Friday, 5 June 2015

Pig Tales

Times are hard and the pushers of the EU project are determined to paint on thick the harder times they want us to believe lie on the outside of the barbed wire Euro-fence. If all goes according to plan and we end up leaving we might need to tighten our belts a little, or forego the easy access to exotic ingredients to sate our appetite for world cuisine, although I very much doubt it. But such musings reminded me of the time when I lived in a rural idyll as a much younger man and Britain was more or less self-sufficient for food..

It was summer time and the strawberry-picking season in full swing; good money was to be had for those willing to get on their knees and shuffle through the rows collecting the ‘red gold’. We were a regular annual crew and for a few short weeks it was like a strawberry Klondike as we earned around twice an average labourer’s wage just because we had nimble young fingers and joints that had yet to develop a worrying creak. At breaks we would wander around the farmyard, curiously poking our noses at strange sights and smells. And one of the smelliest sights was old Jasper, the farm boar.

He was a happy pig, Jasper, feasting on household scraps and at this time of year, as many overripe strawberries as he could handle. He was gregarious, too, joyfully accepting a pat on the back or a tickle of his ears. But one year something had changed. As he trotted across his pen to greet us nobody could fail to notice the cause of his new, noisy and clumsy gait. Jasper had a wooden leg! We watched, open-mouthed, as he clip-clopped around on the cobbles and sought out the farmer to find out what had happened.

The farmer seemed eager to tell. “Let me tell you about that pig,” he said, “that pig is like a member of the family, he is. When moi daughter was around three years old she fell in the duck pond, yonder. Without a moment’s ‘esitation, that brave porcoine ‘ero plunged straight in, swam over and rescued her. Without that pig I dread to think what moight ‘ave ‘appened. We owe ‘er loife to that porker, we do.”

“But what happened to the leg?” we chorused. The farmer silenced us with a raised hand and continued. “And then,” he said “a few years back, the old barn set on fire.” We looked at the blackened ruin which had been a feature of the farm ever since we’d been picking here. “Jethro, moi boy, was in there, forking ‘ay. Well, ‘e was overcome by the fumes, but this pig see, ‘e didn’t stop to ruminate. Oh no, ‘e were straight in there and ‘e dragged Jethro out by his belt and saved ‘is loife!” He had a tear in his eye as he recounted that fateful day and we allowed a respectfully silent moment to pass. But eventually we could wait no longer.

He went wheelie, wheelie, wheelie, all the way home!
This little piggy went to market...

“But what about the leg?” we asked, exasperated. The farmer fixed us with a baleful eye, berating us for our brazen impatience. With a steady tone he carefully explained, “When you’ve got a hero of a pig like that. When you have a magnificent, life-saving beast like that…” We waited as the farmer took a breath to complete his oration “… well, you ain’t gonna eat ‘im all at once, are you?”

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