‘A few years ago, I was walking with a friend in some fields on the southwest coast of Rousay, one of the northern isles of Orkney. There were a fair amount of cattle about, but we weren’t paying much attention to them and nor were they to us. True, one beast did look significantly bigger than the others, and I said to my friend, “Oh, d’you think that might be a bull?” at the exact moment that this rather larger kine lurched into a trot and began heading our way.
‘My friend – whose guiding spiritual principle derives from a koan given to him by a sadhu he found sitting cross-legged at the source of the Ganges when he was a young man – cannot bear witness to a physical challenge without immediately responding to it: if he notes that a cliff might be tricky to scale, he scales it; if he supposes that a current might be treacherous to navigate, he strips and breasts it. Anyway, as the beast – which I could now see was conspicuously horned – came barrelling towards me, I realised that my dharma buddy was already 50m away and on the far side of a triple-stranded barbed wire fence. I reiterated: “D’you think it might be a bull?” And he shouted back: “Of course it’s a bull – look at its bloody great balls!”
‘I relate this anecdote in a spirit of unabashed nostalgia – there’s really something rather marvellous about being pursued across a field by a charging bull, even if at the far side you rip the crotch of your trousers to shreds on a fence. The experience puts you on a footing with all those finely cross-hatched figures doing similarly stereotypic rural things – spooning on haystacks, caught in mantraps – that I recall from the ancient back numbers of Punch magazines I used to read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Now, of course, these are gone – the magazines, and the free dentistry – and for the most part you don’t see bulls in fields at all. I don’t know where they keep bulls when they’re not “servicing” cows, but given our current mores it’s probably in a scrubbed and antiseptic barn unit, where they’re shown beefcake pornography and fed energy supplements so as to excite them to the correct pitch. Meanwhile, I’m still impotently out in the fields – and, trudging across them, I’ll often come across the animal’scontemporary incarnation: an empty Red Bull can.’
Read the rest of Will’s article in the Guardian here.