There’s nothing like a school trip to take you away from the drudgery of the classroom. A day on a coach singing filthy songs, a mooch around a musuem somewhere and then back just in time for home-time. At our school, it didn’t work that way. School trips consisted of an afternoon at Sonning Farm, a visit so dire that even the most hardened skivers were dragged screaming onto the bus, begging for double maths.
It wasn’t even a proper day out. Sonning Farm was literally five minutes up the road. In fact, my house actually backed onto their fields where I walked my dog every day, so it was hardly a trip into the unknown. On a good day, we could be there, do the tour, and be back again within the hour. Whoop de doo.
The farm is owned by the University of Reading, one of the few universities in the country that offers courses in agriculture and shit-shovelling, with a degree ceremony held with the students downwind. They get all kinds of grants to show local schoolkids round the place, and now, it seemed it was our turn. Again.
The first thing you notice getting off the bus is the shit. You’re standing in it. Sonning Farm has cows. Lots and lots of cows, and there are literally rivers of cow piss and crap all over the place. For the one poor kid who didn’t read the letter home about the trip and is now up to his ankles in fetid crap in his best school shoes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
So, we got the guided tour. We saw shitty fields full of cows, a cowshed full of cows and shit, and a milking parlour featuring the peculiar fragrance that is Givency’s Eau de Cowshit. The post-grad student leading us around was far too enthusiastic about his job, knowing far too much about grassland quality than was absolutely necessary. Look bub, cows eat grass, cows shit on grass, grass grows. Now get us away from the shit.
Instead, he took us to meet one of the cows. It was probably called Daisy, though “Shitbag” would probably have been more apt. Despite supposedly being a country school, most of the kids had been born and brought up in the rough end of London, and moved out to the sticks in a well-meaning rehousing programme that turned them from urban thugs to suburban psychopaths. We didn’t want to see cows. We wanted action. A cow was a big, smelly, foreign thing that is best viewed in picture books with very large writing. Cows up close aren’t cute and should never, ever be called “Daisy”.
Now, there’s a thing about cows. Neither end is safe, and the middle bit isn’t exactly a bed of roses either. Michaela got too near the front, and before you knew it, the evil bastard ate her straw hat and had made a start on her coat before anyone realised what was going on. But it was the rear end that caused all the trouble. I’m pretty sure that if you had four stomachs, rather like Bernard Manning has, you too would spend your entire life constantly pissing, farting and shitting, so in that respect you can hardly blame the cow.
You try telling that to Helen’s mum. Poor, sweet Helen, the quietest girl in the class, never one to push to the front of the crowd, was left standing far to close to Daisy’s arse than was absolutely safe.
“Oooh!” she said, in surprise and alarm. “Ooooooh!!!!”
Her cries turned to screams when the rest of the class realised what was going on. Daisy had sprayed.
The tail had gone up, much like the ramp that launches Thunderbird Two, but Helen hadn’t noticed. She was hit front on by an explosion of crap in unimaginable quantities. Just when she thought the ordeal was over, the piss started. Gallons of it. A stream that lasted a full twenty seconds as girls screamed, boys backed away and student-farmer stood in stunned silence. Helen was rooted to the spot, her poo-strewn clothes now getting hosed down by a raging torrent of wazz. It was deeply, deeply shocking, and hence incredibly funny. I am also led to understand that people pay good money for videos of this kind of thing.
Helen was ushered off, shivering and crying to the farmhouse, where the farmer’s wife took one look at her, screamed, and set a hose onto her. She was allowed to sit at the front on the coach journey home, on her own, with the rest of the class huddled together in the back three rows. We sympathised with the poor girl, but not enough to share the stink.
Contrary to what you expect, we didn’t make her entire school life hell by mentioning this incident whenever possible and giving her with childish names like “Cowshit Connor”. Not to her face, anyway. Her brother was captain of the school rugby team, and in terms of face-pummelling, that counted for a lot.