One of my mother’s sayings is, ”the power of self-deception is endless”. How right she is. In my mind’s eye, I am an elegant, under control businesswoman and mother. In reality, I am a chaotically dressed, overly busy woman who just manages to avoid daily disasters by the skin of her teeth. If push comes to shove, I can manage to morph into a reasonably collected version of myself but I am much happier, truth be told, to stick on yesterday’s jeans and rejoice in the muddy kisses that my pigs plant on my legs.
That is not to say that I don’t appreciate sartorial elegance. I do. There is nothing more glorious, to my mind, than a really elegant woman out and about. Snout and Crackling encountered not just one such woman this morning but her two daughters as well.
The pigs’ sty currently resembles a peat bog and so their eagerness to get to the solid grass of Ravenscourt Park means that we go to the park at a brisk trot, tails swinging and snouts forward with enthusiasm. On a Sunday mornings the park is generally empty save for the odd dog walker and a few tired looking parents with insomniac babies. But this morning, the Garigues joined us. Laurent and his wife Alex run a renowned fabric business, supplying exceptional materials to world famous designers. And me. For years, Laurent and I have talked fabric and then eventually tiring of warp, weft and weave, have chatted about other things. Like animals. Would Laurent like to come to Ravenscourt Park one weekend with his family and meet Snout and Crackling? Tentatively he thought he might and I, with my overwhelming enthusiasm to introduce my pigs to everybody, embraced his interest as a done deal.
So this morning I was standing near the duck pond while Snout and Crackling meandered around when, on looking up, I spied the Garigue family approaching across the wet grass. It’s a truism that French women are born chic: there was Alex in a beautiful black coat, with a blue-black fur around her neck, looking fabulous. Not to worry though: I had managed to put on clean pants and brush my hair, so was more than holding my own in a very English female type of way. Bella and Tara, initially a little wary of Snout and Crackling (and quite right too – one’s first encounter with 70 kilos of pig should always be wary), quickly befriended them and Bella produced a bag of carrots by way of introduction. Tara, clad in leather trousers, her flowing locks bouncing around her face, stood holding Crackling gently on his lead and looking for all the world like this was part of her daily routine.
Taking a carrot out of Bella’s bag, I made Snout sit down and once his furry bottom was lowered onto the grass, released the carrot into his mouth. Bella had a go. “Sit”, she said, in a sweet way. Snout stood defiantly in front of her, bottom very definitely not lowering into position. “Command him”, I encouraged, “rather than ask him”. “Sit”, said Bella in a slightly more forthright tone. Snout tilted his jaw up in a jaunty way and started to foam very slightly at the mouth. “Speak to him like your mother speaks to you when she’s fairly fed up with you and wants you to do what she is asking you to do”, I suggested. “Sit”, said Bella fiercely and Snout’s back legs began to fold.
Tara and Bella have unusual pets as well: two tortoises called Torty and Tortilla. Naturally. As we stood in the park, Laurent explained how at this time of year, Torty and Tortilla hibernate and the safest way to allow them to hibernate successfully is to keep them in your fridge. This avoids their waking up if the temperature increases and making their adrenalin rise. Too much adrenalin coursing around a tortoise’s body during hibernation can be fatal. I was glad to learn this about tortoises. When Snowy next gazes with despair at our garden and laments the way that the pigs have taken over such a swathe of our home, I can point out that at least they’re outside and not nestled in between the sausages and milk on the second shelf down of our fridge.
By the time we were ready to leave the park, Bella and Tara were well into the swing of pig walking. Snout and Crackling were hoisted towards the gates and Laurent helped his daughters when the pigs stalled. Snout and Crackling don’t walk in an orderly way. Instead they rush and then saunter and then run and then stop dead. Just when Laurent and Tara had a good rhythm going with Crackling and Bella had coaxed Snout to keep pace, the pigs crisscrossed one another and went in different directions. Their new handlers had to limbo under leads and whirl around one another as if doing a slightly lunatic maypole dance. But we made it to the Goldhawk Road whereupon Crackling went into reverse.
Crackle has developed a phobia of the South side of the pedestrian crossing on the Goldhawk Road but only when crossing from South to North. If approaching the crossing from the other direction, he trots across without a murmur. I’ve done everything to try and help him over his phobia: I’ve approached the crossing from different angles; taken him off the pavement; kept him on the pavement; waved apples; spoken sweetly to him; spoken severely to him. Nothing works. So as the pedestrian crossing went green in our favour, Snout launched himself into the road and Crackling yelled and pulled backwards. Fortunately for me, Laurent saved the day and with a suavity that only a Frenchman could manage, conducted my ginger pig across the busy thoroughfare while I crouched down and hugged his scared brother. As the pedestrian lights turned in our favour once more, I was able to hurry Crackling across the road and together we all jogged down our street and home to the safety of the peat bog.
I can see that Crackling and I are going to have to spend some quality time together at that particular crossing in order to try and overcome the fear factor of The Kerb but for now, they are both tucked up in their ark and my pig psychotherapy will have to wait for another day.