Return to the Fair

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Dear Diary!
How could I have forgotten about the fair? I had such an exciting time there last year, and even brought home a medal which is still hanging above my stall, and yet it somehow slipped my mind. So you can imagine my surprise when Fred, my farmer, came in this morning and said “Well, how would you like to go to Paris for a few days?” It turned out he had already everything prepared and we will be leaving early tomorrow morning. The fair starts in two days already! I’m so excited!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 – Paris

Dear Diary!
What a trip! You’d thought I’d be used to it, and indeed I was, Elly and Fairy were the nervous ones, and I had to calm them down and explain everything that happened during the journey. But then, just as the noise outside had become so strong that I knew we had almost arrived, our van broke down! The machine made some awful noise, and Fred said some horrible words, and then there was a long silence. Now I was as worried as the other two, because I had no idea what would become of us. After the longest time, Fred opened the van and told us to get out, one by one. His calf who had accompanied him took Elly and Fairy, and Fred said I should follow, so I trotted after them. I had to watch my step in this strange place with its hard surfaces and steps and holes everywhere. But then suddenly there was a familiar sight – a green meadow. I bent my head to taste a mouthful but Fred’s calf called out sharply: “Watch out Daisy!” I raised my head and sure enough there was a strange quiet train gliding through the grass towards me. I bolted backwards and was almost hit by a small van for humans that gave a loud screeching noise when it stopped very close to me. “Come on!” Fred’s calf called to me and I followed him and Elly and Fairy inside the strange train. It was rather tight there but fortunately there weren’t too many humans. Fred’s calf got out some violet strips of paper he put into a machine which made a very high-pitched beep and then he tucked one of the strips under each of our collars. “Don’t lose them!” he told us. I glanced at Elly and Fairy but they looked at me questioningly so I pretended it was very normal and repeated: “You heard what he said, don’t lose them!”
The train had started to move again and after a while with several stops it went down a hill and when the doors opened Fred’s calf told us to get out. It wasn’t easy because in the narrow train we couldn’t turn around and had to get out backwards. But when we had finally managed and the train had gone on, we saw a huge building ahead of us with a big picture of a Limousine cow looking rather severe. “What’s that?” Elly asked. “The fair, of course!” I answered, relieved to recognise it. Fred’s calf led us inside and we got into our stalls, under a big sign saying “Prim’Holstein”, together with a couple of other cows from our family. I got a corner stall again – I’m pretty sure Fred arranged that on purpose, he was very happy with my behaviour last year. The cows in the corner stalls get a lot more touched by the human visitors than the others, obviously. Oh well, that’s all part of the fair, isn’t it?
I’ve been interrupted writing this for milking time – nothing has changed there, the same blue stuff you’re staring at while getting milked, but at least this year we’re closer to the milking stalls. Now soon the fair will be opened and the president and all those journalists as Fred said they are called will come in. Elly and Fairy are really nervous though I told them there’s no need. They don’t hurt us after all.

tram to the fair
the President of France Sunday, March 4th, 2007 – very early in the morning

Dear Diary!
I’m so tired I think I won’t be able to stand up when my turn comes for milking. But what will they think of me then? I didn’t do anything, honest I didn’t. It’s just the ruckus the others made – well, some of the others – that kept me from sleeping. But I better start at the beginning.
Yesterday morning, the fair opened and a lot of humans streamed in, among them the President of France with all those people around him with big and small black boxes, some of which gave off awfully bright light. But that’s for that telly thing, so people who live too far away can see the fair too. There was something different about the President this year, I noticed. People kept telling him to “go for it again”, but he never reacted. He just laughed and hugged another sheep or drank another glass of some of that yellow stuff. It must have a different effect on humans than on cows, for he drank lots of it from what I could see, and he kept walking on and on.
The first normal visitors came in too, and I was hugged and caressed quite a lot. Fred checked on us from time to time, asking if everything was alright. I could see Elly and Fairy would have like to say no but as I always gave him a cheerful reply that we were doing just fine, I guess they didn’t dare. So the first day went by.

cider under the moon When the visitors had left and the lights went out, I lay down to sleep. I was woken some time later by loud noise and I asked Elly what it was. She hadn’t been able to sleep easily in this unfamiliar environment, so I knew if anything had happened she would have seen it. She told me a couple of cows had decided to go and get something to drink. “That’s crazy!” I replied. “We got good water right here! Or is their water supply not working?” Elly shrugged: “I think they want something stronger.” That was weird, I thought, so I left my stall and followed the noise. Through a big glass screen I could see outside, where there were several cows assembled in the moonlight. They were singing and mooing loudly, and licking up some yellow liquid form the ground. Fairy had followed me and looked over my shoulder. “What are they doing?” she asked. “Drinking cider”, I replied, just as I realised what the yellow stuff had to be. Even through the closed doors I could smell the unmistakable aroma of apples. “But that’s mad!” Fairy exclaimed. “Why are they doing that?” A look at the sky confirmed my suspicion. “It’s the full moon”, I replied. “Some cows react in strange ways to the full moon.” Fairy glimpsed past me: “But the moon isn’t full! Look, there’s a part missing!” I looked again, and indeed where I had seen the full round moon just moments before, there was now a bit missing. “That’s strange. I’m sure it was full just a moment ago!”
Fairy and I continued to watch the cows who were getting more drunk by the minute. They were also very aggressive, as we could tell when suddenly a big Limousine cow appeared out of nowhere and told them to stop. They mocked her, saying she shouldn’t think she was above the others just because her picture was everywhere and she had a stall apart, that she’d end up at the butcher’s like everyone else. “Who’s that?” Fairy asked me. I shrugged. I’d seen the pictures around of course, but I had no idea who that Limousine cow was. When one of the drinking cows charged at her, the Limousine gave up and left. That’s when I looked up at the moon again and to my utter surprise it had waned even further. “What’s that?” Fairy called, fear in her voice. “That’s a lunar eclipse”, a voice beside us said, making me jump. It was the Limousine cow. “My name is Titine”, she said. “I’m the press attaché for the fair this year, and I’m supposed to keep the order during the night.” I looked at her and smiled: “Nice to meet you, Titine. This is Fairy and I’m Daisy, we’re from Normandy. Don’t worry, those guys out there will get what they deserve in the morning, and they’ll regret it. You’re not to blame.” Titine didn’t look convinced. “Come on, what can you do?” She shrugged. “You’re right I guess, still I feel responsible.”
She turned and left. Just as she was about to disappear around a corner, she turned back and said: “Why don’t you come over to see me one of these days? It’s a bit boring to be all by myself at the press area!”

Monday, March 5th, 2007 - Paris

Dear Diary!
The cows who had been drinking cider on Saturday night were very bad off on Sunday morning. Some even hadn’t made it back to their stalls, so of course their farmers noticed. There were quite a few cows missing for milking. I wonder if their milk had a taste of cider?
I was worried Titine would get into trouble, she seemed to be a really nice cow, and I promised myself I’d go over for a chat later in the day. At first of course there were the visitors to deal with. I got a nice surprise when my friend from last year showed up, the girl with the red hat. She seemed to be happy to see me again and introduced me to the people she’d brought along. There was a cute little blond girl who was also wearing a red hat and who held some hay out for me. I was afraid to hurt her, she was so small, so I just stuck out my tongue and licked at the hay. She shrieked and let it fall down and then laughed when she saw I wasn’t threatening her. It was fun, and the bigger girl with the red hat promised she’d be back with her drawing pad.
The day very busy, and as I hadn’t slept much the previous night I fell asleep as soon as the lights went out. When I woke I remembered guiltily that I’d meant to go and see Titine, so I will do that tonight.

little red-hatted girl

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Dear Diary!
Last night I went to see Titine. She’s indeed in a stall all on her own, as she said, and there are posters of her in her summer hide all around and even some other pictures. I asked about them, and she said that she’d had her photo session last September before she got her winter coat, and that a few weeks ago, they’d come and taken her to Paris and put her on a floating thing they called a boat and taken her for a ride on the river. “You mean you got to see the Eiffel Tower?” I asked excitedly. “No”, she said, “I would have remembered that, even though I wasn’t feeling well. Have you ever been on a boat?” I shook my head. “It’s awful. Worse than when your first calf is born. You feel sick all the time, and the ground doesn’t stop moving. And all those people chattering excitedly and flashing at you with their black boxes they call cameras.” I had a closer look at the pictures. “But there’s you and Notre Dame Cathedral!” I exclaimed. She looked at the photo too. “I must have gone by it, then, but I can’t remember. See the look on my face there? I’m trying very hard not to throw up.”

Daisy meets Titine

We both laughed at that, but then Titine became serious again. She looked longingly at a picture showing her in a green prairie with other Limousine cows. “That’s home”, she said. “But I won’t be going back there.” She sounded sad. I didn’t know what to say, for if she was not going home, where else could she go but to the butcher’s? “I’m going to live with the President”, she said. “What? You must be kidding! The President lives in a palace in the middle of Paris, there's no stable or prairie for a cow there!” Titine shook her head: “Don’t you follow the news? This President is leaving office in a few weeks. Someone else will become President of France and move into that palace in Paris, and he’ll go back to the Corrèze. And that’s where I’ll follow him, or rather go ahead of him, for I’m leaving for the Corrèze right after the fair.”
That had me puzzled: “Is that why all those people told the President to ‘do it again’ the other day?” Titine nodded: “Exactly. They want him to stand up for elections again. You know, all the people here are farmers, and he’s a good friend of the farmers. He always defends their interests, and he has come to every single fair for thirty years – except one year when he was in hospital.” I whistled through my teeth. “Thirty years! That’s a long time! He really must like us!” Titine nodded. “And that’s why they thought a cow could be the best farewell present they could give him!” I wondered how I could cheer her up: “But that’s a great honour. And if he loves us so much then he certainly knows how to treat you. You won’t be alone down there in the Corrèze, I’m sure he’ll find a nice herd for you to stay with!” Titine didn’t loo too convinced, and we changed topics and talked about those crazy cows who’d drunk cider the other night before I came back to my own stall.

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Dear Diary!
I’m sorry I didn’t write all week, but things were really busy. Elly got all sick on Wednesday after she was groomed and just before she was going to enter the competition, and Fred wasn’t happy about it when she refused to go. In the end he gave up and turned to me. “Daisy”, he said. “I’d intended to spare you the stress of the competition this year, but seeing as Elly isn’t up to it, I’ll make you a last-minute entry for the final Holstein competition tomorrow. It’ll be more difficult than the one last year, and I didn’t have time to practise with you, so you’ll have to be very attentive to everything I say!”
I was getting quite nervous when he said that. Last year all I had to do was walk around in a circle and then stand straight. But I was looking forward to being groomed. It’s fun to get all that extra hair shaved off, and those barber guys are really delicate about it – except when they get to my hind legs and one of them holds my tail. But well, I’d been through all that before, I thought, I’d manage it again.
It wasn’t all that bad, and I enjoyed being the centre of attention – until the moment came when we had to walk into the rink. We had to do several rounds, and Fred whispered to me how I should put my feet. And then we had to stand still for the longest time, and some people who Fred called judges came over to each cow in the rink and inspected our heads and legs and udders and even our tails! I didn’t like that, I mean, who likes their private parts being touched? You’d think what with milking and grooming I’d be used to it, but with neither do I get touched directly by a human. For milking they wipe your teats and then the machine goes on it, and for grooming they do it with another machine called a razor, but here were those judges who touched you everywhere. Even the human visitors don’t dare touch our udders, though they touch just about everything else, short of our behinds.
I guess I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a medal this time but Fred said I’d done as well as could be expected on such a short notice. Fortunately Elly and Fairy didn’t tease me or anything, I guess Elly was still too ashamed that she hadn’t been able to go herself, but I promised I wouldn’t tell the others back at home.
Today the girl with the red hat and the drawing pad came back, and she sat with me for some time, trying to draw me from different perspectives, as she called it. She showed me the drawings afterwards, and it turned out she’d only done my head but from every angle imaginable. Some of the drawings resembled more than others, I thought. She left one for Fred when she had to go, and she said she’d try and come by our place this summer.

Monday, March 12th, 2007 – very early

Dear Diary!
Today we leave. The fair has gone by so fast, I can’t believe it’s already over. Elly and Fairy are nervous about the trip and about what to tell the others back home. They have both lost quite some weight and they are afraid the others will tease them for that. I went to say goodbye to Titine and wish her good luck for her new life in the Corrèze with the President, or ex-President, whatever.
Now there’s the last milking before they take down the milking machines and we all get into our vans and head home. Fred tried to get his van repaired this week, but apparently it’s broken for good. So he rented one here at the fair. I’ve seen it next to the milking stalls, it’s got a picture of Titine on it. That’ll be fun to ride home in, no-one will mistake us for horses!
I hope I’ll be able to come back to the fair next year, there’s something exciting happening every time.

Goodbye Paris!