I have a recurring dream, in which we are entrants at our local Agricultural Show - it is a beautiful Summer day, and Lily, (wearing a Stockman's coat and flat hat) solemnly parades her prize pig around the main ring, before tottering out to rapturous applause, brandishing a big, shiny Gold Cup...
One day, in an unguarded moment, I mentioned my Grand Plan to Jasper. The fact that he didn't even glance up from his newspaper is testimony to how many ponderous whims and fancies I assail him with on a regular basis.
He chuckled slightly, shook his head and muttered "Don't be a silly bunny."
I bristled, slightly affronted by his dismissive response.
"And why is it "silly", might I ask?" I replied sulkily.
"You can't just keep animals for the hell of it you know. You're not Dr Doolittle."
"It IS almost my Birthday. Can I have a couple of lambs?" I said in a wheedling voice.
He put his paper down and looked at me sternly.
"And what are you going to DO with these lambs? You can't just keep them until they die of old age you know. They don't stay lamb size forever. They turn into great, ignorant woolly sheep with horrid maggotty bottoms! It's all very well to pull that face, but it won't be you who has to deal with the maggotty bottoms; it will be muggins here."
I opened my mouth to protest, but Jasper shook his head.
"Look out there! What do you see?"
I looked into the garden at the two enormous geese strutting round the front lawn like a pair of bouncers.
I hung my head sheepishly.
"You smuggled those things in by stealth manouevre, and you fibbed about killing them. You never had any intention of fattening them up for Christmas! You just wanted them to waddle about looking decorative."
"I thought they were sweet." I said in a small voice.
"Ha! I'm glad you're using the past tense. They were sweet twelve months ago. They're not so sweet now are they? They're a pair of over grown, anti social bullies who poo all over the yard, wake us up with their bloody honking, terrorize the poor dogs and attack people."
"Attack is a bit of an exaggeration." I tutted.
Jasper took a deep breath and picked up a letter from the side board. I could see the Royal Mail emblem through the paper. Oh dear, I had forgotten about that...
"Dear Mrs Miller, we regret to inform you that on 15th February 2011, one of our Royal Mail delivery workers was menaced and subsequently attacked by your geese. I have to warn you, that should this happen again, I shall have no alter-"
"Yes, yes. I know what it says." I interrupted hastily.
At that moment, the man who rents the cottage next door pulled into the stable yard and got out of his car. As he leant over into the passenger side to retrieve his shopping bags the geese crept up behind him, heads lowered, hissing menacingly, before simultaneously rushing forward and grappling at his bare white legs with their monstrous beaks. He gave a bellow of fright, dropped his shopping on the floor and staggered to the refuge of his front porch, closely pursued by his attackers.
Jasper looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
"I know, I know!" I sighed.
Later that afternoon, Lily and I wandered down the lane to Ali's house. She and her husband have set up a fabulous small holding, complete with geese, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys, sheep and goats. After we'd had a guided tour, and admired some very smart rare breed partridge, and I had lusted over an enchanting pair of Barber Danvers bantams, Ali announced "And now for the new additions!" and led us round the back of the barn to the old stables.
I looked over the door, and there, nestling in the straw were two beautiful pink and black piglets. They grunted a greeting and stretched luxuriantly. The sun streaming through the windows shone through their pink ears. It looked for all the world as though they were smiling. Lily was enraptured, mouth open as she gazed at them in wonder.
"Look Lily - Piggys" I whispered.
"Piggys!" she repeated in a hushed, reverential tone.
I was overcome by those dreaded, all too familiar sensations - the clammy palms, quickening of the pulse, a pre-mature stab of guilt; the same dizzying symptoms a shopoholic experiences shortly before blowing a months salary on a pair of Jimmy Choos.
The pigs grunted again. I breathed in their pungent Piggy smell and admired their curly tails. Beyond them, spectral-like, rose Jasper's face from the straw, puce with rage.
No, I mustn't.
"......they're great pets too. So friendly. We've got two left in the other barn if you know anyone whose interested."