Neria - Chapter 5


Milking Cows and Meeting Parents

Neria had got to the Hot Springs before me and was already swimming in the warm lake, so I got undressed too and dived in. We had a couple of swimming races and she won both of them, so I was quite glad when she wanted a rest from swimming.

We flopped down on a big flat rock that had been nicely warmed by the sun and waited for us both to get dry. She asked about the heifers that I had put in with the sheep the day before yesterday. She pointed at them and said “behiak” and at other times "behia" so I asked what the difference was. She held up one finger and said “behia” then three fingers (because there were three cows) and said “behiak”. In French the word for one cow sounds just the same as for three cows.

The she wanted to know where the “zezena” was. I was puzzled until she pointed at herself and said “cow” and then at me and said “zenena” so I decided that what she meant was "boy cow" and I could tell her that our word was “bull”.

It was quite difficult to explain that the bull was with the grown-up cows near the farm and these were young cows that hadn’t had calves yet (her word for calves was txahalak).

She wanted to see the other cows and find out how we got milk from them. “How do you get them so tame? Our cows are wild and run away when you get near or attack you if you get to close to their calves – just like the mammoths and all our other wild animals.”

I explained that our cows had all been born in our fields, as had their mothers and grandmothers, so they knew people weren’t dangerous and that we would make sure they always had plenty to eat.

“Why do they let you take their milk – don’t they want it for their calves to drink?” I explained that the calves did drink their mother's milk at first but then we took the calves away and milked the cows for ourselves. A cow goes on making milk for ages if you keep on milking it.

Neria wanted to see the cows being milked and that would mean taking her to our farm and letting her meet my Mum and Dad. Should I go and get some of my clothes for her, so I could pretend she was someone from my world? That is what she had done when she took me to see the mammoths.

I decided it would be better to tell the truth and see if I could get my parents to believe me. It wouldn't be easy though.

As soon as I got near the house Mum and Dad came out and asked me "Who's your friend? You know you are not supposed to play with other children while the schools are all closed". The only thing I could think to say was "She was up the hill where the sheep are, I don't think her home is near here because she doesn't speak French – except what I've taught her. She's called Neria."

Mum asked Neria the name of her house. She didn't understand. "Do you know your telephone number?" She asked what a telephone was. Mum asked what her Dad did "Hunting mostly, he's good at killing bison."

Mum was obviously getting worried. Were these two kids playing some sort of game? I usually told the truth and she could easily tell when I was making things up. Whoever she was, Neria seemed to be lost and a long way from home. Her parents must be really worried about her. So Mum telephoned the police station and explained about having found a lost child. They wanted to know all about her and said no-one had reported a missing girl. Please would Mum take a photo and email it to them, so they could get police all over France to see if they recognised her?

Someone who works for the council, taking care of children who need taking care of, phoned up. They said that normally the council would look after a lost child until she could go home but it was difficult now because of the rules about not letting children mix with other children from different families. Would we look after Neria until they had found her parents? Of course Mum and Dad said yes.

Mum thought Neria's clothes could do with a wash, or cleaning somehow, and went to find a set of my clothes that would suit her. I haven't go a sister, so she had to wear boy's clothes but jeans, tee-shirt and pullover do pretty well for girls as well as boys.

The cows had already been milked, so Dad told Neria she could help milk them tomorrow morning. It was time for dinner.

It was getting dark and after dinner Dad switched on some lights. Neria cried "Magic" and wanted to know how you could get light just like that, without having to light a fire. Dad just said "It's electric, when you switch it on the electricity makes the light–bulb glow brightly."

I could see that Neria didn't understand at all: how could I explain electricity to her? Could I even explain it to me?

It was almost bedtime and Mum got a bed ready for Neria in our spare bedroom and gave her some of my pyjamas and a new tooth brush.

I had to show her how to brush her teeth. She whispered to me that she needed to go outside for a wee and so I had to show her the toilet next to the bathroom and explain how girls need to sit on it for a wee not just for a poo.

Then Mum took her to her bed, persuaded her to put on her pyjamas, got her into bed and kissed her goodnight. Neria started crying loudly. "People never have to sleep on their own. Why do I have to have special sleeping clothes – I always keep my ordinary clothes on and sleep with all the other children and grown-ups round our big fire."

Mum relented a bit and asked if she would like to share a room with me: I've got a spare bed in my room.

As soon as Mum and Dad had tucked us up and gone downstairs, Neria came and climbed into my bed. We snuggled up and woke just in time for breakfast and the morning milking.

Mum milking our cows

We've only got six cows that give milk at the moment and we milk them all by hand. Dad says it is better that way because cows don't like milking machines and the cheese tastes better when they are hand-milked.

Showing Neria how to milk a cow

It didn't take long to show Neria how it was done and after a couple of attempts she could get the milk to squirt into the bucket just as well as I could.

I asked if I could go and check the sheep like I usually do and could Neria come too? Mum was still worried about where Neria's home was and when the police or council lady would come and take her home but I promised we would come straight back. I put some extra clothes on and Neria wanted to get back into her own skin clothes.

As we walked up towards the sheep fields Neria said "I want to go home and see my Mum and Dad. You can come too." I said that I'd promised to go home straight away and to get her back safely with me.

Neria was certain we could visit her parents and be back at my house before the evening meal. "You know how the cave tunnel works: when I go back from your world to mine I always get home at the same time as when I left. It's the same for you – when we saw the mammoths you got home at the same time we had left here. If we go together, we'll get to my home when I left yesterday and when we come back it will be today and we can get home to your parents really quickly. It won't matter how long we stay in my world.

It sounded a great plan: it should be really exciting, perhaps I could go hunting with her Dad – I just hoped it would work. I put on the skin clothes that Neria had given me for my first visit to her world.

What will we see this time?

Things to think about

  • Neria lives in a world where all the animals were wild and there is no electricity. What other things in Edouard's world would seem new (or magic) to her?
  • If you met someone from another world and took them home with you, what do you think your Mum and Dad would say?
  • If you were visiting someone else's family would you mind sleeping in a room all on your own? Would you mind if everybody slept in the same room? Or around a camp fire?


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Updated 10 January 2021












Read the other chapters

For Mums and Dads

Chapter 1 - The Hot Springs

Chapter 2 - Cow's Milk and Reindeer Meat

Chapter 3 - A Mammoth Feast?

Chapter 4 - The Mammoth Hunt

Chapter 5 -Milking Cows and Meeting Parents

Chapter 6 -Feeding Babies

Chapter 7 - Electricity - wild and tamed

Chapter 8 - Shopping and Hunting

Chapter 9 - Becoming a Goat and the Beginning of the World

Chapter 10 - A Painted Party

Chapter 11 - A Bath and a Book and a Dog

Chapter 12 - Reading a Story