WHEN we were small, my father liked nothing better than taking his five offspring for interesting walks in the countryside.

We would catch a bus to the outskirts of town, and then head off into the hills, armed with sticks for slashing at thistles, and carrying a dozen hard-boiled eggs for sustenance.

As we strolled through leafy meadows, he taught us how to identify every tree and wildflower which grew within a five mile radius of our house.

But he also took it as his duty to demonstrate to us the dangers of life in the great outdoors in a somewhat unconventional way.

He said: “If you are walking across a field and there’s a cow which is bigger than the others and has no udders, it’s probably a bull.

“See that field over there, with all the black and white cows and the one big black one – that’s a bull, and he’ll be very bad tempered if he’s disturbed. Watch this!”

With that, he cupped his hands around his mouth, and let out a ferocious bellow, at which the bull whipped his head round to identify the challenger to his harem.

The pater repeated his bellow, with even more volume this time, and to our consternation, the bull came rampaging across the field, throwing up great clods of earth with all four legs, and with great jets of steam billowing from his nostrils.

His great neck bulged with muscle, as his head swung round in a quest to find his challenger, but all he saw was a man in a pork pie hat gazing serenely around as five terrified children tried to make themselves invisible behind him.

The bull towered above us, glaring down from behind a pitifully inadequate fence, pawing the ground like something from a cartoon, before lumbering back to his wives at a swinging trot.

“And that’s why you should never annoy a bull,” he said blithely as we continued on our way, at least two of us trying to hide the damp patches on the front of our trousers.

On another occasion, he pointed out a rather flimsy looking fence which was all that stood between a group of horses and the open hills above.

“That will never stop those horses if they decide to go up there,” ventured my elder brother at which my father decided it was time for another demonstration of the perils of life.

He made us all hold hands in a big long line, plucked a long straw from the edge of the field, and told me – the last in the line – to put my hand flat on the ground.

I did as I was told, whereupon he took my sister’s hand, and touched the fence with the straw. The bolt of electricity which shot through the entire line-up was startlingly unexpected, and I am sure for a split second I could see X-ray pictures of all my siblings – and then the pain came.

Every joint burned like a hot coal, but my father seemed entirely unaffected, and declared: “If you ever see a fence like this again, don’t touch it!”

These educational strolls always seemed to end at a country pub, which in those days did not admit children, and we would be left outside for many hours, sharing a single bag of crisps and a bottle of lemonade.

He could be a strict disciplinarian, with a flair for unusual punishments for breaking his rules. My brother once asked if he could buy an air pistol from a friend from some trifling sum like half a crown, but permission was withheld for the very reasonable assumption that big brother would put someone’s eye out with it – probably mine.

Daringly big brother bought the pistol anyway assuming that Dad would never be any the wiser.

However, big brother made the mistake of leaving the pock-marked Heinz baked beans can he had been using for target practice lying in the middle of the garden.

“Bring me the gun,” the pater said in ominous tones when he came back from the pub, and when the pistol was produced by my quaking brother he ordered “Now bend over”.

A few whacks with the belt were fairly standard punishment in those days – at school as well as at home – and my brother was so stranger to the sting of the lash.

On this occasion though he escaped the leather – just like Forrest Gump, he got “shot in the buttoxs” by his own father.