La vache est dans la maison

The cow in the lounge room was definitely not Gemma’s fault. It seems important to make this clear from the start given that it has taken her quite a long time to stop feeling horribly guilty about the Not a Baby Groot After All invasive vegetation incident of 2014. No, the cow in the lounge room was quite clearly the cow’s fault and I hope she is feeling suitably ashamed of herself.

I should begin at the beginning I suppose. Mum, Dad, Gemma and Harry were on holidays last summer, staying at the big farmhouse that belonged to Grandma Kathy. Cleo, who did not like car travel, had stayed at 10 Murdoch Lane to be cuddled and coddled by Rowan from down the street who was cat-sitting and absolutely not hosting any parties in the house while the family was away.

Grandma Kathy liked having visitors, the big farmhouse, she said, was much happier when its rooms were full of people. Gemma thought that was a rather odd way of putting it and was a little bit tempted to ask how Grandma Kathy could tell what mood her house was in. She decided she’d better not, in case there was actually an answer. Grandma Kathy also claimed that her kitchen was more comfortable when it was filled with the delicious sizzle and glorious smells of food being cooked for a proper sized family. Gemma liked sitting on the tall stool at the island bench, helping with peeling and chopping and mixing and especially with taste testing. Harry was pretty keen on taste testing too, but he mostly had to wait for scraps at the end of meals because Grandma was very strict about dogs not being fed from kitchen bench or dining table.

Gemma’s other favourite room in the house was the library. Grandma Kathy’s library wasn’t one of those old fashioned dimly lit rooms with tall bookshelves filled with intimidating leather bound volumes. No, it was a light flooded room with French doors that opened onto the garden and the books were a wonderful riot of colour and sizes. There were old dusty paperbacks with secondhand bookshops’ stamps in them and price labels with 20c written on in faded pencil, there were shiny big hardcovers with fantastical cover art and gold foil titles, there were stacks of lovingly scribbled in picture books with floppy covers, and there endless worlds to escape into and learn about. And best of all, Grandma Kathy could always be relied on to say “Oh, leave her be, she’s busy reading” whenever Mum or Dad started nagging about helping out with chores.

The rest of the house was all bedrooms and bathrooms and the big open plan lounge and dining room which had been added on the other side of the kitchen and looked out over the home orchard. Ok, orchard may be a bit of a reach, but there were fruit trees, plural. Even if they did mostly feed the local wildlife because Grandma Kathy tended to mean to get round to things a lot more often than she actually did things in the gardens.

Most of the farm that used to belong to the farmhouse had been sold off years ago leaving just the home paddock and a little bit of scrubby bushland. The bushland contained the aforementioned local wildlife, and the home paddock housed two grumpy goats, an ancient Shetland pony who had taught a young Gemma to give up riding several years ago, and a cow.

The cow was by far the most amiable of the home paddock’s inhabitants but she was also, it turns out, remarkably silly.

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