Although I am a firm believer in the beauty and brilliance of pigs, I recognise that my passion is not for everybody. Some people are anxious that pigs may be dirty or smelly (which they’re generally not, by the way. I know a lot of humans who are dirtier and smellier than my pigs) and others worry that they may bite them or charge over and flatten them. Still others object to pigs on religious grounds. I have no problem with any of these views. My view is that pigs are fantastic creatures: clever, opinionated, affectionate and funny. But when a willing convert puts himself in my path, I confess, I will try to proselytise.
To my delight, an old friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen for an age but who lives close by in W12, got in touch to say that he fancied a stroll with Snout and Crackling. And so my piggies had their first encounter with a Muslim. My Mate The Muslim (MMTM) duly appeared at our front door this morning, wrapped up warm against the predicted cold spell (although I suspect he may have been covering himself as much as possible so that Allah couldn’t spot one of his flock out walking with the enemy) and had his first ever close-up encounter with two pigs. He was cautious on meeting them over the fence of their pen, as he hadn’t appreciated how much they had grown since the photo that I had sent to all and sundry early on in Snout and Crackling’s lives. I felt a bit bad about this and so here is a photo of my two-year old daughter standing over “her” two pigs to give an idea as to their current stature.When you see them like this, you can appreciate how taken aback MMTM was as he was expecting something just slightly bigger than a Jack Russell. At a combined weight of 140kg, they are a force, albeit a benign one, to be reckoned with. But with considerable élan, MMTM grasped Crackling’s lead and led him with great gentleness and direction to Wendell Park.
Once in the park, we let both Snout and Crackling wander and munch and sat on a park bench in the sun. MMTM confessed to a secret longing to make a short video of himself and a friend, dressed in burkas out walking with the pigs. Posted on YouTube, he felt it would be an instant worldwide sensation. I feel sure that Allah is all seeing and all knowing and that this impertinence will be noted down and used against MMTM on the Day of Reckoning.
Some children came and took photos of themselves with the pigs, with one little girl instantly making the photo of them into her screen saver. My friend Jess saw a photo of Crackling the other day as somebody’s screen saver on her mobile phone. The schoolfriend was saying “look, here is one of the pigs I saw out walking in Wendell Park” and Jess leaned over and said, “oh yes, Crackling” in an all-knowing way, to the other girl’s surprise. Jess and her brother Tom, are two of Snout and Crackling’s first and best friends as both of them are very animal-minded and Snout and Crackling are very human-minded. They have all been friends since the early days of the pigs arrival in London and I feel that Jess is most certainly allowed a proprietorial interest in images of my pigs.
MMTM and I sat in the sun for a long time, chatting to each other and to dog walkers and people strolling by. The most enormous dog that I think I have ever seen came over to visit. She was a mixture of a Dog de Bordeaux and a Bull Mastiff and towered over Snout. When Snout met Ella the Great Dane, I thought he looked like a dwarf, but standing next to this huge gentle giant of a dog, Snout almost vanished.
Both the Dog de Bordeaux and Snout were relaxed in one another’s company and after a while, because Snout continued on his quest for weeds and grass, the dog became bored and pottered off. MMTM quickly got the hang of the patter that accompanies walking a pig or two. I always knew, before I ever got my pigs, that it was going to be unusual to walk them in a London park. And I recognised, that if you are going to make a spectacle of yourself, you must expect people to talk and ask questions. I therefore never mind answering any questions about Snout and Crackling and although it means that I do say the same things repeatedly, they are new answers to people who are hearing them for the first time. Everybody is unreservedly friendly and supportive of the pigs walking in the park and it seems to me that the quid pro quo of this is that I must be happy to talk about them. Where I work, on the Fulham Road, there is a man who walks past the shop on a regular basis with two gigantic blue and yellow macaws on his shoulders. In the past I have tried to talk to him about them but he has always brushed me aside almost angrily, which is a shame. Animals are great ice-breakers and Snout and Crackling are helping me make lots of new friends.
But back to my old friend who has grasped the answers to most of the questions and can now respond authoritatively to the enquiries. MMTM has overcome his initial queasiness about Snout and Crackling rubbing up against him and whilst he doesn’t lie down beside them like I do (which let’s face it, is quite extreme of me), he happily strokes their fur and is totally relaxed in their company. When it is time to leave, I explain the difficulty in extracting Snout and Crackle from the park. Today I have had the foresight to bring two apples with me and so handing one to MMTM who is coaxing Crackling towards the gate, and waving the other in front of Snout’s nose, we manage a reasonably peaceful extraction.
Back home, MMTM sits and has a fortifying cup of tea and a muffin and feels justifiably proud of being the first Muslim he knows of to have handled and enjoyed handling a pig. Whilst I doubt he will be breaking with all his religious convictions and stuffing down bacon sandwiches, he can see the pleasure to be had in pigs.