Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Phantom

Listening to: Charlotte Sometimes (The Cure)
Pigwatch: starting to think it's an elaborate hoax
Weather: clouded over, but still - mercifully - dry

It has been suggested by some of my closer friends that, despite a respectable IQ, an extensive knowledge of Irish history and Wolverhampton Wanderers FA Cup final teams (there have been eight, so stop sniggering), I can be a bit dozy.

I'm starting to agree (bear with me while I get to the point).

Mrs TPF went shopping with our plastic the other week. Fair enough, she's the sensible one who's gone out and got a proper job to give me room to pursue the hair-brained pig-farming scheme.

No shoes, sweatshop-manufactured jeans or skimpy tops for Sal - well, not this time anyway - she got on a ferry to Thurso and bought this. . .

It's very clean, smart, one careful owner and so on and should make a decent short-term home for my father-in-law who has decided that, at the age of nearly 80, it would be a brilliant idea to leave Wolverhampton (it's always a brilliant idea to leave Wolverhampton) and settle on the Orkneys. He's going to be living in the caravan while we build a self-contained grandad annexe thingy.

I made the arrangements for the caravan to be transported over to Westray and waited. Tuesday morning the ferry came in and this bloody enormous thing was wheeled off - the first time I'd seen it.

It made its way - slowly - to the croft, but could not be put into position behind the barn because the ground was soaking after several wet weeks. The weather was, however, lovely and a couple of days should do the trick, so I was happy to leave it outside the front.

I alerted my neighbour Marcus who said he would come along with his very, very big tractor when calving and lambing commitments allowed.

Friday came around and Sal came over on the morning plane and took the Land Rover out for some work appointments on the island. After attending to a few jobs outside I settled down by computer and phone to sort out a polytunnel. This took longer than expected. In fact, it was a couple of hours later I went outside with the dogs and was delighted to note that the lane and the area in front of the barn were lovely and dry.

We went to the bottom field to terrorise the rabbits and it was only on our way back up it dawned on me.

"Stuff me, where's the caravan?"

I went around the back and there it was, standing exactly where we wanted it, on the hardcore base, the picture window looking out over the sea towards Papa Westray.

Caravan pixies? It seems Marcus and his sidekick Richard had rumbled up the lane, assumed by the lack of Land Rover that I was out and just got on with the job. Captain Dozy meanwhile, was so engrossed in frames, plastic covers, crop bars and the like that he was oblivious.

I'd like to say it was a cunning ruse to get out of an awkward job, but sadly I'm not that bright.

* On another visit to Marcus's farm this week I was lucky enough to turn up just as a Limousin cow was giving birth to a huge calf. The front feet were showing when I arrived and Marcus set to work, easing the nose out and tying a rope around the ankles, getting the bull calf out in a matter of minutes while I held things, pulled when told to and tried to look useful. The calf was a whopper - twice the size of the one in the pen next to it.

It looked vaguely startled, almost as if he'd been told George W Bush really was the President of the World's No. 1 superpower, but he rallied well.

I saw dozens of calves born when I was a boy, but it's been a long time and I'd forgotten how bloody brilliant it is. Sadly I had forgotten to take my phone - so no pictures.

I mentioned all this to the sows, who grunted dismissively.


andrea said...

Can I live there when the annexe is built? Clearly my knowledge of polytunnels and cows as big as limousines is sadly lacking and needs a little hands-on.

Brad said...

The caravan is a beaut. Well done Mrs. Great neighbors you have - I suppose you owe him one now.

And as an American, I'd just like to say, sorry about the whole George Bush thing. I didn't vote for him, but sorry anyway. We're doing our best to impeach him but politics being politics...well, you know.

High hopes here that the Boobacy will elect a Dem come Nov. Fingers crossed.

Ginni Dee said...

Great caravan! But no piglets yet? I think you need to run your hand under those ladies and feel for babies. Or boobies or some sign of pregnancy! I have a friend who raises Limousin cattle. They are huge and beautiful!

Farmin' is so charmin'!

ziggi said...

Oooo lovely 'van for FIL, will he be doing B&B?

There are piglets down the road here, (soooo sweet) and Phil (PF) tells me he laced their lunch with liquid paraffin when he got fed up of waiting (he was being serious) (I think), have you got any?

elizabethm said...

What a fab caravan and my FIL (who served in the orkneys in the war and refers to it longingly as the land of milk and honey) would love to live in it were it not quite so far from Rochdale. Good neighbours too.
Come on pigs, we're waiting out here.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

c'mon I'm streets ahead now in the lambing shed....I delivered twins today, one of which was breech, outside in torrential rain...and me and one of them ended up rolling in the ditch ....mud wrestling beckons....the shed is full and we need some good weather quick. thats a brave man to leave his roots so late in life ...but then again it is Wolverhampton sons best mate now plays for Wolves...Dave Edwards....used to take them to play matches when they were all of 8!

Richard said...

Dave will be pleased.

Daphne said...

I hope FIL will be happy in the caravan and that you get some lovely Spring weather to welcome him. Freezing cold in Leeds at the moment - still feels like Winter!

Malc said...


Of course. You would struggle to know less than me.


I don't think we'll ever be able to repay Marcus.

Don't apologise about Dubya, easy mistake to make - could happen to anyone. After all, we voted in Thatcher and Blair. Wish I felt as confident about Bob the Builder (Obama's 'can we do it, yes we can' was a steal from a BBC kids TV show) or Clinton as so many Americans are.


It's all a conspiracy to make me look stupider than usual.


I'm sure he'd be only too delighted.

Don't know about the paraffin. I reckon I'd have Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver round shouting at me in no time. Think I'll let Nature do her thing.


Yep, I'm fed up of waiting. In fact, I'm arranging social events (trips to the pub) to see if that does the trick as the waiting and checking every three hours clearly wasn't.


Fortunately for us the weather has been dry for ten days (due to break on Wednesday). As I said before I've stopped worrying, it'll happen in its own good time.

Rob never quite fulfilled his promise as a young player, although playing for Wolves is not to be sneezed at. A lot of people thought he was going to make it at the very top.


I've reserved Dave some wellies and a shovel.


Ray is a very adaptable soul and also a paid-up member of the Communist Party. Not sure how that's going to fit in with crofting, but we'll see. It's been very sunny and quite warm for well over a week now.

dinahmow said...

Now that is one helluva nice 'van! Is the polytunnel to be a connection to The Big House or is it destined for a lettuce cloche?
No real pig experience, but I can "do" lambs, kids, calves and honey bees.Will work for minimum wage and quality home cooking.Also have working knowledge of botanical Latin. Sorry, cannot pay own fare.

Oh, pardon me...I now read that the 'van is for Daddy. Bugger!

mig bardsley said...

What a splendid van. I'm impressed that your pixies - sorry, neighbours - managed to shift the whole thing without you hearing them!

Donn said...

It is an amazing event. The Vets over here make a fortune because all of the calves are bred to be so bloody big now that they have to be yanked.

The calves look shocked because they prolly know what the future holds in store for them.

A few weeks ago a few steers escaped on the way to slaughter and ran amuck in the suburbs. One decided that he would not be taken alive by the Coppers and charged everything in sight.
Unbelievably the Cops killed it with their pistols.