16 January 1998

Holidays for mart addicts

SEVERAL years ago, poring over holiday brochures with my new husband, I failed to realise the significance of farmers weekly open at the livestock pages, and cattle market locations being noted before deciding where we should head.

It finally dawned on a visit to Devon, when Ken managed to fit in a market every day. On one particular day as we drove through beautiful countryside a Farm Sale sign miraculously appeared, and I was left stranded while husband happily browsed and discussed prices with anyone foolish enough to stand still for any length of time.

When cold war conditions were finally lifted, about three weeks after our return, husband was pinned to the ground in a weak moment by myself and a sympathetic friend and forced to sign a piece of paper to the effect that one cattle market a holiday was an ample sufficiency.

Removing my dainty size five from his throat and jubilantly waving the agreement in the air like Neville Chamberlain, I soon realised it was as worthless as the Munich Pact with Ken marching into the next holiday market with the panache of Hitler invading Poland.

Markets notwithstanding, holidays have rarely run smoothly. While in Yorkshire we rang home to see if all was well to be told by father-in-law: "I dont want to spoil your holiday. Ill tell you everything when you return."

Husband was like a cow that had lost its calf for the remainder of our stay. It transpired middle sons favourite heifer had been found dead in the field, four cows had gone down with summer mastitis, while the remainder of the herd had made several forays into the neighbours cornfield.

MAFFs deadline for subsidy applications fell during our Scottish holiday. On the day before our departure Ken took cow and calf records, plus sales invoices into the local offices at Crewe, whereupon he was informed they needed to view the herd movement book. This meant a 35-mile journey back to Leigh to collect the books, then into Uttoxeter NFU to photocopy them and 35 miles back to Crewe.

Arriving at 4pm he was informed 12 cattle wed bought privately needed a receipt signed by the vendor. Using language our three sons are ordered never to repeat, he did manage to obtain the receipt and arrange for its delivery during our absence.

This year we holidayed in Co Kerry, with husband managing to sneak in a couple of extra markets. On a jaunting cart he fell into conversation with the driver who, informed of husbands peccadillo, offered in his lovely thick Irish: "Any farmer who visits cattle markets on holiday deserves to be horse whipped!"

And – still scarred by the memory of the time I was left sitting in the car at Beeston Market for three hours with two small children and heavily pregnant with son number three while rain poured down – I was sorely tempted to grab the aforementioned from his hand and administer the punishment

personally.

Margaret Ede