Below is a draft of a short story I was writing up for Valentine’s Day until I ran out of time. I’d planned to read it tonight at the Carlow Writers’ reading night in Carlow Library but between not being able to make it there due to calf feeding and child collecting plus the fact that I needed to halve the word count and just didn’t get time, it hasn’t happened.
I’d love to know what you think of it. I wrote a “new Farm Wife first Christmas Day experience with all the extended family” story for the Carlow Writers’ Christmas night and it got a lot of laughs so this is in a similar vein. Not that punchy yet though – I always tend to be long-winded in my first drafts!
Here’s Fiona’s first experience of Valentine’s Day married to her dairy and sheep farmer husband.
Valentine’s Night on the Farm
The table is set, candles are lit, music is playing, the wine is breathing. I might as well have a glass while dinner is cooking. It could almost be the setting for a romantic television advertisement once I dim the lights. I just need him to arrive in – clean not smelly, shaven not bristly, bestowing a bunch of flowers instead of an armful of sticks for the fire or whatever he’ll bring in. Mind you, at this rate, I just need him to arrive full stop before the lamb shanks are dried up or burnt.
Teresa, Fionnuala and Sarah are probably all in restaurants now, waiting to be served delicious meals. I’m telling myself that restaurants on busy nights are overrated, jam packed with couples, staff trying to be nice and get as many tips as they can, women who got expensive gifts looking very self-satisfied, having that smug look wiped off their faces when someone proposes in their midst with a whopper of a diamond rock. It would have sounded like sour grapes if I’d said anything though so I just wished them a lovely evening. I think they all felt a bit sorry for me but it’s okay. More romantic here really, private, I’ve the heating turned up full and with the fire lighting in the living room, it’s pretty warm. After all, I can’t be sexy if I have to wear two jumpers can I?
I still can’t believe I’m married to a farmer, of all people. Steve didn’t look like a farmer when I first met him which is why he got past my radar. In a suit at an accountant’s wedding, I never thought he was a farmer. Oh, for goodness sake, it’s 8pm. So much for the advantage of no commute and no traffic delays. It’s Valentine’s Night – it’s supposed to be an evening for a tasty candlelit dinner, good food, great conversation, romance. Instead I get Moira phoning me because Steve didn’t have time and he knows texts sometimes don’t get through out here in the sticks. She was reassuring me that he wasn’t starving as they realised at 6 that he’d probably be late so she cooked him a fry. Honestly, she seems to think he is going to fade away with my cooking. Apparently he still thought he’d get home for 8 but there’s another cow calving now. But I’m not to worry as he’s not hungry!
She’s sending me a little present too she said, I thought her chuckle had a bit of a cackle at the end but I wasn’t going to get all curious and ask her what it was. What on earth is she sending me a present for? She mentioned something about me having the week off next week so maybe that has something to do with it. Being a teacher is one thing she approves of, the laying hen so that I’ll bring in good money, have good time off to help Steve on the farm and won’t need childcare during the kids holidays. Perfect farm wife profession apparently! It almost means that she will forgive me for knowing nothing about farming. Sure you’ll learn she said, she came from a sheep farm in the wilds of Scotland to a dairy farm here and said it was a huge culture shock so she knows how I feel. Hmmm, I think coming from a housing estate in North Wicklow might be a tad different to a hill sheep farm.
Right, do I eat my dinner or wait? I’ve eaten a whole packet of breadsticks and drank half a bottle of wine as it is. Oh, sod it, if she’s saying 9pm, it will probably be 10. I can’t leave the dinner in the oven, it will just dry up. His can go in the microwave when he comes in. I’ll eat mine. Such romance, here I am, in my favourite dress with my apron over it, eating my dinner on my own. The presents had better be good – both from Steve and his mum.
I was nearly asleep in the kitchen armchair when an icy blast came into the kitchen as he opened the door, followed by a strong whiff of something cattle or sheep related. “Sorry I’m late” he called, “I’ll be two minutes having a shower”. I took off my apron and slippers and put on my heels. You can take a girl out of the city and all that, although I feel more like putting on warm pyjamas than trying to have a romantic evening for what’s left of it.
Steve came into the kitchen five minutes later smelling of soap, even though he hadn’t shaved and needs a hair cut, I couldn’t really complain about this fine handsome man sitting opposite me as he tucked into his microwaved dinner.
I’m really hoping that Moira hadn’t bought my Valentine’s Day present. I mean apart from the fact that I don’t want Steve to be the kind of man who lets his mother buy his clothes let along gifts but goodness only knows what awful things she would buy me. Steve made no sign of mentioning a gift or flowers, so I decided to bring the conversation around to it. Your mum mentioned sending something up to me, I said. Oh, yes, it’s out in the backhall, in a box, he said, going out to get it. Hmmm, must be jewellery, I thought, until I saw the size of the box. A brown box about a foot high.
Maybe she thought I’d really appreciate getting up at night to feed a baby lamb every four hours, that I’d think it was really cute, that I felt getting in some practical training as a farm wife was going to be fun but I really hadn’t envisaged spending my half term lambsitting. I know Steve was wondering how I’d react so all I could do was smile and nod, feeling the lamb shank I had for dinner swirl around in my stomach as I looked at this tiny little lamb.
He showed me how to heat the defrosted colostrum and suggested I get changed before I fed it. So much for my sexy dress being appreciated. So here I am, Valentine’s night, sitting on a kitchen chair with a lamb on my knee, trying to support its head and keep its mouth open with one hand and hold the bottle with the other. It’s harder than it looks to keep the teat in its tiny mouth. Just hook your hand in under its mouth was the advice I got before Steve fell asleep in the armchair. It took thirty minutes for the lamb to empty the bottle. I was falling in love though as I felt its tiny heart beat pumping away, and saw how full its tummy was when the bottle was empty.
So that was my Valentine’s night – no romantic dinner, no gift, no flowers, feeding a newborn lamb while Steve snored in the corner. Mind you, it is cute. I’ll take a photo of it tomorrow and post it on Instagram – show the world I can be a farm wife along with the best of them.