Seeing Keith hopelessly chasing a huge Friesian cow in a neighbour’s garden is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life.
It’s one of those stories that no matter how many times you tell it, it never gets any less funny. I’m sure everyone has stories to tell like “the time that Dad…” (most of our stories start like that) or “the time when Catherine was about three and she…” – most of the time it’s only when you look back that you realise how bizarre or hilarious it was.
Sitcoms and what you see or hear in comedies are so often based on things that really happened to people. Remember the chandelier scene in Only Fools and Horses? That actually happened to the writer’s father apparently. As they say, You couldn’t write this stuff.
Family stories – told and retold countless times – are usually the best. I was lucky enough to have an incredibly happy childhood, and the anecdotes we recall are those of embarrassing moments, things gone wrong or unexpected events. Quite often these things aren’t funny at the time (see no. 3 on this list), but years later when you recount the story you see the funny side of it.
So after Keith reminding me of the cow story(!) the other day I thought I’d share some of the times when things happened in our family that were straight out of a sitcom. They’re all as I personally remember them – all stories from your own family folklore probably get a LITTLE distorted with time and countless retelling. Other members of my family might tell them with slightly different details, but these are all the way I tell ’em.
Oh, and as I was writing all 11 I realised this post would get REALLY long, so I’ve split it into two parts. You’ll find stories 1-5 today and stories 6-11 next week for the #ShareAllLinkUp on the 16th.
Gird your loins!
P.S. Photos have absolutely no connection to the stories – they’re just there to break up the swathes of text. Feel free to guess which one is me in each photo…!
1. The dog running away (wearing a shirt)
This is the best dog story from our family, and I’m sure everyone who’s ever owned a dog has a similar story to tell (dogs and children are always a great resource for embarrassing stories).
Our beloved family dog when I was growing up was Mac – a HUGE, handsome, black Labrador. One day he’d been bitten by a small dog on his front leg (or maybe he’d damaged it, I can’t remember) so he was taken to the vet and his leg was bandaged up.
But of course you know what dogs are like with bandages: they chew them right off, so it’s either The Cone of Shame or some other method of stopping them chewing their wound. The vet asked Did we have an old shirt or sweater he could wear that would cover the leg? Yes – Dad had an old striped rugby shirt (the old fashioned type with a collar) that would, er, “fit” him.
So Mac is wearing the striped shirt, he can’t get to the bandaged leg so all’s good. We lived in the Berkshire suburbs on quite a busy road, so we had a huge five-bar gate to our driveway that stopped him getting out. But this time he somehow managed to circumnavigate the gate and – unbeknownst to us initially – he ran away.
I’ll say it again: HE RAN AWAY. HE RAN AWAY WEARING THE STRIPED SHIRT.
He wasn’t a dog who would ever run away normally, but this time he obviously thought, “Those damn hoomans have put me in a striped shirt, how humiliating! I know what I’ll do, I’ll run away and run round the streets parading myself to the neighbours. That’ll embarrass them for sure.”
Of course what we had to do was go round the streets calling him, asking all the neighbours – and anyone we saw on the street – if they’d seen our dog.
What does he look like?
You can’t miss him… he’s a big black Labrador. Oh, and he’s, um, wearing a striped rugby shirt.
We never found him ourselves. He just showed up at the back door a few hours later, looking as pleased as punch with himself. We just hoped to GOD no one saw him, or recognised him as ours.
2. Dad shaving off his moustache
I’m the youngest of four kids (the other three are all much older than me), and soon after I was born (1972) my dad grew a moustache. You need to know that his (now white) tache is LEGENDARY – he looks like the late, great, magnificent moustache-owner Stan Lee. My dad and his moustache ARE ONE.
We moved to Canada for a couple of years in about 1974, and the cold winters there meant that his long, 70s-style moustache would literally freeze on his face. He would come in from the cold complete with miniature icicles and it would get quite painful for him.
One winter’s day we were all inside and had family friends round. Without any fanfare, Dad came downstairs and walked into the room… the moustache had GONE. Our friends had never seen him clean shaven, and being so young I didn’t know him sans tache AT ALL. My mother, brother, and sisters had obviously got used to him with his fuzzy top lip.
Everyone just stopped and stared for a second, mouths open.
We took one look at him – and absolutely wet ourselves laughing. I can remember my teenage brother creased up on the floor with tears pouring out his eyes, and my mum’s friend Joan looking like she was going to wet herself. Poor Dad, we do feel sorry for him now looking back, but my goodness it was funny at the time.
The outcome was that he grew his fabulous moustache back immediately (well, as “immediately” as you can grow a moustache). Although it’s changed colour and shape over the years, IT NEVER LEFT HIS FACE EVER, EVER AGAIN. He’ll be 90 tomorrow – happy birthday, Dad x
3. Escaping from a “burglar”
This story is one that causes me great embarrassment, but it sure is a good tale to tell. Before my parents downsized to a bungalow a couple of years ago, they lived in a big Victorian house in the Devon countryside after retiring, with only a couple of houses and a farm for neighbours. I’d gone back to live at home with my parents a couple of times over the years, so on the odd occasion they were away or out I’d be home alone in a big empty house in the middle of pitch black countryside.
As you can probably imagine it could be a bit scary, but the house was pretty secure and I’d got used to being there by myself after a few days of them being away.
That was until there was a storm one night, and the wind was howling. The house stood on top of a hill and it was usually pretty windy all around. This time, however, it was frighteningly bad.
It was early evening but wintertime so the sun had long since set, and I was upstairs. Suddenly I heard a crash, like smashing glass, so I stopped and listened. To my horror I then heard someone walking around downstairs AND MY HEART STOPPED.
Someone was definitely down there and of course I absolutely panicked, being home alone in a house in the middle of a nowhere. I went into flight or fight mode – luckily for my safety I chose flight. I was near the bathroom so I dashed in there, and was able to lock the door. The only problem was – where’s my mobile phone?! Shit, it’s downstairs. The only upstairs landline phone was in my parents’ bedroom at the other end of the corridor near the top of the stairs.
I couldn’t chance him (them? It suddenly occurred to me there may be two, I thought I then heard voices as well) hearing me, so the bathroom seemed like the safest place. I could, at least, lock myself in.
I hatched a plan to escape the house via the bathroom window. Luckily it was over the flat roof of the utility room, so I could jump down and then run to the neighbour’s house to call the police.
BY THIS TIME ADRENALIN IS RUNNING RIOT. I’ve got to get out of the house.
I opened the bathroom window and slipped carefully onto the flat roof. So far, so good. This was at the back of the house and not a part they’d come round to for any reason, so I was confident they wouldn’t see me. My next problem was getting off the flat roof. The only way down was to slide down the drainpipe, using the wrought iron gate on the adjoining archway to hold onto and take my weight as I went down. I just about managed it, though shimmying down drainpipes isn’t exactly my forte in socks and slippers.
Once outside and on terra firma, I realised I could slip out from the garden unnoticed and run to the neighbour’s house opposite. Except… I noticed there was no car or van parked in front of the house (you’d NEVER walk to somewhere that remote in the dark to break into houses). I quickly “hid” in the bushes and looked back on the house to see where they had got in.
I couldn’t see any broken windows.
(You know where this is going, don’t you…)
By this time I was wondering whether someone had REALLY broken in, or whether I’d imagined it (you’re ahead of me, I know, but stick with me – it gets better). Feeling brave, I quietly snuck round the house looking for a broken window or forced entry: nothing. NO BROKEN WINDOWS OR OPEN DOORS. Either I’d imagined it or the burglar was super skinny and somehow squeezed through the letterbox, because damn me – there was NOTHING.
By then the penny had dropped – no one had broken in. The storm had made me hear things, and I’d probably heard something being blown over outside that sounded like someone breaking and entering. You’d think this was the end of the story, BUT OH NO, it doesn’t end there…
I’m now outside the house, in my socks, without a mobile phone – AND LOCKED OUT. I’d come out and down via the bathroom window and the drainpipe and the doors are locked, so how do I get back in the house?
Yep, you guessed it: BACK THE WAY I CAME.
Swallowing my pride big time (I didn’t go to the neighbour as they wouldn’t have been any help and I knew they didn’t have a spare key), I realised I had to get back into the house. I found something to stand on to climb onto to haul myself up onto the flat roof using the gate as footing.
It wasn’t easy, but I eventually got back onto the flat roof.
Back in via the bathroom window.
Closed the bathroom window, unlocked the door, and ventured back into the house, gingerly checking downstairs… nothing. Picked up my phone and called my sister.
“Hi, it’s me.
…Yeah, I’m fine thanks.
You’ll never guess what’s just happened…”
4. Two turkeys out for a walk
NOTHING to do with the picture above ; -)
We’ve never had an explanation for this, but when Keith and I lived at our old house we lived in a narrow street in the town centre with no parking allowed during the day. Each morning we’d have to move the car before 9am and we could bring it back outside the house after 6pm.
One morning Keith left the house to go and move the car, and when he came back he simply said (this is verbatim), “You’ll never believe it, but on my way to the car there was a turkey and his missus walking up the road.”
Er, what? With no one else around?
“Nope – just the two turkeys.”
I imagined two turkeys, hand in hand (yeah I KNOW they don’t have “hands”), deciding to have a walk around town one day and popping into some of the shops. Maybe they needed stamps from the post office for their Christmas cards? “Happy Christmas – we fare thee well…”
There was no explanation of whose they were or where they came from. They were never seen again.
5. Keith chasing a cow down the road
Back in the same Victorian house that belonged to my parents…
They were away AGAIN (you’d think they were away all the time, but somehow all the funny things seemed to happen when they were out or on holiday. They did show up at their own house every now and then).
Keith had not long come down from London to live in Devon (this was in about 2003). We were there one weekend by ourselves, pottering about the house.
To paint the scene: it’s a big Victorian house on a large plot of land, amongst fields and by a farm and a couple of other houses. Seeing cows being moved from field to field and passing by the house was not an uncommon sight.
One day we were looking out the front of the house from the kitchen window and a lone cow trotted by. We’ve had cows come onto the property via the front garden before, so you always need to shut the gate at the driveway to stop any stray ones wandering in. We quickly put on our shoes and ran out to shut the gate to make sure she didn’t come in.
However, this time the farmer was nowhere to be seen. The cow was a bit distressed, going back and forth up and down the lane, so she’d obviously escaped. But with so many fields around we couldn’t tell from where.
This is where it started to get like a sitcom: Keith thought he’d chase the cow back into the field… how hard can it be? One average-sized milking cow (580kg) versus one average-sized town-dwelling middle-aged man. What could POSSIBLY go wrong, you’re asking.
As the poor cow was not in a good mood – we surmised that she’d been separated from her calf as she kept mooing – she decided that no human was going to tell her where to go or what to do, not unless he was a cowboy or had been dairy farming since he was a boy. As Keith had spent his whole 43 years living in South West London up to that point, he didn’t exactly qualify for any sort of cow whispering skills, and she knew it.
Keith told me to run to the farm and get the farmer while he tried to shoo the cow into the field. But as I headed towards the farm thinking he’d be following behind with Daisy, she thought no, I’ll go AWAY from the farm, down the hill and towards the NEXT nearest farm.
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the sight of a 40-something Londoner running after a dairy cow down a steep dirt track, I jumped in the car and decided to help block her in so she couldn’t run back – hopefully that will help get her into a field. The roads are only just wide enough for one car so she wouldn’t be able to get past me.
So the cow is running down the lane, followed by Keith, followed by me in our little two-door Ford Ka. Please, please, please don’t let a car come the other way because if she gets trapped she might panic and who KNOWS what she’ll do.
She gets to the bottom of the hill and has to go left or right: luckily she chooses left towards the other farm. This is good. Keith runs on past her to open the gate to the field – of course she’s going to WANT to run into the safety of a field, isn’t she?
OF COURSE NOT.
The gate is there and it’s open, but instead she thinks it’ll be a good idea to run into the farmhouse’s garden – next to the field – and trample everything in sight. I’m sat in the car, watching my other half chase a massive dairy cow round a garden full of flowers and shrubs, waving his arms and trying to herd her towards the open gate and into the field next door. The farmer at THIS farm is nowhere to be seen (we’ll call her Farmer Doris) – where do all the farmers go when you need them?!
At this point I realise that the whole situation is hopeless, so I did what I should have done to begin with – go back to the farm by our house and get “our” farmer (we’ll call him Farmer John). Car into reverse. Turn around. Drive back up the hill (AGAIN hoping no one comes in the opposite direction, because I’m a woman on a bovine mission).
I drove into the farm, hoping to god that he’d be there rather than over in the fields somewhere – luckily I found him straight away. I quickly explained the situation (“Cow… loose… chasing… Doris’s farm”) and he jumped onto his tractor, followed by me in my little two-door Ford.
We got out at the other farm to find Keith and the cow in Doris’s totally trashed garden. ALL the flowers and bushes had been trampled. The cow was stood there, looking rather indignant yet victorious at the fact that she was STILL not in the field. And Keith was almost on his knees, looking absolutely exhausted. He couldn’t have been more pleased to see Farmer John, who would hopefully sort Daisy out once and for all.
Farmer John calmly jumped off his tractor, walked over to the gate and casually motioned to the cow. She took one look at him and coolly ambled over to the gate and into the field. He shut the gate behind her, and that was that.
I could barely contain my laughter. Laughing at your other half’s failings is not kind, and not at all recommended. But throw furious cow chasing and a trashed garden into the mix and you’ve got sitcom material in droves.
The moral of the story is: the next time a cow escapes its field, don’t even BOTHER to try and get it back in unless you’re Farmer John or Farmer Doris. Townies especially need not attempt any sort of cow whispering or cow herding. Cows are more intelligent and wily than you might think…!
(Read stories 6-11 here)
WHAT’S THE MOST HILARIOUS SITCOM-STYLE STORY THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO YOU? TELL US IN THE COMMENTS!