“What are you doing with yourself these days …”
I literally bumped into an old friend on the corner outside the new Cabo Roig Inn. I have known Sean and his wife Deirdre since we opened Paddy’s Point ‘in the last century.’
‘What are you doing with yourself these days’, asked Sean – after the customary salutations. (This is an Irishman’s way of asking if all is well with you). ‘Come in for one’, suggested Sean. This is an Irishman’s way of asking if you would like a drink! I went in for a coffee and after we filled each other in on our respective wives and families I eventually got around to cataloguing ‘what I am doing with myself.’
‘I miss reading your column both here and at home’, my friend told me before I started on my story. ‘Well, sez I, ‘I have news on that front as well’, but we’ll leave that until I fill you in on my latest life chapter.
This is a rough translation of what I told Sean.
‘Like yourself, I was once a farmer in another life. Of all the jobs I have done, farming is the one that sticks in the DNA. I would still dream something about cows and calves about twice a year.
After I sold out all my business interests, I realised beyond all doubt that there is one thing I cannot do. That one thing is idleness. Then just at that critical moment – as often happened in my life; fate – or the hand of God stepped in and I found the perfect module to scratch my itch.
On a visit to Denmark I was introduced to a couple who had asked to see me. The man is a vet and the family owned two Dexter cows, two yearlings and two suck calves. They thought that because I came from a farming background in Ireland I would know everything about the beautiful Dexters. In actual fact I knew nothing about the Dexter breed, but I learned quickly and I came home in love with them.
The Dexter cow is the oldest breed of cow in Europe and also the smallest. Bred by an Englishman; a Mr Dexter, the cow originated in County Tipperary around 1760. Easily fed, hardy and resilient, the Dexter was known as ‘the poor man’s cow’. Mr Dexter had set out to breed a cow small enough to help feed a family with nothing more than a cottage garden. Today, the Dexter is prized in the four corners of the world. Ironically, the breed became almost extinct in Ireland in the 1970s – when we ‘got too big for our boots!’ Happily all has changed now and there are 170 Irish breeders registered with the Irish and British Dexter Societies. Nonetheless, the Dexter is currently classified in Ireland as ‘a rare breed.’
I don’t want to get any bigger than ‘hobby farming’ – even though I have a fairly large farm, which I rent out. I have fenced off sixteen acres around the house and this is our paradise. It contains a pond and a ‘fairy fort’. It is rich in colour and wild life – and I just love pottering around with the animals.
We have ten Dexter cows, and they are all individuals with their own names. Each one has a baby calf at the moment. There is nothing more therapeutic than to stand and watch the cows nuzzling and suckling their babies out in the field. I rear the calves, putting the heifers in calf and selling on the bulls. They are all pure-bred registered stock. As you can gather from this, the cows and heifers keep me happy … but not nearly as happy as they make Oscar. Oscar has the best job on the planet! Oscar is the Dexter bull!’
‘As for the writing, Sean, I took a break after never missing a deadline for eleven years and writing four books as well. I am ready to do a column again, and you will be happy to hear that I am resuming ‘You Can’t be Serious’ and doing it exclusively for ‘The Leader’ newspaper out here.’
‘That’s great’, said Sean … adding the usual Irish wish ‘best of luck’. ‘But I’d like to learn a bit more about the Dexters?’ ‘Ok, I said; you can either come up to Westmeath and visit them … or you can read The Leader when you are here – and you’d never know what you might learn!’
Man is the only animal that laughs, but when you look at some people, it’s hard to understand how the animals keep from laughing.
*Author, entrepreneur and newspaper columnist, Bernie Comaskey, now spends most of his time on a farm in Ireland; but he retains his strong links with the Costa Blanca.
Bernie has published four books; ‘If Ever a Man Suffered’, ‘The Best of Bernie’, ‘The Team’, and ‘Just Between Ourselves’. Bernie’s books are available at half price, on sale from ‘The Leader.’ Call 637 227 385 for info.