Two little pigs

Today was an early start – our two pigs, Daisy and Alice, were due at the abattoir. They’re both boys and although my 5 year old daughter had been relieved of her innocence enough to know that those comically oversized backwheels make Alice and Daisy both boys, she didn’t care – she’d decided they were Daisy and Alice.

I’ve written enough about eating meat when I hadn’t for 17 or so years, so I shalln’t repeat previous tediums but even though I don’t get wobbly chinned and wet cheeked about it as I did taking our first pig, Peter, to the abattoir, I still find it difficult. And I’m happy that I do.

Taking them is all about calm. No big noises, nothing out of the ordinary, getting the trailer in place early so they get used to it.

It was just getting light when Trent and I opened the gate of their pen so they could walk up the lowered back of the trailer. Getting them to go in is all about acting like you don’t mind if they get in or not. No tension, a bucket with a little food in, all carrot and no stick. You usually get a few refusals where they get part way in and get nervous of the newness and back out. It can take 1 minute or 3 hours.

They looked, they edged in but they weren’t going all the way in. They lazed around, sitting down flat with their arses towards the trailer. Time was running out – we had to get them there by 8AM – by now it was already 8AM and the abattoir is 30 minutes drive away. With so many animals going through this small family run abattoir, especially at this time of year in the run up to Christmas, if you miss your time it can be hard to find an accommodating slot.

Talking of which, while I was on the phone to the abattoir finding out what time was the latest-latest we could arrive, Daisy had decided he was in the mood for a little luvvin. With Alice lying down he took his chance to go for the piggyback, finding Alice’s rump a perfectly reasonable surface on which to generate a little friction. Evidently Alice afforded Daisy sufficient purchase to deliver a rather relaxing moment. This wasn’t good – it’s normally too much mud on the pig’s skin you need to watch out for when going to the abattoir, not a generous smattering of jizz. Trent and I looked at each other, wondering which of us would have to (ahem) come up with a solution to the problem. Happily, if some what revoltingly, Daisy decided to rid us of that worry by breakfasting on his own expellant, somewhat over-enthusiastically it ought to be said. Alice retained an expression of disinterest (sadly familiar to Trent) throughout.

Daisy sat down by Alice. Alice got up, Daisy followed, and both, after a few last refusals, ambled into the trailer. We shut the door and drove.

Driving to the abattoir is a nervous business, and I’m never chatty while doing it. I’m anxious until they’re dropped off. I’m certain something bad will happen; it never has, but I’m sure it will every time. This time I was nervous about one of the tyres – a bit balder than it might be. There’s also the prospect of having to reverse a Land Rover with a trailer around a bend and into a reasonably tight unloading area in front of a bunch of crusty farmers – which always feels like I’m being asked to parade at a photoshoot wearing only a velour posing pouch.

As usual, almost at the abattoir, I missed the turn and, as usual, I told myself ‘It’s BEFORE the fir tree, not after it’ for next time. As usual, I turned into the pub car park to allow us to turn and head back to the turn off. As I came out of the car park I felt a lurch in the back and noticed the roof of the trailer was lifting a little. I’d slowed at the first lurch and stopped sharpish but it was too late: the roof was properly lifted up. Trent and I exchanged expletives as we rushed out of the car. As we stopped one of the pigs had scuttled out. One of the corners of the roof was fixed to the base with heavy duty cable ties…it seems that the bolt further up that side of the trailer had sheared off and the cable ties had snapped as Daisy and Alice pushed up on the roof. Perhaps Alice had relit Daisy’s fire, maybe it was Alice’s turn for a little executive relief or perhaps they were just arsing around having a bit of last minute amusement. Either way, their combined strength warped the roof enough for Alice to clamber out. Luckily we’d just stopped as she did. I should mention, we were on a busy main road at rush hour.

Alice was lying down in the road. As we got out of the car we both thought she’d hurt her leg as we could see red, but she was perfectly happy – by some fluke there was a single red apple in the road right where she was lying down and it seemed to have grabbed her attention. Trent went to her; I wrestled with the roof trying to stop the other big beast of a pig getting out of a trailer it had every intention of getting out of. Trent stopped the traffic his way, I mine. We looked at each other. We were part relieved – if the roof was going to do this then thank heavens it was when we were driving at 15mph and not 50mph as we were for much of the journey; part befuddlement – what were we going to do now? Open the door to the trailer to try and get Alice back in and Daisy would try to bolt for it, but with traffic heading back both ways for hundreds of yards there wasn’t much time for pondering.

‘What shall we do?’ I asked. ‘Buggered if I know’ came the reply. Looking back, I should’ve just unhitched the trailer and driven off to a cafe, leaving Trent to sort it out….employers prerogative and all that…but I’m too kind for my own good and I spoil my American friend, and so I didn’t.

While we discussed the possibilities, Alice got up and casually ambled to the side of the road, up the pavement and into someone’s front garden. Trent was right with him but when a pig wants to go somewhere and you’re by a main road and that ‘somewhere’ isn’t the main road, you let them go.

A man ran towards us through the stationary traffic. I guessed a commuter, pissed off at being held up by a man holding together a part-dismantled trailer, a Land Rover and an American following an inquisitive pig. Before I had time to wonder whether to puff myself up and try to look mean in the hope that he’d pick on Trent or stand in such a way as to emphasise that I wore glasses and maybe wasn’t likely to trouble 2012’s powerlifting judges in the hope that he’d pick on Trent, it became apparent that he was rushing to help, a bucket of pig feed in his hand, and (I hoped) a sensible idea about what we might do.

Miraculously he’d just left the abattoir and he had a trailer. By now more than a little peckish (she hadn’t eaten her mid-road apple) Alice fairly helpfully almost waltzed into the new trailer, which perhaps indicates that it was Daisy, after all, who was looking for Round Two of love-wrestling in our trailer. Off went Alice to the abattoir in the new trailer, leaving me to drive the Land Rover (cmon, it is my car) and Trent to run along behind, trying to keep the roof on and the ever-lively Daisy from escaping. I tried to drive at 6mph (hazards flashing) but a combination of anxiety to get safely to the abattoir half a mile away and get out of the ever-extending line of traffic behind us meant I crept up once or twice. Trent managed to make his feelings known even through the traffic noise and closed windows. I think he may really have been projecting, angry with himself at his own lack of fitness but I didn’t say anything, you know how touchy some people can be.

We made it. We dropped them off. They trotted out of their trailers as if nothing had happened and happily, due to our lateness, there were no crusty farmers to entertain with my trailer reversing.

We were both hungry. We hit the River Cottage Canteen on the way back for sausage baps (is there no limit to our insensitivity) and coffee. We’d got away with one for sure. It could’ve been much much worse. Breakfasted, we headed back to the car to find a ticket for having parked a trailer in the car park.

Driving back is always the same – the conversation starts, the radio can go on, but by the time I get back to the farm I’ve always forgotten that they’re not here anymore.

While writing this I was listening to Van Morrison – Warm Love, Television – Friction and John Grant – Sigourney Weaver and some even worse stuff.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Having taken our first pigs to the abattoir last week reading this made me smile wryly – using tempting treats to get them in the trailer, anxious clock watching and drive, the worry about reversing a trailer for the first time in front of "you don't want to do it like that" Welsh farmers; all very familiar. I was so ready to get away afterwards that we drove off without doing the forms or paying, meaning my husband had to do two 3 (or was that 8) point turns in the country lane!
    After the tears & soul searching I've decided, like you, that it's right to be upset and the best thing I can now do is give our girls the respect they deserve and enjoy every last little bit. Trotters for tea?!

  • They weren't related to the Tamworth Two were they?

    2 local celebrity pigs who escaped and led a very merry dance across the wilds of Wiltshire a while back. The story even got made into a TV programme at the time.

    It's one of Chippenham's claims to fame 😉

  • Oh dear… I'm snivelling away here for the poor piggies. I know, I know I'm a dreadful meat-eating hypocrite but I'm a soft-hearted meat-eating hypocrite.

  • I am in some pain from laughing too hard (mainly at the pervy pigs) yet ended up sat feeling a bit sad. Funny and poignant. Would almost be the perfect blog post if it werent for the spelling mistakes.

  • Well obviously there aren't any now cos you asked me what they were and then sneakily corrected them (all FIFTEEN of them) just to make me look stoopid…
    So now it is the perfect post. Well done.
    PS apart from 'shalln't', on which we will have to agree to differ…

  • You'll have to agree to disagree with the dictionary too then madam!…http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/shalln%27t

    And I take the slanderous accusation of me correcting spelling mistakes sneakily most offendedly. No-one else mentioned seeing any…maybe you had a few too many Bacardi Breezers at the posh do you went to alst night….?

  • Hey, listen! I'm not here to start a fight! I said I liked it, didnt I? Jeez…
    In the interests of a peaceful life, let's say you're right, it must have been the G&Ts, I imagined it all… *coughs* FIFTEEN! *coughs*

  • I'm sure we're all perfectly happy to let your little error go and say nothing of it again…look, see, I even made an intentional one at the end of the last comment just to make you feel better. You had a late night and a few drinks..and we all know how much you enjoy a Bishop's Finger when you get the chance

  • People are forever listing the unappetising body parts which make up sausages, but I have never before realised that 'a smattering of jizz' could be one of them.

    We are no longer having hot dogs for tea.

  • The expression "crusty farmers" so soon after the tale of Daisy's frottage seems to rather sum up life in your part of Devon.

    I am very bad at reversing trailers: so much so that I have a bad reputation as a hopeless girly round here because I tend to shamelessly give up and ask whatever windswept farmer who is hanging around to do it for me. Shameless, embarrassing but quicker and simpler than a 22-point turn and accidentally removing a wing mirror.

    So pleased that Lia is monitoring your spelling: if I might join in the general criticism(for your own good,of course) and point out that, as an award winning photographer, it is a bit shabby to publish the same apple tree shot twice in three posts.
    And, while I am at it, you are wearing the same shirt in Arabella's picture of your RC Lecture as you wore at Malvern.Your wardrobe people have taken their eye off the ball.

    I could go on…..

  • I believe I may have mentioned this before, but please tell me your memoirs will be entitled "It should't happen to a climate change farmer" ?

  • Dawn – I'm sorry to have put you off your tea, honest

    JAS – I just did that as I knew you loved that picture/shirt so much

    Simon – They will, running on BBC1 at 7pm on wintery evenings, the nation living my every move

    CW – You should you know…pack in messing about with those other Two Men who Went to Mow and get yrself down here