And so I settle down to my new life as a Legally Empowered Farmer who is also a Dress Designer in the Fulham Road and Snout and Crackling settle down to their new life in the wildness of our garden that has been untouched for decades. Every morning, I feed the pigs, clear up dung, chat to them and scratch them behind the ears and on the tummy. It quickly becomes clear that if you scratch them just behind their forelegs, they flump down onto the grass and expose a large expanse of stomach to be tickled. Tickling done, I then put the baby and the dog onto my bicycle and, leaving behind my rural idyll, join the queues of traffic on the Fulham Palace Road.
The girls that work for me are most understanding about my love of pigs. They have been instructed to let me know the second that, god forbid, they smell any scent of pig on me, as this would be most detrimental for business. And they answer the door to pig food deliveries, and pig toy deliveries and every type of medical instrument and solution that one might need to care for ones pigs, making sure that all these porcine necessities are kept out of reach of our valuable dress fabrics and out of sight of our valuable clients.
I read recently that in Japan it has become fashionable to rent pets in the workplace so that over-stressed employees can stroke these imported dogs and cats and calm down. Certainly, retreating to the pig ark at the end of the day and sitting with my pigs allows me to exorcise some of the angst that builds up during the day as I deal with brides-to-be and their mothers. I sit in the dusk with my back against the wall and Snout lies down the length of my legs with Crackling parking himself on top of his brother’s head. The combined weight is considerable but for the moment my legs can withstand it and we sit in contented silence that is broken by the occasional snort.
Our green garden is becoming browner and muddier by the day under the noses of the pigs and after the first month, I shut the door to their pig ark and open the other end. Although initially slightly bewildered, they quickly launch themselves into their new lush, wild area and happily displace and eat everything in sight. Still no mention of my having pigs has been made by our neighbours. It must be blindingly apparent that I am keeping two pigs in our garden because as well as my shouting “Good pig, good pig” and “Bad pig, bad pig” at them at regular intervals, they also yell for food at least twice a day. But slowly, slowly they become a subject of conversation and there seems to be a tacit acceptance of their existence. They don’t smell or inconvenience anybody and several people have expressed an interest in pig manure for their gardens: time to start learning how to compost. Other people may make friends with their neighbours by inviting them in for coffee but I shall be presenting the finest pig-based compost by way of extending the hand of friendship.
Friends come over to squidge a pig and the more relaxed ones lie in the ark with them, which smells sweetly of straw. At weekends, I try to put harnesses onto Snout and Crackling, with limited success, to get them used to them so that we can then progress to walking one of our prescribed routes. I can tell that this is going to be challenging on many levels. Firstly, pigs aren’t like dogs: they don’t welcome a lead and walk forwards on command. They scream at the harness unless you give them food. So you give them food and get the harness on. But then they scream if you attempt to dislodge them from the food and come in your direction. Pigs don’t really walk forwards; they amble from potential rooting area to potential rooting area. I think that I may have to rig up some contraption where I have a piece of apple at the end of a stick that I can wave in front of them to urge them forwards. Dear Heavens! What a drama it’s all going to be. Trying to urge two pigs across the Goldhawk Road with a stick with a piece of apple suspended from it in front of them. However my walking license still hasn’t arrived and so for the moment, we are confined to the boundaries of my urban farmland.