Thursday, 21 January 2010

Cockerel cowardice

OK, I admit it, I'm a big, fat Jessie; a cowardy custard of the deepest shade of yellow.

We have far too many cockerels and a cull is long overdue, but I'm finding all sorts of reasons not to do the deed.

I don't know if it's because I'm soft. It's certainly not because I like them. With the obvious exception of Adam and Jarvis - who both seem secure enough in their status to be relatively easy-going - they are total bastards.

Five of the younger ones are especially deserving of a well-wrung neck. They have teamed up and now go about the place gang-raping any hen unfortunate enough to cross their path. I've got to do something, but I'm finding all sorts of excuses not to.

I've always been scared of chickens, so just picking one up is an achievement. I managed it today. I stood quietly behind him as he pecked at a few grains and quickly lifted him up. I should then have pulled his neck, but he looked at me, I looked at him and put him down.


The piglets are growing fast, just as their mum is shedding weight - lots of it. Poor Molly always struggles when nursing piglets; her backbone is sticking up and she is more grey and white than black and white.

Feeding her reminds me of shovelling coal into the Flying Scotsman at top speed. She's getting between 15 and 20lb of feed a day, but still can't seem to get enough.

The good news for Molly is that I'll wean the piglets as soon as possible - in a couple of weeks when they are six weeks old and she can get some well-deserved rest.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Cabin pressure

"We are currently about 30 miles south of Wick and will soon begin our descent to Kirkwall. The knocking sound you can hear on the fuselage is ice coming off the propellers. The aircraft body there is triple thickness so there is no need to worry, this is perfectly normal."

The pig farmer removed his nose from his book, having been previously oblivious to any knocking sounds, perfectly normal or otherwise.

The descent was on the bumpy side, but no worse than the bus ride from Edinbirgh city centre out to the airport.

The landing, however, was way more interesting. A 40mph south-easterly with 60mph gusts meant we had to swing over West Mainland and head in to the airport over Kirkwall town, the pilot taking us in almost sideways before straightening up only a few feet above the ground.

As a rule, I'm neither a nervous flyer nor a religious man, but there was a brief "if you're up there" moment before wheels made contact with tarmac.

As we left the plane the pilot emerged from the cockpit looking for all the world as if he does this sort of thing every day. . . which I suppose he does.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Pure gold

The bubbles settled to form a precise, quarter-inch head. The rest of the pint was a pale gold with the sparkling clarity of a Highland stream.

I gazed at it for a few seconds, revelling in the anticipation of the drink to come. It was a thing of beauty.

The pig farmer had settled himself down in Edinburgh's Oxford Bar and, it being mid-afternoon, he was one of three customers in the place and the only one sat on a stool in the front bar.

The Oxford is five minutes from Princes Street and has become relatively famous thanks to Ian Rankin's crime novels. It's the favoured watering hole of both Rankin and his fictional DI John Rebus, but trades solely on its excellence as a traditional pub.

I swopped smalltalk on the snow, the absence of tourists (pig farmer excepted) and Hibs' chances of winning their first Scottish Cup in 108 years with the barman before turning back to the pint.

Cool, but not cold, fresh, slightly malty. Deuchars IPA is an ordinary pint made extraordinary when it is served properly.

I love the Oxford Bar.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sleigh bells and sandwiches

Mrs Pig Farmer was off to Edinburgh and she had plans. "We can go out on the Sunday and have a picnic," she said, happily ignoring all relevant weather forecasts.

Oh deary me. Don't you just love an optimist?

Sal is training for a new role at work and that involves three of four sessions of a week or so at Edinburgh University. She travelled down on Monday and I'm joining her on Friday.

It'll be just the thing as I've not been at my best since Hogmanay.

Maybe it's the sight of David Cameron prancing around like he's already in charge without going to the trouble of asking us if it's all right.

Maybe it's the knowledge that I'm never likely to have a sporting year as good as 2009 (Ireland's rugby Grand Slam, Wolves' promotion to the Premier League, Wolves speedway team winning their league, the pig farmer beating his son at pool).

Or maybe it's just lingering disappointment at a 48th consecutive Christmas where I didn't get Scalextric.

So I'm packing my bags - or I will once my freshly-Dazzed undies have stopped steaming on the radiators. At least, I hope that's steam, you know what they say about pants on fire and nobody likes singeing around the gentleman's zone.

Tomorrow I depart on the 8.55am ferry to Kirkwall where my wonky knee (now pretty much numb thanks to Dr Karl's painkillers) will be examined. Once the team of experts from the Mainland have taken the scaffolding down, the day is pretty much my own. I will probably spend it window shopping for power tools. How times have changed.

Assuming I'm not snowed in, I'll be on the Friday lunchtime flight to Edinburgh where The Boy has bought tickets for Saturday's Scottish Cup tie between Hibs and Irvine Meadow, who appear to be a North Ayrshire Sunday League side whose name got into the bag for the draw by accident. Even Hibs can't mess this one up.

Some old mates are escaping from England (snow permitting) for a couple of days of light refreshment in some of Edinburgh's finest tearooms next week, but first I have to get Sunday's trip out of the way.

I'll get the snow shoes and a Thermos.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Phone a friend

It was 9.33pm and the phone rang. The pig farmer muttered something along the lines of "who's this and don't they know I've just opened a beer?"

"Hi Malc, it's Corinne," said Corinne.

"Oh hello, how are you?" replied the pig farmer, trying to remember the last time Sal's niece had rung him and coming up with "never before".

"We're fine. Happy New Year."

"And the same to you. How's little Henry and is your Dad upright yet?" said the pig farmer, settling in for a chat.

"Henry's great and Dad'll be fine once we get him a milky drink and tuck him up in bed. Can you tell me the names of the Ramones?"

"You're in a quiz, right?"


"Johnny, Joey, Deedee and Tommy - although you could also have Marky, Richie, CJ* and Elvis," said the pig farmer, going for the irritating, know-it-all extra bit of information as they do on that loathsome Eggheads show.

That's the trouble with being educated at a very moderate private school. You come out ill-equipped to deal with life's real challenges, but you're a demon in a pub quiz. Still, if it means you can help out family members in their moment of need, fair enough.

* He was the one who didn't get where he is today without wearing leather jackets, sneakers and shouting "Gabba gabba hey!"