Wednesday, 5 December 2007

No Sleep 'til Okehampton

Listening to: Dancing Days (Led Zep)
Drinking: more of that really quite fine Brazilian lager
Wearing: dressing gown and jammies (early start tomorrow)
Weather: getting windier (sailing in the morning)

My bags are packed and I'm hitting the road. Well, I'll hit the road once I've done with the two ferries and a four-hour train ride to Inverness, where I'm due in around midday on Friday (honest!)

The downside is all the travelling - pretty much the length of the UK by the time I've got to Devon - the upside is I get to see my offspring. They are great kids, articulate, funny, clever and I couldn't be more proud (OK, I'll stop in a minute). Strangely, they don't seem to hold it against me that I've moved 800 and 600 miles away from them respectively.

The Boy (17-year-old surfer and frighteningly focussed trainee chef) was kind enough to say that if I didn't "sod off and do the pig-farming thing" he'd never forgive me. The Youngest (15 and A grades all over the place) was non-committal, but insisted she could cope, as long as she didn't have to come and live on Westray too.

So, I'm off, and The Edge of Nowhere UK Tour takes in Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, Chester, Exeter, Okehampton, Birmingham and maybe one or two surprise gigs elsewhere, who knows.

There were a few loose ends to tie up around the farm first, like making sure Mrs Trainee Pig Farmer and the pigs were well acquainted. Sal has been in her jammies and dressing gown almost all the time since she arrived. The journey is a swine and it takes several days to get over it properly, especially if it was punctuated with staying up chatting over a G&T until 1am in the morning in Dunfermline.

So she got herself into her scruffs this morning and hauled on the extravagantly green wellies and followed me into the barn where we mixed the pencils and barley for Eric and Ernie's breakfast.

That's the easy bit. What worried me was that the pigs are very boisterous now, especially when it comes to meal-times (which to them is any time they reckon to be suitable). They clamber up the hurdle I have nailed in place to keep them in their (very roomy) shed and snuffle and snot all over the place, squeaking and grunting excitedly.

You have to be firm. That's all very well for a 14-and-a-half stone, just-about 6ft lump of former 4th XV second row forward, but not, maybe, for his 5ft 4in wife.

But I forget sometimes that Sal is from Wolverhampton (pictured left), the town (city? yeah, right! And I'm Antonio Banderas) where taking no shit has been turned into a fine art. So she lobbed a decoy handful over the wall a couple of yards from the hurdle and, while the pigs snuffled that up, she climbed over and spread the rest out unmolested.

I think I may as well retire now.

There was, of course, the customary panic over the hens before I shut them in one last time. The day wouldn't be complete if they didn't wind me up somehow.

Mrs TPF was indoors multi-tasking like a good 'un, while I gave the pigs their evening tatties, topped up the water and went to see to the feathered freaks. The hen house was freakless and I noticed the bit of baler twine I had cunningly used to hold open their hatch into the run had come adrift and they were shut out.

No problem. I opened hatch and went round to shoo them in. No hens in the hen run. Bugger!

It was dark (this being 4pm) and I was facing the prospect of spending the next couple of hours locating and chasing feathered creatures which give me the heebeegeebees at the best of times, let alone in the pitch dark with a steadily building wind.

I decided not to trouble Mrs TPF with this and slumped off to the barn where I found a torch. It proved to be one of those comedy jobs with the loose battery connection which meant I had to hold it with both hands, one hand pressing in the screw bit at the back to make sure the light stayed on.

I scanned pig shed, veg garden, the back of the house, cattle byre, derelict stone buildings at the front, I had a look in the field. No hens. Had they taken off to catch the evening ferry for a night out in Kirkwall. I've heard there's always a hen party on at Fusion nightclub on a Wednesday (sorry).

Then I started thinking like a hen. No, not "let's lay eggs only very occasionally and really piss him off", but where would I go if I was stuck outside in the dark with wind and rain coming down on me?

They were cowering behind a large flagstone propped up against the hen house. I swore at my own stupidity and shooed them out and into the relative warmth and light of the hen house before going in to tell Mrs TPF that everything had gone like clockwork.

This pig farmer (pictured, right) needs a break.


Dave said...

Have a good trip.

Anonymous said...

oo Devon - I'll be 'wintering' there soon :) Ah Exeter. I know loadsa people there. Well not loads. A handful probably. Actually, about two.

Also, the Wolverhampton reference made me smile - when I go home, on the return train journey I always know I'm entering the North (well my opinion of what constitutes the North - that's a conversation/argument in itself...) when the train drivers swap at Birmingham and start telling me that the train will be stopping at "Wooolver'ampton".

Amy said...

May all your adventures be of the good sort! Enjoy your visit and good wishes to your wife, though it seems she can handle everything just fine :-)

The Birdwatcher said...

We setting off for our annual visit to the aged parents on Friday. They live in Dorset and it takes us five hours. Have a safe trip, hopefully Mrs TPF will keep off the G and T's while your away.

fiwa said...

Malc, is that really the two of you in the new picture at top right?

Does all this traveling mean you won't be blogging for awhile? *sob*

Anonymous said...

Pigs eat pencils???

Hannah Velten said...

I haven't managed to call round for ages, and then when I do, I see you are off for 2 and Mrs TPF must get it together and stay on the island for more than a week without abandoning one another....I'm sure the boys and the girls will be on their best behaviour while you are away, but have a good trip....

I, like the view said...


I lurve Antonio (sorry dave) - he smoulders like a good'un, don't he?


hope the TPF World Tour goes according to plan - shame you're not visiting South West London, but on the other hand - I don't blame you!!

send my love to Shrewsbury and look forward to hearing all about it when you're back

(don't suppose Mrs TPF is going to keep us up to date in your absence, is she? nah, thought not)

Malc said...




The north for me these days starts about halfway across the Pentland Firth to Orkney. Glaswegians are a bunch of effete southerners.
Not only is it Woooolver'ampton, but it's Birmin-gooum with the emphasis on the last syllable. After all these years it still makes me chuckle. And as for Walsall...


Of course she can. That's why I married her.


Mrs TPF without G&T doesn't bear thinking about.


Yes it is. (Americans, bless 'em, so trusting)
And you don't get rid of me that easy

Malc said...


Pre-prepared rolled mixed cereals which are shaped like pencils.


We reckoned the last three days were the first we had spent on our own together (apart from holidays) in nearly ten years as a couple. So, yes we must.


Even this straight man can see why the ladies love him.
You'll be pleased to hear that, following a conversation with The Boy today, the tour has had Polzeath added to the itinerary. I'll be squeezing into a very large wetsuit and making an idiot of myself next Tuesday. The Japanese whaling fleet are on their way.
SW London would be great, but some other time maybe.
And I'll say again that Mrs TPF is from Wolverhampton. Have you seen the way Slade spell noise, goodbye, come?

fiwa said...

Being a middle class, nonprivateschooledumacated 'merican, I have no hang ups at all and will quite freely blow you a raspberry. And I was going to remark on what a handsome guy you were too. Hmpf.

Glad you're not going to leave us high & dry while you galivant. :)

Malc said...

That's the spirit!

I may reveal the dreadful truth to you one of these days, but there's weight to lose, wonky tooth to fix, hairpiece to tie down and so on.

Mrs TPF is far prettier than that, I can assure you.

dinahmow said...

I'm a tad concerned...isn't referring to the journey being a swine akin to blasphemy from someone in your line of work?
Oh, well...give my regards to the Far West Country. Tre, Pol an' Pen and all that.

Foilwoman said...

Hey, if you look like Antonio, you can come take a break here any old time.