I was out of bed at cock crow, and after a quick coffee i set off to muck out the pigs. I gathered my wheelbarrow and loaded it with shovels and brushes, and a bucket of milk and leftovers (the porcine equivalent of a three course banquet) and trundled along the moss dappled path to the piggery, breathing in the fresh morning scent of damp earth , and watching the first fiery rays of the sun shining brilliant red through the dark slumbering outline of whitmore coppice. Such enchanting scenes always fill me with an irrepressible sense of joie de vivre, and i stood for a moment or two, gazing at the wreaths of mists rising from the fields, listening to the chorus of bird song, and relishing the solitude.
The rest of the village was still asleep; i was entirely alone. I sighed happily and carried on my journey. Euphoria was short lived however. Rounding the corner to the pig sty, i gasped in horror, to behold an empty pen. Porgy and Bess had escaped!
I clambered over the fence and rushed into the spacious brick outhouse which comprises their living quarters. It was deserted. Closer inspection confirmed my suspicion that they had managed to wriggle through an opening in the back wall. It was a surprisingly small space and must have required considerable time and effort to squeeze themselves through. A small pile of dung lay on the floor in such a position as to suggest that Porgy, the fatter of the two, had become wedged in the gap and remained there for some time, stuck fast like a cork in a bottle, until managing to work herself free.
I glanced around in a state of panic. Where to start looking? Bulbarrow hill lay in the distance, its ridge shrouded in mist. Could they have possibly got that far? I didn't think so.
I faced east towards Sturminster, and had a surreal vision of them trotting into the Co-OP to buy the Sunday Papers.
I turned again and looked across the village. A wisp of smoke was curling from the chimney of the In-Laws cottage next door. Feeling giddy with horror, i rushed to the garden fence, bracing myself for a wreckage of uprooted shrubs, ransacked borders and an erstwhile immaculate lawn, pitted with snout shaped holes and strewn with pig poo.
My knees wobbled with relief to discover that everything looked normal in their garden; and there was nothing to suggest that the fugitives had paid a visit.
l retraced my steps and climbed the fence into the apple orchard. I was debating whether to call the Police, when i heard the umistakable sound of porcine grunting. The mist parted, to reveal the pigs. They were standing less than five yards away, rocking rhythymically back and forth as they scratched their hairy pink sides against the trunk of an apple tree. They grinned broadly when they caught sight of me and came belting over to say hello, wedging their fat faces into the feed bucket and slurping noisily as they guzzled the warm milky slops.
I heard a low whinny, and the muffled thud of approaching hoof beats. Tilly and Billy came bustling around the corner to investigate. Bestowed with remarkably social dispositions, Porgy and Bess stopped stuffing their faces and ran towards them to make friends. Billy, who had never seen a pig before in his life, snorted in horror, before turning tail and bolting out of sight.
Roused from his twilight sleep by the oinking, grunting and neighing, Bandit, Jasper's deviant Spaniel, appeared through the gloaming, beaming like the village idiot.
Pigs are his fetish - he finds them unbearably arousing, so the sight of them skipping and slurping prompted an instantaneous erection. He skilfully dodged the bucket that i hurled at him, before attempting to resume his debauched efforts of the previous Sunday, ( before he was interrupted by the Colonel's wife).
By the time i had restrained Bandit, secured Porgy and Bess, and tracked down Billy (who had leapt the paddock fence in a pig induced panic), Lily was calling me from her nursery and my nieces had arrived to make chocolate brownies for the Village Bring and Buy Sale that afternoon.
And i still hadn't cleaned the pigs out....