Saturday, 29 November 2008

Are you being served?

Listening to: Oasis on Channel 4
Is: Liam going bald?
Actually: he looks a bit like Peter Cook these days

Good news! Molly has come into season and, having kept Boss hanging on a bit, the deed is being done, possibly as you read this.

So, assuming Boss has the right amount of lead in his pencil, we could have piglets in three months, three weeks, three days - which I reckon to be Tuesday March 24.

Otherwise, meself and the lad are off to town tomorrow in search of a pub with Sky Sports to see the Wolves v Birmingham game. It's always a horrible, horrible fixture, easily the most violent (off the field) on the Championship calendar, but there's just a chance the heroes in gold and black could go nine (yes, NINE) points clear at the top.

It's all bound to go nastily wrong, but football's all about dreams - and we might have a nice lunch too.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Dairy dunce

Listening to: Accidental Anarchist (The Levellers)

This looked like a bad idea from the moment the very nice tea trolley bloke plonked it on the table in front of me on the 8.39am from Thurso to Inverness.

"Teas, coffees, sandwiches, beers*, refrrrrreshments," he cried as he trundled past me.

The pig "farmer" was in an especially good mood, having managed to catch a ferry to Thurso, find a decent pint in a town that would be most at home in a Douglas Adams novel, get up in time for both breakfast and a train, sitting back to enjoy the snow-covered moors and lochs of Caithness through a pretty murky window.

The coffee came black, I picked up the little plastic sachet thingy and dutifully tore where it said "tear here". The dotted line was exactly a millimetre away from where it needed to be.

I tore again - a little lower.

I wiped milk off my chin and turned to the second sachet, supplied presumably as a back-up. At arm's length, I carefully eased it open and got most of the milk into the cup, the rest ending up all over Harry Redknapp (see pic).

I've just consulted this website only to discover the perpetrators are from just down the road from where I used to live. Who said crap stuff didn't follow you around?

You've probably already guessed that none of the expected disasters occurred. I got to Aberdeen no problem, met The Boy, drank my own bodyweight in beer not once but three times, watched a quite poor Scotland side run up 41 points against a bunch of Canadian students, slithered around in the snow and slush, enjoyed a delightful walk along the snow-covered seaside. . .

. . . and got a Sunday night boat back to Kirkwall before a Monday morning return to Westray where I'm now in detox.

* yes, beer before 9am - this is Scotland after all.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Get me to Aberdeen

Listening to: See No Evil (Television)

It seemed such a good idea a couple of months ago when The Boy and I agreed to meet up in Aberdeen this Saturday for the Scotland v Canada rugby game at Pittodrie.

We bought the tickets, booked his flights from Devon and happily looked forward to it.

I forgot about winter in the north of Scotland. The severe weather warning was issued on Tuesday morning. Apparently it's going to get cold - very cold. And windy too - very windy.

I set off from Westray this morning (a day earlier than planned) and it didn't bode well when, on arriving at Kirkwall, the hydraulic ramp on the boat got stuck and took 15 minutes to fix. It looks like being a long trip.

All ferries off Orkney to Scotland are now 'under review', so I'm killing time in the library, preparing to set off into the increasingly chilly outdoors in search of a ferry that may or may not exist.

Please send chocolate and Kendal mint cake.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ladies' man

Listening to: Hancock's Half-Hour
Surf: Big and scary - not that I've been in the water in ages
Wind is from: the north
Monkeys: of the brass variety
Severe: weather warning for Friday/Saturday
Obviously because: I'm off to Aberdeen for the rugby on Friday

As an opening gambit in a potential close relationship it wasn't promising. Molly certainly wasn't impressed at having her rear end sniffed, not once, but several times.

Molly wasn't in season, therefore in no mood for action, but that didn't deter Boss the boar (Boss Hog - geddit?) from sizing up the goods. He wasn't aggressive in any way, just very curious and obviously happy to have some company.

Moll had been pretty good. At first light, I got her away from her paddock which, after the recent rain was on the point of turning into a boating lake. With a little coaxing, she got into the trailer and was well-behaved if a little fidgety on the way to the ferry.

The hour-and-a-half crossing was on the bouncy side and, on inspection on the quayside at Kirkwall, my girl had been sick and was now cheerfully slurping up the evidence. The pig "farmer" revised plans for a large sausage and egg sandwich.

On arrival at the farm at Orphir - about halfway between Kirkwall and Stromness - she hurried indoors out of the rain to meet her beau.

Garry - Boss's boss - and I left them to it and, apparently, they're getting on fine, even if Molly has been playing hard to get.

In the mean time, some of the young pigs will be off to slaughter at the beginning of January and, as some of the pork will be going in our freezer, I started looking up vacuum packing gizmos.

I was very surprised to find this. This seems a very long time ago - mercifully.

If you ever wondered what to do with your empty Coke cans. . .

Friday, 14 November 2008


Listening to: The great Seamus Heaney on Radio 4
Weather: soggy mess

Sal got back from work this evening, laid a fire while I got the tea ready, kicked off her shoes and slipped into her slippers (well, what else would you do with slippers? Don't answer that, boarding school kids).

Only something had got there first. There was an obstruction.

"Goodness gracious," Mrs P"F" didn't exactly exclaim, holding the slipper at arm's length.

I had a look and inside was an ex-mouse. It had ceased to be, bereft of life it would have been pushing up the daisies if it hadn't found somewhere warm to sleep off an extra large helping of the blue pellets we laid down about a week ago. (I know it's not nice, but we were getting overrun).

I dumped the body in the black bin bag and had a look inside the slipper. The mouse must have been there some time so it was all a little gooey. Sal got busy soaping her foot - I think the slipper may need something a little stronger.

* I was brought up short a week ago when I heard an old friend and colleague had been found dead. Andy Donkersley was a good, decent human being, a bloody fine reporter, diehard Huddersfield Town fan (a proper football club), loyal friend and good company.

I won't go on as my old pal Reg Pither has put it far better than I ever could, but the world is a poorer place for Andy's passing.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Mrs Pig "Farmer" gets the ferry - part 43

Listening to: Saor (Afro Celt Sound System)

We arrived with ten minutes to spare. No panics, enough time to have a natter while we watched the ferry come in.

Except that the natter started like this:

"Did you give me the car keys?" (We keep our best car over in Kirkwall where Sal uses it for work while I chug around in a variety of MoT failures).

"Err. . . no. I thought you had them."

"You had the car on Friday to go and see that boar. Where did you leave the keys."

"Bugger. In my coat. Sorry."

I shoved Sal out of the door and, with 14 minutes before the ferry was due to leave, headed for home, caning the poor little Fiesta along the island's main road, battering the suspension up our lane and hurtling inside* (OK, I walked briskly - hurtling isn't really an option with my knees) where I retrieved keys.

Skidding back out onto the road, I narrowly missed wiping out Keith from the haulage firm and pulled up on the jetty as the ferry was pulling in.

Mrs P"F" was suitably impressed, but I can't begin to imagine what this stress is doing to my blood pressure.

* I got out of the car first - it wasn't some sort of a ram raid.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Molly's man

Listening to: Crocodiles (Echo and the Bunnymen)
Weather: Wet, windy, can't wait to go out

The big guy snorted, snuffled and took not much notice of us at all. I was over on Orkney Mainland, running the rule over the Saddleback boar who arrived from Cumbria last week.

He finally got up and strolled around the pen in that kind of first-thing-in-the-morning way.

The words 'big', 'huge', 'hairy', 'plums' and 'maracas' sprang to mind. He's certainly the business and my sows will be going over to 'see' him shortly.

He really is hairy. No pix yet, but he's in the same league as. . .

. . . or. . .

. . . or even. . .

Molly's such a lucky girl.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Harley Davidson purple washing machine

Listening to: Riverflow (The Levellers)

Marcus is at the front door with bad news.

"Someone's complained about your pigs. I've heard you've been reported for animal cruelty."

I stand, open-mouthed, wondering if this is a joke, but Marcus is deadly serious.

"Who, what, when, how?" I splutter.

"I don't know, but I was told last night and I thought you should hear it. I'm sure it's nobody from the island because there's nothing wrong with the pigs and people here would know that."

I can feel the rage rising, almost choking my words. The paddocks in the bottom field are wet and muddy, but the pig shelters are dry and there's fresh bedding every day. The pigs are fed and watered twice a day and get their fair share of ear-scratches and back rubs.

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong," I ask, confidence crumbling.

"No, you're looking after them fine. Just wait for the inspector to get in touch and deal with it then. It'll be all right."

Marcus leaves and I try to keep a lid on my feelings. I can't remember being so angry. I'm hurt, uncertain and a bit paranoid.

A call to Sal calms me a little and I decide to meet the problem head on. I phone Animal Health in Inverurie, The SSPCA and the environmental health department at the council. All are pleased to hear from me, but none have heard even a whisper of complaint. The whole business takes about three hours.

Mystified, I go and adjust the paddocks in the bottom field - no harm in giving everyone there a bit more space. Then I go to reassure Marcus, who had looked worried at being the bearer of bad tidings.

I suppose I'll never work out what happened and, a few days later, I'm not worried. Chinese whispers maybe, someone getting the wrong end of the stick. It's probably wise to treat it as a kick up the backside, something to keep me on my toes and prevent me from getting complacent.

POSTSCRIPT: I don't want anyone to get the impression that this was anything other than a temporary upset. I'm now absolutely convinced it's a misunderstanding and the number of people on and off Westray who have heard about it and said nice things since has been heart-warming. Thanks.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Crackling - is there anything it can't do?

Listening to: Dream For Me (The Accidental)

The little black kitten was in big trouble. When he crept out of the weather into the workshop to pinch a little of Trevor's food, he can't have imagined he'd end up being pulled by the neck by Spike and by the back legs by Midge (another new arrival).

The pig "farmer" managed to get the dogs off, but the panic-stricken kitten dashed straight into a closed door and the terriers got hold of him again. Owen the collie/spaniel cross was flapping about like John Inman in the middle of a Rugby League game.

The kitten was moments away from coming apart so the pig "farmer" did the only thing he could, he grabbed a large piece of wood and hit his best friend on the side of the head - quite hard.

Spike fell back and seemed only too happy to hurry into the house, followed by Midge and John Inman. I looked back to see the kitten lying, panting on the floor, seemingly unable to move.

I went to shut the dogs in only to find Spike's bowels and bladder had given up on him. . . all over the utility room floor.

His legs wouldn't work properly either.

Trying suppress panic at the thought I'd maimed my dog, I cleared up and got Spike settled down in a bed in front of the fire. He seemed a little better, but still couldn't walk properly.

I checked on the kitten, but he'd gone - I kind of assumed he'd gone off to die. I went into the kitchen to get tea ready. I gave the crackling a tap and snapped a bit off, glancing down to see an all-too familiar face looking up adoringly at me.

"You had me really worried, you little bastard," I muttered, handing the miraculously fit and well Spike an extra-big bit.

* Midge is my stepdaughter Amy's dog - part terrier, part chihuahua (!) - he's a bit frightened of his own shadow, but he's cottoning on that there's no real dog heirarchy here (Spike is kind of top dog as he's the cleverest) and, as you can see, he's settling in just fine.

Oh yeah, the next day I went into the barn and spotted the kitten rummaging about, looking for mice behind the straw bales. He never stopped to say 'thanks'.