Like basking sharks, Snout and Crackling have embraced the warm weather and lie fatly in the sun for hours on end. From the kitchen window, I peer out to see two supine forms with floppy legs and inactive trotters, enslaved to the rays that pour down on them.
I was impressed by Nature’s speed at providing them with thick winter fur when it turned cold. However she does not seem so efficient now that the temperature has risen and I am worried that my pigs will overheat in the sun. Both Snout and Crackling’s coats are as thick as ever, save the areas on the former where he was shaved. As pigs are unable to sweat, they can suffer heat exhaustion quickly and need to be able to seek shelter or cover themselves in mud to cool down. Snowy has bought an army surplus bivouac shelter that he has suspended from next-door’s plum tree and secured to one side of Snout and Crackling’s ark. As the plum blossom drops down into the garden it covers the camouflage pattern and my artistic sensibilities are at peace once more.
We have also decided to import a pig paddling pool from the States. I mean, can one become more barmy than this? But it seems like a good idea to stop them overheating and you can’t just buy them one from ToysRUs because their trotters would puncture the plastic within seconds. The States are far ahead of the UK in terms of pet pig paraphernalia and whilst I shall not be buying them a knitting pattern to make them both jumpers, partly because I cannot knit and mostly because this really is preposterous, we have decided to import a product called Cytra-med together with the pool. Cytra-med is a powder that you mix with their feed to encourage drinking and mindful of James and Ami’s advice to up the pigs’ intake of water, I am focused on getting as much fluid into Snout and Crackling as possible. Of course, like a horse, you can guide a pig to water but you cannot make him drink. Indeed you cannot really make a pig do anything he doesn’t want to do. But if you add a palatable liquid to the water, suddenly the guided pig will drink with gusto. Taking advice from a homeopathic dog-walker in Ravenscourt Park, I experiment with adding cider vinegar to the pigs’ water. My mother used to make me a concoction of cider vinegar and honey when I was feeling under the weather so I know that it is drinkable.
On the first morning of adding the cider vinegar, I pour a small amount in and hover anxiously over both pigs while they sniff the offering suspiciously. Snout then lowers his furry beard into the water bucket and slurps at length. And from that point on, I have added cider vinegar to their water at breakfast and supper. Their trough remains pure water and this is on hand the whole time, refilling automatically every time they drink. But in addition, I place a separate bowl of water beside each pig at mealtimes and this is slightly warmed with the vinegar in it. My brother-in-law watched this procedure yesterday evening and gently remarked that of course, I am quite, quite mad. I know this. But I want my pigs to drink and be merry and if this is what it takes, then so be it. Our weekly shopping list now includes bottles of cider vinegar and in fact, to my delight, the other day whilst food shopping, I found that cider vinegar was on offer. With enthusiasm, I cleared the whole shelf into my trolley and smiled wanly at the cashier as she scanned bottle after bottle of the stuff at the till.
In a similar vein, I buy an enormously large quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables each week. Fortunately I work a few minutes walk from the North End Road market, which I have used for years. I am a keen juicer and so have been buying fruit from Lu and veg from Carol for a long time. But even they must be slightly surprised at the frequency of my visits and my increased spend. Forget the government’s exhortation to eat five pieces of fresh fruit and veg a day. From their point of view, it must look like I eat triple that. I don’t like to say that a lot of it is for my pigs. I think that it might offend them to think that their high quality produce is being fed to pigs. Of course it is also being fed into my husband, daughter, step-children and me and we do consume a lot ourselves but Snout and Crackling’s arrival has definitely changed my buying habits.
Anyway, back to the sun and the sunbathing: Snout has turned quite pink where his fur has been shaved and so I dug out some suntan lotion from the back of the cupboard and advanced upon him. He wasn’t having any of it and ran away. I squirted the lotion into my hand and ran after him, trying to slap it onto the right flank. He snuffed his snout up at my hand and sent the lotion all down my t-shirt and splattering up my arm. So I smelt of sunny summer holidays and my pig was still untouched. I retreated to the shed, fished two yellow plums out of my blue pig bucket, handed one to each pig and in the few seconds that the plums bought me, slapped suntan cream onto both sides of Snout’s stomach. Of course as soon as he felt me massaging the cream into his flanks, he was delighted and wilted onto the ground to put himself in the best position possible for more stroking.
They do love being stroked, my piggies. Crackling is easier to make wilt than Snout. You tickle him directly in between his two front legs and he keels over with a great flump. We’ve discovered that you need to be a little bit careful about where you are when you start trying to make him wilt because if you are sitting on the ground, he is likely to flump onto you and 65kg of pig flumping tends to flatten everything that is underneath him. Snout holds out longer and also needs to be tickled in a slightly different place, deep under his left armpit but he too then keels over at speed.
In the warmth of the evenings, Snowy and I have been sitting out with the pigs until quite late, all four of us lying in the straw with the aroma of suntan lotion still present. Let’s hope this weather stays for months to come.