The only reason to visit a barn normally is to value an over-priced conversion with poor insulation qualities and more glass than a greenhouse. Unless you’re a farm animal with a lot of disposable income I really can’t see the attraction. Horses for courses, I guess.
‘It’ll be fun.’ Chivvies my wife as she drives into a darkened car park, otherwise known as a slaughterhouse holding pen. I sometimes wonder if she knows me at all. My idea of fun stops short of a load of pseudo-hicks pretending they’re somewhere in frontier America, dressed like Cajun cousins who have been banging each other since grade eight. It really does.
‘If someone is playing a banjo when we get in there, just take a note of where the exits are.’ I tell her, only half in jest, realising with a start that I’ve finally taken in something useful from those asinine courses the bean-counter boss sends me on.
‘You’re being ridiculous.’ Chides my wife, as I reluctantly twist to get out of the car and feel my back tweak uncomfortably.
‘Don’t use that as an excuse not to dance,’ she warns me as we make our way towards a vast door – a barn door – you just can’t miss. ‘Everyone has to join in.’
‘Can we swing our partner?’ I query unwisely. It’s not a good start.
‘What’s the earliest we can leave?’ I hiss as we walk into the echoing area, one end taken up by a makeshift stage occupied by the sort of quartet last seen fiddling in Deliverance - before fiddling with Burt Reynolds.
‘We’re staying until the end.’ States my wife decisively. So with the pain rising I decide to self-medicate.
As my better half meets and greets with alacrity I hobble to a rough-sawn bar, unaccustomed blue jeans tighter than when I last wore them for gardening, absurd flannel-material tartan shirt, itching unbearably.
‘How-dee partner.’ Chimes a rosy-cheeked man wearing a neckerchief, serving the alcohol. He’s probably an accountant in real life. It’s a shame the gun-laws are so strict in the UK.
My starchy ‘good evening’, bursts his bonhomie slightly but he gamely keeps up appearances with a thick-skinned. ‘What’ll your poison be, friend?’ The choices are endless, particularly in an industrial setting. I scan the shelves behind him, but in the absence of warfarin, DDT or any non-proprietary metal phosphides, I settle for some lukewarm real ale from a dusty barrel.
‘This is fun isn’t it?’ Asks my wife rhetorically as she finds me three pints in, pain dulled slightly. I’m propped by the bar watching the whirling lines of dancers weave in and out other while a fiddle-player see-saws wildly on his instrument, and a bossy cowgirl with a microphone and an unconvincing accent, calls out the movements.
‘There’ll be some strange deformities in about nine months time, after tonight.’ I tell her sourly, as I watch the cousin-on-cousin action and consider switching to the “moonshine” shorts behind the bar, as the beer slops gassily and my jeans tighten inexorably. Then I notice with horror my foot is tapping. That or the sciatic nerve is trapped again.
The nubile girl in tasselled boots and pelmet-like denim skirt grabs my arm persuasively and we whirl dizzyingly to the end of the line as the microphone woman calls out another thread-the-needle instruction, before I cross over back to my wife again. Despite myself, I’m grinning like all the other inbreds - music and alcohol combining to strip-away inhibitions to the level that encourages inappropriate liaisons with quadrupeds, and prosecutions by animal charities.
‘You really enjoyed that didn’t you?’ Challenges my wife, as she drives home and the sweat cools on my back. She’s right.
I can’t help but love the old cow.