Thursday, 30 April 2009

We're all going to die. . . apparently

I've been a pig "farmer" for less than two years and so far there's been a foot and mouth outbreak, a Government report claiming that bacon gives you cancer and now we're all about to fall down with swine flu.

A pretty good record, I feel.

Despite the fact that my favourite London-based Broadcasting Corporation has filled its useless, useless, bloody useless "news" channel with wall-to-wall doom, I'm not going to be rushing out for face masks for the pigs or throwing an exclusion zone around Kim's pig hut - anyone foolish enough to get that close deserves everything they get.

I'm glad the government is stocking up on flu treatment - any country that spends gazillions on Trident and on fighting pointless, unwinnable wars should be prepared to spare a few bob to protect its people from disease.

Here on the "farm" we have introduced several emergency measures. We will not be eating chilli for the duration of the emergency. The Herb Alpert records have been wrapped and placed in a sealed chamber. We will sterilise the lime before stuffing it into the neck of our bottle of Sol. Anyone wearing a sombrero will be politely turned away at the gate.

That should see us safe.

Flu-free pigs

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Who put the oink. . .?

Pigs do not go "oink".

Cows could be said to go "moo", cats certainly "miaow", dogs kind of "woof", sheep have been known to "baa" - usually before falling over and dying.

But pigs do NOT go "oink" - at least, not in my experience.

Kim, our senior sow, would rather have her toenails removed than go "oink" like some silly pink cartoon character. It's a matter of pride, after all.

When Kim gives out, it's best to imagine a didgeridoo played by a particularly large gorilla. She's been doing it a lot lately.


My favourite pig is recently returned from a visit to The Boss, the pedigree Saddleback boar on Mainland Orkney. Kim really doesn't like travelling. At the age of five, she's more a cosy bed, big dinner and quiet stroll around the paddock kind of girl.

She's certainly not a load-up-in-the-trailer, drive-to-ferry, bumpy-crossing, drive-to-another-farm kind of girl.

We pulled up in the queue for the ferry at Rapness, the trailer rocking and bouncing as Kim gave it the full Rolf Harris. As I loaded up on the boat, people were starting to look.

It was a lively crossing, especially as the Earl Sigurd negotiated Westray Firth where the waters rush and swell to the south of Westray and Eday. I peered out at the trailer which was wobbling despite being lashed to the deck.

By the time we arrived at destination, her ladyship was looking a bit green about the gills and certainly not "in the mood". I'm told it was separate beds for the first three days.

Return journey last weekend was quieter, at least on the sea, although the trailer trembled each time a recumbent Kim let out a low growl.

She's home now in the pen next to Molly and the piglets and will go out into the bottom field at the weekend. Once again I'm treating myself to a few quiet evening moments leaning on the wall enjoying her company, much in the style of the Earl of Emsworth and the Empress of Blandings. Simple pleasures.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Mr and Mrs Braveheart

A figure with long hair and the full kilt and regalia loomed up behind us. Just add the claymore and he could easily have been on the run from Butcher Cumberland and his jolly redcoats.

"Are you the man with the pigs?"

I'm getting used to being known almost exclusively for owning pigs, but I can't help feeling it's hardly the way for the groom to address one of the guests in church moments before kick-off with the bride warming up in the tunnel and the vicar checking for the red and yellow cards.

Resisting the temptation to ask if he knew Mel Gibson, I confirmed that I was indeed the owner of the pigs, offered hasty congratulations and settled in to watch the action.

Despite not having met the couple in question before, we had a smashing time. Mrs Pig "Farmer" sang hymns with a remarkably straight face for a confirmed atheist then went on a five-hour RealAleathon, sinking (by my reckoning) seven pints as she drank the Pig "Farmer" under the table.

Bill and Diana turned out to be fine folk and we hope to see them in Westray sooner rather than later.

The whole event brought a little bit of Scotland to Orkney and reminded me that I've never worked out why of all the countries in northern Europe to say an emphatic 'no' to the trousers, did it have to be just about the wettest, windiest and most midge-infested?

No wonder they lost at Culloden.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Red wine day

"I'm sorry, I'm quite drunk. It's Saturday and Saturday is red wine day."

It's not the usual greeting when arriving at a bed and breakfast at 10.30 on a Saturday morning.

Still, red wine is good for the soul, beats cancer, makes you incredibly attractive to women and ever so amusing, so who am I to argue? The wee fella who appeared to be in charge was clearly on fine form - flying, in fact - and proceeded to show us up four flights of stairs to our room.

"Oh, you haven't brought your bags up and you'll have to climb those stairs again, is that all right?" he gabbled, then showed us how the heater worked three times, asked us if we had any special requests for breakfast ("I can do all sorts of special things." I bet.) before stumbling down the hall. Mr and Mrs Pig "Farmer" waiting 30 seconds before rolling around on the floor, clutching aching sides.

It's promising to be an unusual day all round. We're off to a wedding in Kirkwall this afternoon. We were invited despite never having met or even spoken to the couple in question.

Diana and Bill who live over on Flotta - one of Orkney's south isles - are the couple in question. I "know" Diana because she writes the Puffincentral blog* and we've exchanged comments. It was great to be asked along and once Mrs Pig "Farmer" heard there was a bar, a buffet and a band a herd of panic-stricken wildebeest wouldn't have kept us away.

Anyway, good luck to Diane and Bill. We'll see you at St Olaf's later and I promise to keep Mrs P"F" away from the gin.

* When I say she writes the blog, she posts only when there's a Q in the month.