One of my strongest memories from childhood was spending the whole of Monday during school holidays at the Cambridge Cattle Market. It was a huge piece of land on the edge of the city where rural life intercepted city life. Farmers gathered each week to sell and buy livestock – anything from chickens to enormous bulls. Well, they looked huge to a 10 year old.
Cambridge Cattle Market
A group of us would meet early in the morning and because the operators of the market had got to know us, we would be invited to share a breakfast of fresh rolls, butter and cheese. Sometimes even a pickled onion at 8.00 am. The farmers were very down-to-earth with big hands and friendly smiles. Always keen to introduce us to the animals and encourage us to help them prepare the big beasts for auction. I particularly loved the big shire horses. So big and so patient. The farming women always kept a thoughtful eye on us and would ‘temper’ some of the men’s expectations. “Don’t forget they are not used to being around animals like these”. Auction time was always an exercise in excitement. Especially when one of the big bulls was not keen to parade around the ring – you could almost feel his disdain for the man leading his 1 ton mountain of muscle around the arena by the ring through his nose. The other challenge was trying to make out what the auctioneer was saying in the strange language they have developed for just this purpose. Unintelligible to most listeners. At the end of the day, as the farmers’ trucks rolled out through the gate, we would jump on our bikes and head home.
Memories are great ‘places’ to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Not only because I’m not 10 anymore, but because things change, they move on. We change, we move on. When I was last in Cambridge, the cattle-market was gone; re-zoned and now a huge housing estate. The 10 year old has grown up and is not nearly as naïve as he was back then. That delightful period of innocence has been overgrown by a lifetime of experiences; some of which I’d hoped would have faded from memory by now.
But you know, something of that time has not been lost. I can still look at the world through the eyes of a 10 year old. The magical world of nature and all its diversity still holds me in its spell. I thank God for that, especially at this time.
Where did this story come from?
Well, I’ve just finished eating a pickled onion!