Brown gold is the euphemism, but farming’s awash with shit. It’s the fuel that keeps the whole thing running or so it seems to me. I know nitrates are bad, bad things but they don’t smell as bad as pig shit. The smell of pig shit is a penance that must be suffered, in silence because mouth and nose are sealed with hot wax, if we are to eat good healthy food. The reason that shit is on my mind is Celi‘s fault. For those who don’t know Celi, she is a legend. She’s a New Zealand version of Annie Oakley living out her life on the prairie with her version of Buffalo Bill. The upshot is that today she got covered in cow shit whilst debutanting as a milk maid. The motor for the milking machine had packed up and she had to switch to manual without a co pilot. Things went badly wrong and Daisy, the cow, showed her disapproval with a dirty protest. Now, I’m not a country boy, not even by a long stretch of the imagination. I might live in it, but I’m not of it. Once upon a time, in my life as photographer, I was shooting a job for an American branch of Diversy, an international conglomerate that makes, amongst other things, sterilising products for the cups on milking machines. We were on location in the modern milking parlour of a dairy farm in the heart of the West Country of England. I was suffering from a dreadful hangover brought on by an international celebration, that’s the American art director and myself, of the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau which had arrived in the West Country in my camera cases. I had never been in a milking parlour before and never since. The cows, connected by their teats to the milking machines, were in a semi circle around me on a raised concrete platform putting their rear ends, which faced me, just about to my head level. I had decided, as it was early morning, to light the scene with electronic flash and had checked out the electric supply with the farmer the night before. Photography, of the kind that I was used to, did not require protective clothing but I noticed that all the people about me seemed to be dressed in rubber from head to toe. Dazed as I was, I took this to be a West Country fashion statement and was therefore happy to be in my Levis and white tee shirt. The moment to start shooting was upon us. The electric pumps hummed and the cows gave their milk, lowing contentedly. This was an idyllic modern milking scene. And then I pressed the camera shutter. An electric current snaked down the synchronising leads to the fully charged power packs, situated all around the milking parlour, causing them to discharge a massive amount of accumulated power through the ranks of carefully placed flash heads. An electrifyingly sudden supernova illuminated the parlour and the cows eyes rolled back in their heads whilst their synapses sent a perfectly synchronised signal to their anal sphincters which opened like the mouths of a gaggle of divas hitting their top notes and gave forth, not sweet music, but powerful and accurately directed fountains of hot brown gold, at head height, in my direction. I was in the shit and the shit was in me. Those in rubber had thought better than to mention to me that cows are very sensitive to shock or change when being milked and their names and faces are engraved on my heart as surely as was Calais on the heart of Bloody Mary. Thinking back I find it strange that I should have ever thought of leaving the safety of the city to live in the country. Yesterday I spent some time photographing farming pursuits. My neighbour. Patrick Liaigre, asked me to take some pictures of him harvesting wheat with a vintage German combined harvester pulled by his 1960’s British Nuffield tractor which suggested a singularly unsuspected union of Great Britain and Germany in these troubled Euro times. This was a sun kissed, shit free zone and I felt safe.