Hannah rides to work, and has another of those moments that remind you why taking the bike will always trump hopping in the car.
I’ve not ridden the proper off road route to work for a while. A combination of logistics and a poorly knee (don’t drink beer and ride bikes in bikinis, folks!) have kept me on the flat and faster routes. But today I couldn’t think of any more reasons not to, so off I went.
Dropping down over an old stone bridge, just before the start of the main climb that runs almost continuously to the watershed that takes me down to the office on the other side, two men crossed my path. Ruddy faced, thick waisted farming types in wellies, each carrying a large container, one metal, one plastic. They had the look of beer barrels, or maybe milk churns, but what really caught my eye was that one of them was steaming.
Fresh milk? I wondered as I rode past. Hot, straight from the cow? Except, as far as I know, there’s only a handful of pigs near this particular point. No cows. And, collecting milk on such a small scale didn’t seem like a likely commercial operation.
I looked back over my shoulder, to see the metal container being tipped into the plastic one. Great frothing white fronds of smokey steam were climbing into the air, like some kind of witches’ brew. This wasn’t normal steam, and that certainly wasn’t milk, or beer. This was like something stolen from a chemistry lab, perhaps some secure bio-hazard store. I wondered what it could be – I know there’s the pig farmer, a pub, and a bee keeper all nearby. I couldn’t think how this might relate to any of them though.
I looked back up the hill, turned the pedals a couple more times, then figured that not knowing what this was was going to bug me for the rest of the ride. What’s the point in riding if you’re not going to stop and take in the things that catch your eye? I made a U-turn.
By now the pouring of one container into the other had stopped, and frothing mist was gathered all round the ankles of the two men, sticking slightly to the road like candy floss before drifting into the air and becoming nothingness. The two men looked up, tendrils of this vapour clinging to them.
‘Curiosity has got the better of me’ I confessed, ‘What is that?’
There was the briefest of pauses, ‘It’s for storing…’
Again, the briefest of pauses. Just a butterfly’s breath in a sentence, but just a tiny bit longer than the last pause.
I suddenly realise I think I know what’s coming. I enjoy the moment of the man’s hesitation, discomfort. I notice he’s wearing a cap with a picture of a cow on it. His fellow farmer flicks his glance between the two of us.
‘…bovine, equine or ovine semen’.
I barely skip a beat.
‘Which one’s in there?’