I had not realised what characters they are; a most endearing double act with merry, inquisitive natures, a strong sense of humour and considerable charm.
On a nice day, they dig a trench in the warm, deep straw and bask contentedly for hours on end, shifting occasionally in order to stay within the patch of sunlight, which moves gradually across the stable throughout the day.
I am pleasantly surprised by their cleanliness. Whereas horses tend to defecate over every square inch of their bedding, making mucking out a somewhat arduous task, the pigs are very particular about their lavatory area, only using a small corner by the stable door, which makes mucking out a cinch.
When Jasper and Mother-In-Law aren't about, I open the stable door and let them run around in the yard.
After a few brisk circuits (they are surprisingly quick), during which they leap and pirouette for the sheer fun of it, they invariably trot over to the old water trough, which is the porcine equivalent of an Aladdin's cave; rich compost crammed with tulips, amaryllis, daffodils and dozens of other bulbs lurking beneath the surface as they push their burgeoning roots and buds towards the warm spring sun.
One day, they dug up the lot, and i found them grunting gleefully as they frolicked in the wreckage, snouts black with soil as they scooted about in the flower strewn yard. Subsequent attempts to vandalise have thus far been thwarted by a vigilant approach on my part. I never turn my back on them for a second, and any sign of impending annihilation is dealt with swiftly and firmly. (A brisk shove up the bottom with a yard brush normally does the trick.)
All things considered, they are a pleasure to have around, and Lily adores them, which is a bonus.
The weather was so glorious at the weekend that we decided it would be the perfect time to move them into their new abode . There are a row of four, fairly ancient, brick pig pens up by the orchard, the second one of which is in reasonable condition. Jasper constructed the fourth wall from giant straw bales, and sheep wire, effectively creating a spacious outdoor run for them to enjoy in the day time.
I felt quite excited about the prospect of their new pad, which I was sure they would be thrilled with. It's situated in a lovely position, with access to the Orchard, (they're mad about apples), all day sunshine and stunning views across to Bulbarrow Hill.
After Breakfast on Sunday, we went out to the stable. The pigs were sunbathing in the spring sunshine, but grunted amiably at us and ambled over to say hello.
We soon realised that although we had worked out where we were going to move them, we hadn't worked out how we were going to move them. Carrying them any distance was out of the question. Notwithstanding their considerable weight, they take a dim view of being picked up.
We scratched our heads thoughtfully and watched Lily share the remainders of her toast with them. They gobbled the scraps enthusiastically, then grunted lazily and flopped down in the straw.
"We've got two lead ropes. We could lead them there." Jasper suggested.
"I've tried leading them before. They dig their heels in."
"We could just pull them along then."
I raised my eyebrows at him. "Have you ever tried pulling a pig?" i asked dubiously.
"I pulled three at The Cotley Hunt Ball in 1998." he replied.
I tittered despite myself. "Come on, be serious. How are we going to do this?"
"I know what we'll do. I'll back the car up with the boot open, and we can just put them in the back, then drive them up there."
Two minutes later, I was standing in the middle of the stable holding a lead rope. The pigs had backed into a corner and were watching me suspiciously.
"Come on little piggies." I cooed, tip-toeing towards them.
They grunted nervously and huddled together.
" You look as though you're about to pounce on them, that's why they're getting freaked out. Just act like you normally do and they'll feel secure." Jasper said.
"Since when were you The Pig Whisperer?" I enquired.
"I read it in Starting With Pigs." he said smugly.
I reached out to stretch the back of the one closest to me. It jumped as though I had poked it with an electric cattle prod, before shooting off into the opposite corner. I tried the same thing with the other one, with similar results.
I was still tip toeing around the stable, billing and cooing twenty minutes later. The Pigs knew something was afoot, and it was obvious that they weren't going to co-operate. I was getting fed up. I know that patience is a virtue, but it's something i've always been short of. I looked at my watch. The Eastenders Omnibus was on in ten minutes and I didn't want to miss it.
Having got almost close enough to touch one of the pigs, I threw the lead rope coil around its neck. It squealed crossly and plunged about on the end of the make shift lasoo.
"Sssshhh! Steady Piggy!" I said soothingly, to no avail.
Lily was whimpering in confusion. The second pig was rushing back and forward, unsure what to do. I noticed that the rope was sliding off over one of the ears, so i leapt forward and rugby tackled it, yanking the rope back round its neck and attempting to summon enough strength to grab it round it's rotund middle and bundle it into the car.
I had not reckoned on the reaction of a pig on finding itself in a half nelson. It went berserk. It wriggled out from underneath me, screaming blue murder and made for the door. The strength of it pulled me over, and I was dragged on my front through the dirty straw. Lily was screaming hysterically, the other pig was sprinting around the stable in dizzying circles, and Bandit was barking in a frenzy of excitement as he rushed in and out trying frantically to assess the bizarre situation.
"PIGGY!!! PIGGY!!!" screamed Lily as the lassooed Piggy plunged and thrashed and screamed.
"Get Lily out!" i shouted to Jasper. He had his back to me and was shaking violently, shoulders hunched. For a moment I thought he was sobbing, then he turned around and I could see that he was helpless with laughter.
Round and round went the loose piggy, leaping again and again over the taut rope that bound its hapless friend. Bandit zoomed in again, looking as though he were about to spontaneously combust. He darted towards the pig on the rope and nipped its curly tail, whereupon its screeching redoubled to a deafening volume. He sprinted out barking
"Let go of the rope!" Jasper managed to shout when he had stopped laughing long enough.
i managed to stagger to my knees and was cuddling the pig, attempting to soothe it, when Bandit shot in again like an exocet missile for another go. The excitement had proved too much for him; i didn't know he was sporting an enormous erection until, with a lascivious growl, he launched atop the pig and I where he commenced to thrust energetically, his lugubrious face a mixture of wild lust and abject confusion. (The last time i saw this expression, he was fornicating enthusiastically with an ornamental wrought iron pea cock at a friends Garden Party. Our howls of mirth did not diminish his lust. Only after his act had reached its conclusion, did he seem to realise what he had just done. To his credit, he at least had the grace to appear considerably embarrassed for the remainder of the evening...)
"Get your bloody dog out of here!" I shrieked at Jasper.
"EEEEKK!" screamed the Pig, as Bandit slipped sideways and began to jab rhythmically at its hairy sides with his grotesquely engorged member.
There was no shaking him off. He had hold of the neck of my shirt, as he continued to drive away at The Pig, scrabbling frantically to improve his grip, and uttering a lecherous keening, growling noise as he pushed himself towards the brink.
Such was the sordid scene that greeted the Colonel's wife when she peered over the stable door.
"Good morning Jessica!" she boomed.
If she was discomfited by this bestial tableau, she didn't show it.
Her sudden appearance seemed to shake Bandit out of his sexual reverie. After half a dozen half hearted thrusts, he climbed down, and walked off looking the other way.
I stood up, panting slightly, and pulled the straw out of my hair. The Pig stood quietly on the end of the rope looking shell shocked.
"Please, don't let me interrupt you. I can see you're fright-fly busy." she said, with a dead pan expression.
"I just thought id' drop the Parish Mag in on my way past, and i'd be frightfully grateful if you'd organise the Church Flowers next weekend."