Saturday, 30 August 2008

GSOH required

Listening to: Traffic In The Sky (Jack Johnson)
Lifting: spuds
Finally: edible carrots

Lonely heart. . .

Single Saddleback sow, aged two, NS, WLTM mature boar-about-town for adult fun and occasional outings. Interests include eating, growling, busting through fences, being generally awkward and giving the sort-of pig farmer a hard time.

Please someone - Molly needs male attention. . . desperately.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Dr Pig "Farmer"

Listening to: Trumpton Riots (Half Man Half Biscuit)
Isn't: rendering hard? The kitchen project progresses at glacial pace.
Gordon: just doesn't get it, does he?
No: Great Britain football team for 2012 (it's a long story and when you've got an hour I'll explain, but it's definitely a bad idea).

I squirted a bit out of the tip (steady!) only to find the bubble was still there. I fiddled around a bit, squirted again and that did the trick.

I looked for an appropriate bit of pony to stick the needle into. I made a hasty call to Mrs Sort-of Pig Farmer who was just out of the pool in Kirkwall (that Rebecca Adlington* has a lot to answer for). The shoulder would do, the vet had said. I explained to Sal that pigs were really my field of expertise.

"I have got the right stuff - ACP?" . . . "Think so" . . . "Not NCP, RAC, BNP**?" . . . "Very funny, you pillock."

Ted has, we think, a bit of laminitis. I should have done something earlier. Marcus asked if Ted was stiff last week and if he was getting too much grass (Ted, not Marcus). I had a look at the lad and gave him a painkiller which perked him up.

Come Friday, Ted could barely stand so we coaxed him into the stable and he seemed a little better, but by the time this morning rolled around, there was no real improvement. A call was made to the vet in Kirkwall, symptoms described and serious thinking done.

I nipped down to one of the general stores in the village, picked up the syringe, needle and medicine (just like you do in downtown Wolverhampton) and so found myself trying very hard to look like I knew what I was doing so as not to alarm an already unhappy pony.

Ted was good as gold, letting me put the needle in without the slightest flinch. He's now in a drowsy half-sleep in a big bed of straw. Fingers crossed.

* Rebecca Adlington is the British swimmer who won two gold medals at the recent minority sports festival in China.

** One of these organisations is an extreme right-wing, racist bunch of twats, another will send someone to fix your car when it breaks down. Careful if you spot Nick Griffin changing a wheel.

*************** And yes, I enjoyed the Olympics (especially when the Irish started winning medals for hitting people), but there's nothing apart from a firing squad that will get me to watch for the next four years cycling, sailing, rowing, hoss leaping or any of the other deeply middle class sports for the wealthy that are out of the reach of so many schools and a huge majority of working class British children who will never be given a chance to even try these sports. Elite sport stinks - because funds are all diverted to the top, for every Hoy or Adlington, there are thousands of kids excluded from finding out just how much fun sport can be, whatever their ability.

Thank you for listening - and don't bother to disagree, I'll only start again, because for once (and this is really rare) I know I'm right.

TUESDAY MORNING. . . sorry for starting an argument all by myself (must lay off the late-night cheese), but the sight of the (unelected) Prime Minister smirking away as the athletes came off the plane was more than I could bear.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Monday in the capital of the Highlands

Listening to: Sanctuary (The Cult)
Off the mark: Ireland at the Olympics
RIP: Ronnie Drew (founder of The Dubliners)

The massive tour bus had dropped the Italian tourists two streets away from their hotel and they were picking their way through the "Victorian" market in Inverness.

With their suitcases bumping along behind them, they sought to avoid breakfasters spilling out of the cafe clutching plastic cups of weak coffee and bags already losing the unequal struggle with the grease, workers hurrying to grey jobs in dull offices and the sort-of pig farmer on the lookout for a morning paper and a decent cuppa.

Oh yeah. . . and the bloke lying spark-out across the entrance. I think he may have had a drink. Not unusual if you live in a city or our house, but the Italians seemed surprised all right.

A uniform approached him, stuck out a foot and gave him a prod. "C'mon pal, you cannae sleep there." Nothing.

The uniform then bent down and gave Captain Comatose a shake. Still nothing. He got on his radio and mumbled something, maybe calling for back-up from the smelling salts squad.

The sort-of pig farmer decided there had to be a limit to his voyeurism and strolled away pondering the ever-expanding role of traffic wardens in UK cities.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Red, red whine

Listening to: I Sing I Swim (Seabear)

OK, keep the noise down, no naked flames, stand well back, make sure the toilet is available at all times - the pig "farmer" has a hangover. In fact, I haven't felt this bad since the day after Reg Pither challenged me to a game of vodka snooker in Wolverhampton's Revolution Bar.

Mrs SPF and meself tied one on last night and I broke "The Rule". We had friends around and the beer ran out at about midnight. I should have called it a day, made a nice cup of tea and toddled off to bed.

Instead, like an idiot, I opened a bottle of red wine and we got stuck in. I vaguely recall our friends leaving and the only indication I went to bed is that I woke up there this morning. Mrs SPF is an interesting shade of green and is spending altogether too much time in the bathroom.

I may never drink again.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Silver lining

Listening to: Seed (Afro-Celt Sound System)
Weather: warm, sunny
Off to: the beach

We had a bit of bad news yesterday. For the last few months Sal has been working as a social worker for Orkney Islands Council. It was a short-term contract which finishes at the end of the month.

She settled in well, loved the job and the indications were that she would be offered another contract. Sadly, the money's run out at the council and the short-term contract did exactly what it said on the tin. So Sal's going to have rather more time on her hands than she hoped come the end of the month.

We've no complaints - we always regarded any extension as a bonus - and the upside is that Sal will be on Westray all week. That's good for me, good for her and good for her dad Ray, not to mention the animals.

Every cloud etc. . .

Now that Sal isn't going to be earning, I've been kind of thinking I should do something I haven't for 18 months - bring in some cash.

I watched Bonekickers* on the telly the other night and I'm guessing the BBC are even more desperate than usual. I reckon I could come up with something similar in my lunchbreak.

So here it is, coming soon to a once-great national broadcasting corporation near you:

SWINEHERD.

He's a tough, uncompromising, crimebusting pig farmer pursued by the demons from a tortured past. He hates his boss, his boss hates him. He doesn't play by the rules. He drives a quirky car (I'm thinking Series One Land Rover). Only one woman can tame him. . . and so on and so forth.

All I need now are some plots, more characters and casting, as well as what the tortured past is.

Any ideas? (If that doesn't see the comments dry up, nothing will)

* You can catch up with Bonekickers - a "drama" about tough, uncompromising archaeologists (!!!) - on BBC's iPlayer. I recommend you don't.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Happy stuff

Listening to: Dog Train (The Levellers)
Hoping for: sunshine in Shropshire

Mrs Sort-of Pig Farmer and father-in-law Ray are away in Shropshire for today's wedding of her nephew Tom to the lovely Shelley. I would have gone, but the pigs get airsick.

Tom is a smashing lad and son to my great pals Martin and Kathy (who joined me surfing with the seals here last autumn and usually give me a bed on trips south).

Unusually, the groom's dad is making a speech, so Mart has been sweating over a hot keyboard with the Bumper Book of Wedding Jokes at hand.

He somehow found time to send me this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4n--IXg6HY

Thanks Mart. . . and love and good luck to Tom and Shelley. Keep Mrs SPF away from the tequila. We don't want another Workington incident.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Author! Author?

Listening to: Cookie Jar (Jack Johnson)
Anyone know: how to mend a toilet flush thingy?
Weather: bright and breezy

A quick reading recommendation (prompted by a recent comment by 123...123's Ziggi). Scenes From A Smallholding by Chas Griffin is a great read and not just for smallholders/crofters/allotment holders.

Chas and his family bought a smallholding in Wales in the early 1990s and have had all the pitfalls we've found and many more. It's funny, sensible and when friends (who have more faith in my writing ability than I do) suggest I write a book, I point them in Chas's direction. Buy it, read it, then read the sequel More Scenes From A Smallholding.

Chas doesn't really understand pigs, so he'd be no help with our latest problem. We tried to put Molly outside again yesterday, into the nice paddock with Kim.

She wasn't having any of it, turning and running as soon as Kim emerged. We tried encouragement, bribery, force - nothing worked. So she's back in her pen in the pigshed and we need that space. I tried to put the two gilts Little Kim and Sock in with her, but she became very aggressive.

So I'm back to gradually integrating the boys. Kim's Deedee and Tommy are in with Molly's Briggsy and Padraig, while Kim's other two boys Johnny and Joey will join them in a day or two. Then we'll look to getting them all outside - after all, it's proving to be a lovely summer.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Pipe

Listening to: Altamont (Echo and the Bunnymen)
Elbow is: throbbing
Popping: painkillers like Smarties
Now: the end of my finger has swelled up
I'm not: a hypochondriac really

It's nice to have things you can do as a couple - helps keep a marriage strong, I believe.

Mrs Sort-of Pig Farmer was towering above me. I was in a trench, covered in mud from the waist down and water was seeping into my boot.

"Can you see where the problem is yet?"

That's the trouble with a private water supply - lovely and romantic, but you've got to fix it yourself if it goes wrong.

Marcus was topping the bottom field (cutting the grass to tidy up and stop weeds spreading) the other day and damn nearly got his tractor stuck on a marshy patch between the pump house and the main road, right above the pipe that supplies the house.

We had a chat and, true to form, Marcus got to the heart of the problem within a couple of minutes, swiftly digging a hole to expose the pipe and a suspicious looking joint. All we had to do was mend it.

I spent the best part of two hours trying to deal with it. The pipe wasn't fixed properly to the joint and the two sections didn't seem long enough to allow it to be fixed properly. I pulled, pushed, wiggled, jiggled and swore loudly.

Mrs SPF came down to help.

"There are two joints there and the bit inbetween is about an inch short. Just unscrew it all and replace it."

"Oh yeah."

We found some black pipe around the back of the barn, I cut a bit off, unscrewed everything, put it back together with the new piece, switched the pump back on and watched as water gushed out everywhere.

Bugger.

I got back in the trench, fumbled around in the two-foot deep water and managed, eventually, to detach everything again. The new pipe was too big. We didn't have any of the right diameter so it was back to the old piece and more of the aforementioned pulling, pushing etc.

Eventually, with a lot of patience, we emerged damp, muddy and smug at having managed to fix something ourselves.

There's a big difference in the water pressure too, especially in the caravan where father-in-law was nearly blown backwards out of the shower this morning.

And Mrs SPF thinks I'm really clever even though she had all the best ideas. Result.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Hay ride


Listening to: Empty (The Cranberries)
Struggling to get into: Viking, Odinn's Child (Tim Severin)

I'm hanging on for dear life as the small platform on skis I'm standing on bumps across the field. Being a fat bloke with skinny bloke's legs, balance has never been a strong point and now I'm more painfully aware of the fact than usual.

We're getting the hay in. I'm actually dead excited. The place feels like a real farm with a couple of tractors and - for a change - some real farmers about.

Marcus cut the grass a few days earlier, Mike had already been up once to turn it and now it's time to bale it up. Marcus is driving the tractor, pulling a 30-year-old baler with the ex-1976 Winter Olympics sledge thingy on the back.

Richard takes first turn, standing confidently in the manner of Nelson on the quarterdeck - although, with just the one arm, Nelson might have struggled with pulling bales out of the back of the machine and stacking them on the five prongs behind him.

I'm stuck in a sort-of cheerleader role - trying to look useful by gathering up missed clumps of hay and holding the bales steady as the little pyramids are unloaded from the back.

Richard can tell I'm itching to have a turn and hops off at the end of the next row, leaving me to jump aboard the moving platform in the manner of a 1930s western movie hero swinging himself out of the saddle onto the train where the bad guys have the heroine hostage.*

Anyway. . . I'm now fighting forces that are threatening to throw me off, while at the same time trying to grab and stack the bales in the same effortless manner that Richard had shown moments earlier.

It's a hot day and the sweat is running into my eyes by the time we come into the third row. It's not a pretty sight, but I'm managing. I have to get the stacking right first time because once one bale has been stacked, there's another being thrust towards me. Twice I get it wrong and a bale gets stuck under the platform, so I have to shout and wave for Marcus to stop so the now triangular bale can be retrieved.

With the sun glinting off the sea and a stiff southerly breeze, it's brilliant fun and there's nowhere I'd rather be. Even so, it's a relief when, some time later, Richard takes over for the last shift. My arms are aching and my elbow has reminded me it's not at all well.

A couple of hours later we have about 200 bales - not bad for a field that has had no dressing this year. Marcus takes 100 and we stack the rest in the barn, unsure exactly what we're going to do with it.

* In hindsight, I wonder what happened to the horses abandoned in the desert, not to mention several hundred quid's worth of tack.