Snout and Crackling are growing. Still piglets in age, they resemble giant hogs in size and visitors are incredulous when I say that they’re only 1 ½ year’s old. “They’re enormous!” people cry. “They’re small”, I reply. And indeed, for pigs, they are diminutive. When I worked on a pig farm, the two biggest boars, Hiroshima and Napoleon, came up to my shoulder and I’m a respectable 5’8”. So Snout and Crackling bobbing around at my mid thigh certainly are quite pint-sized.
Maybe it’s because pigs are normally slaughtered before they’re even six months old, that people aren’t used to seeing a fully-grown adult. I am not surprised or worried by Snout and Crackling’s size. They are both similar to their parents, Shaun and Mandy and are in good condition: shiny coats, bright eyes and insatiable appetites. The fact that their harnesses have only about a quarter of an inch left to be let out, concerns me slightly but as these are dog harnesses, I know that at some point soon, I shall have to stop being a cheapskate and invest in a couple of leather pig harnesses. Idly, I wonder about what colour leather will be available so as to push the thought of the expense to the back of my mind.
But I have more important things on my mind, where my pigs are concerned: I long for them to learn to play football. They are now adept at turning circles and sitting when asked. They walk, albeit at a slightly unpredictable pace and answer to their names. But what fun it would be, to play football with them in the park. When Woozle was a puppy, she would join in with every game of footie that we chanced upon. Woo would dribble the ball the length of the pitch, weaving round all the two-legged players and when push came to shove, she would just clamp her jaws around the ball and lift if off the grass.
A pig’s snout is perfectly formed to push a ball and both Snout and Crackling have an amazing turn of speed. With a spot of training, I can’t help feeling that they could give David Beckham a run for his money. If you throw a feed ball into their sty, they chase it with alacrity, stopping only to collect the pignuts that leak out of the holes. When football is substituted for feed ball however, my pigs’ interest wanes: no food and it’s game over.
Instead, we pursue jogging as a form of sport. This is a chaotic affair, which involves me being pulled at speed towards Ravenscourt Park when it’s time for a walk: Think “It’s My Life”, Tampax Compak advert with headstrong pigs towing harassed woman in tracksuit covered in mud through urban minefield and you’ll sort of get the idea.
Snout and Crackling trot across the pedestrian crossing and as we come into Ravenscourt Square the tempo quickens. One of Snout’s favourite moves is to circle on the spot and then buck. Crackling will then complement his brother’s manoeuvre by veering off to the right and I’m left splayed out across the road as if tied to a latter-day rack. By now the park gates are in sight and Snout’s hindquarters are rotating like Road Runner’s. At this point, with a clear road ahead of us and mindful that there is nobody trying to enter or exit the park, I unclip both leads and watch the pigs as they bolt with enthusiasm towards the grass. Once inside, Snout will often run in increasing circles with happiness while Crackling almost always slows to an instant halt and starts to eat.
However last week, Snout took his sporting prowess to a new level when he inadvertently tackled a ten-year old boy playing rugby with his father. With the coast clear, I let both pigs off the lead and as usual they rushed into the park with enthusiasm. Snouty was so excited to be free that he galloped towards this poor lad and swept him off his feet. Surprised at meeting such an obstacle, he stopped dead, looked slightly confused and then started to eat the grass without a care in the world. As this scene played out in front of me, I accelerated from 0-60, rushing towards the erstwhile rugby player who was now lying prone on the ground. Fortunately, I know from having a nine-year old son, that boys of this age generally bounce and this poor child was just incredibly surprised at having been felled by a large, ginger pig. His father, rather than threatening me with legal action for allowing my pig to tackle his son, found the whole scene hilarious and reveled in the fact that his boy had been knocked over by a pig. “Your mother will never believe me”, he said repeatedly to his son as if almost hoping for a replay.
Mortified, I put Snouty back on his lead and towed him towards John Humphrys, who together with his son, had witnessed the whole unfortunate incident. I cannot pretend to a deep and meaningful friendship with John but we banter when I drop off bags of pig poo for his plants or bump into each other in the park. I’m sure that I am not alone in the world, when I say that I try hard not to split my infinitives when talking to John Humphrys. But today, I am so out of kilter by my pig’s antics that coherent sentences are replaced by idiotic gabbling. I look fearfully at John’s son who is nonchalantly tossing a rugby ball in the air and lead my pig in the opposite direction, my eye firmly back on the ball, so to speak.
Over supper that evening, Snowy and I consider the different options for porcine entertainment. My enthusiasm for ball sports has waned and I am now in favour of getting them an old tyre to hurl around their sty. There’s a Kwik-Fit just down the road from us and I think that tomorrow I shall see if they can spare a tyre or inner tube for Snout and Crackling to play with.