There are phantom cows in a field near our offices. The horses chew the grass at one end of the enclosure, accompanied by a pony who spent a whole summer two years ago pretending to be their foal, in order to be fed apples. At the other end is their stable, the ground around it trodden and muddy. Between horse and horse-house are black bundles, lying fatly on the ground, some rolled over, some sat on their haunches. As they survey the countryside with wet, bovine expressions, they suddenly turn into bales of hay in black plastic bags.
There are phantom cows round the back of the stonemasonry. Approach from Eynsham towards Freeland, and you can see them through the trees, milling around through a set of arches behind the masonry buildings. They’re large beasts, some of which rush to meet you on the road, some of which slope away as you approach. Moving faster, they kandinskize into verticals and flats, held together by nothing more than parallax, chance and relative position; tall, wooden fencing and Nissen huts, seen end-on.
There are phantom cows hanging around outside Bowles Farm. They traipse in a circle, lowing and groaning at the wind and elements. As they move faster round a central point, they begin to lift and carousel, and swing out against the sky. Their groaning becomes a creak; white sheets billow against black cloth. Clouds and grass show through their inexplicably airy bodies as they become something entirely other. But: wait a while; the wind dies down; the phantom cows are back.