out, “Who’s the wee lassie? What’s your name Sweetie?”
Amy blushed, but Uncle Ben came to her rescue, “It’s Amy, our June’s lass – come to stay with us for the holidays.”
She looked round at all the red and weather beaten faces of the farming fraternity who were sat on wobbly chairs at make-do tables. There were loud shouting conversations going on from one end of the room to the other, interspersed by loud belching and raucous laughing.
Amy thought, ‘Uncle Ben, please don’t join in.’
After eating an enormous and tasty breakfast they headed toward the sale rings. “Just calling in at the calf sale – they’re the first to be sold.”
The calves were bonny little bovines, all hauntingly crying out like babies, presumably for their nursing mothers. “Are they crying for their mums?”
“Yes, but they’ll soon be veal steaks in posh restaurants. They won’t need their mums then,” Uncle Ben callously stated.
‘That settles it,’ she thought, ‘I’m definitely going to be a vegetarian now.’
Drovers began to coax little calves one after another into the sale ring. Then buyers began silently bartering: some winked, some blinked and lots of noses seemed to be running and ‘hey presto’ it was sold to the invisible man who’d wiped his nose last.
The day continued to be full of strange happenings.
A commotion broke out when a sheep escaped. Farmers were wildly waving their arms in an effort to guide it back to the pens; only to scare it so much that it tried to jump over one of them and both sheep and man ended up lying in the slurry.
In the main sale ring hysterical laughter broke out when a bull chased the drover out of the ring and later he had danced around after another beast stepped on his foot. “It’s not your day, today, Charlie boy.”
Amy later told Auntie Maggie how much she had enjoyed herself at the market. “Yes, they’re a strange bunch of school boys when they get together at the sale,” said Auntie Maggie.
Later that evening Amy went to her bedroom. She couldn’t get those bonny little calves out of her mind – all of them crying for their mums! She began to sob and felt homesick.
Next morning she awoke to lovely breakfast smells wafting under her bedroom door.
She thought, ‘Bacon doesn’t count!’
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