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The goat who stared at men

Parenthood. Oh, what joys, and not least an excuse to visit ‘farm centres,’ there to rekindle those warm and treasured memories of childhood; of perhaps rabbit cuddling, or ferret fondling. But nowadays one is also introduced to the phenomena of ‘animal adoption,’ whereby, despite having paid a more than adequate entrance fee, by pester power one is coerced into paying an upfront subscription for an animal’s ongoing welfare. And in return, periodic machine written updates are received, to be usually accompanied by some dodgy digital photo. But to avoid tears and tantrums it has to be done, and in choosing a candidate it was all going so nicely, with much sibling discussion about the rival merits of ‘Thumper,’ the little fluffy bunny, or ‘Lucy,’ the cute little lamb. But then came the lair of ‘he whose name we shall not speak.’ And we shall not speak his wretched name because it could be hardly dropped into polite conversation, let alone appear in print, and one can only assume that the farm staff had either lead a very sheltered existence, or were possessed of a particularly emboldened sense of humour. Whatever, with the age of innocence now seeming to evaporate from about the age of two, it was inevitable that when chanced upon this would cause shrieks of delight, and soon the air was rent with chants of “This one, This one.” At which, as if within a cloud of Saturnalian majesty The Beast appeared - all curly horns, slitted eyeballs, and four stone of muscled goat attitude. And as if mesmerised by its unblinking stare I felt my will begin to weaken, and the startling thud of two cloven hooves against the wire mesh assured the creature’s adoption. So in a voice which I prayed would not carry to the rest of the shop, I softly spoke the name to the young lady behind the counter. But no doubt hardened by several years of Comprehensive education she batted not an eyelid, and - oblivious to even the rising sniggers from the knee high brigade - repeated the name as if calling ‘time’ in the front bar of the Pig and Trotter. And so at a stroke the parent had become the object of parental vilification, whilst for their peer group the offspring had assumed the mantle of hero adulation. And as if this wasn’t enough, no opportunity was ever lost to proudly announce the name in the doting presence of close relatives, and friends, with the effect on matronly aunts being best left to the imagination. Having long since cruised into adolescence, nowadays the offspring would no more be seen at a farm centre than be seen with a parent collecting them from school, whilst as for ‘he whose name we shall not speak,’ I did hear that some while ago there was a large fire at the farm centre, in which several of the animals sadly perished. But I doubt if ‘he’ was affected, for that was a goat not from mortal realms. That was a goat possessed of physic powers. The goat who stared at men.