27 July 2007

Those Who Knew Them: Shambo the Bull 2001-2007

Following the removal for slaughter of Shambo the Sacred Bull from the Skanda Vale temple in Wales, his close friend and neighbour, Megan the Goat, pays a moving tribute.

Well when I first heard it I couldn’t believe it, isn't it? My dear friend Shambo dead – taken away like a lamb to slaughter, except he’s a bull. And not just any old bull but a scared… sorry, my mistake, not easy to type with cloven hooves… sacred bull – well I suppose it’s the same thing in his case, poor bugger.

I first met Shambo back in 2001. I have to say I wasn’t that impressed at first. What was he for? He wasn’t tupping every heifer in sight, he wasn’t being fattened up for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he wasn’t even being allowed to roam the fields to gore English ramblers… No, he was being worshipped… I couldn’t believe it… I hadn’t seen anyone down on their knees worshipping farm animals since, well, those English ramblers wandered ‘accidentally’ into the sheep pen.

Admittedly we didn’t get off to a good start – while those monks next door were stretching their holy hands out to the chosen one, I had Dafydd Williams hairy hands tugging at my udders twice a day. So I wasn’t best pleased every time I popped my head over the wall and saw Shambo surrounded by more devotees than Tom Jones at a knicker factory.

But slowly I got to know him. As I was trotting up to the good grazing on top of the hill I’d always pop my head over the wall and say, ‘Bore Da’. He didn’t say much but he was a good listener. We’d chat about the weather – ‘rain again!’ – or discuss the dumbing down of The Archers, but we steered clear of politics and religion. Well, I’m chapel, see and, well, he was a god – like JPR Williams but not as fast down the left flank.

Anyway, it didn’t take long to find out that beneath all that high and mighty godliness he was just a down-to-earth ordinary bull who liked to share a joke – normally I’d ask him, ‘Is there a God?’ and he’d answer, ‘Yes, me!’ …Cracks me up, it does still… Lovely guy, great sense of humour.

Of course, as a Hindu he believed in the cycle of life and that his karma was to be reincarnated… whereas I’ll probably come back as a handbag or fake chamois leather sold for tuppence in Swansea market. He taught me a bit of Sanskrit like ‘What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere’… I thought he was taking about the endless bloody rain… And I’d teach him some Welsh words for ‘telephone’(1), ‘ambulance’(2), ‘rain’(3) of course, and ‘Look out, the English ramblers are back!(4)

Then in April everything changed when Shambo was diagnosed with bovine TB. I mean, I know he was coughing and had the sniffles, but who wouldn’t with all that rain? The monks and nuns at the temple argued that he was a sacred cow but say that in Wales and it's usually just a cue for a gag about Margaret Thatcher.

Defra, the Welsh Assembly, The Appeal Court… they all refused to listen. They didn’t give a monkey’s that he was a sacred beast. Maybe he did have TB but there’s all kinds of ailments down here at the moment. Boris the duck – he’s got pneumonia, and Julie the donkey has bird flu… but schtum… we weren’t going to tell the man from Defra that.

Suddenly there were people from all over the world flocking to see Shambo and signing a petition on the internet. But to the end he remained calm and serene – not easy when you’ve got hundreds of monks - and quite a few out-and-out nutters - singing hymns, banging tambourines and chanting and praying round you morning noon and night. Sometimes he’d look at me and I knew what he was thinking – ‘God, I wish I could just slip away for a quiet pint’.

And then yesterday, the man from the ministry came back with 20 coppers and four riot vans – it was like a night out with Charlotte Church – and poor Shambo was led away… But do you know what the last thing he said to me was…? He had such a calm nature… He said, ‘Don’t worry, girl, I’ll see you next week… Who knows I may come back as a goat… But here’s hoping I don’t come back as a sheep…’ Cracked me up it did… God bless, Shambo and Nos da

So, there it is, Shambo is dead. I can’t believe it. I’ve cried so much that I’ve started coughing and sniffling a lot… but I’m going to keep it quiet because I don’t want that vet putting his cold hand up where the sun don’t shine…

(1) 'telefon'
(2) 'ambiwlans'
(3) 'glaw' - see, caught you out with that one, isn't it?
(4) 'oh bugger'.