February 2008


It’s Friday so time for…

The Hog Blog – August 2007, part 3

The Hog Blog - August 2007, part 3 

I arrive at 7.30am and they are asleep, curled up next to each other in a tight little ball with a huge wad of straw around them. They get a shock when I poke my head through the ark, so I feel guilty for disturbing them. Must make more noise in future. Spent an hour or so outside with them, trying to take photographs, but it’s pretty hopeless, they’re always on the move or with their snouts in the ground. As soon as I kneel down to get closer to them they rush at me and try to eat my wellies. They are not so unhappy about being handled now, even Mabel allowing us to scratch her sides and her ears.

For the first week I keep them inside the ark unless I’m with them. Alastair, my boss, thinks this cruel but I don’t know how easily they could escape until I’ve watched them for a while and I can see any weak spots in the fencing that need reinforcing.

Jules and Joe are my piggy partners at work. They invested money in the fencing and will help with feeding and looking after in exchange for meat when Porker goes. Jules grew up with pigs and has an unsentimental approach to animals, Joe is an ex-chef. For some reason they think Porker is called Rilette.

Porker is still more affectionate than Mabel and I am growing hugely fond of her which may or may not be a problem eventually. I keep thinking I’ve got my head around the idea of eating her, but the thought of it is one I swerve from.

So here I am now, committed to most of the feeding times myself – with just a bit of help from others now and then. It’s a strange new life getting up far too early, but sleeping has been tricky since they came – I keep dreaming about them. They have taken over my life even at work. Yesterday I let them out at lunch time and instead of putting them away again until I went back in the evening I decided to let them stay out and see what happened. Nothing happened! They were still there and the fencing is, so far, intact. So, their new routine is a joy to them – they run around skittering and sliding all over the place and are so happy to be outside. They love their pig nuts, they adore apples, they both hate green and red peppers. But Porker has started on the watermelon that Andreea and Jan brought them as a football food! Mabel thinks it isn’t food. She really is quite standoffish still, but I love her heavy jowls and fat pants.

The tree surgeon, whose yard I have to cross to get to the pigs, the objector, the pig hater, the chap who doesn’t own the field but thinks he does, has been thumping around this week in a real paddy. I don’t think he can quite believe that the pigs have actually come – even though he objected to it. The other guys at the yard – Alastair and Mike – are lovely. Every morning they pop their heads over the fence and chat and admire. Having my girls here is not ideal. We face the ground-fill tip at one end and the yards at the other, so during the week it is noisy with tractors, saws and booming from the tip. The pigs don’t seem to mind it really, but I do!

The noise usually starts at about eight o’clock, so I try to get up there about seven so we can have a bit of peace together first. It’s a great time and even that view over to Long Ashton and Bristol is green and leafy. The weather has been marvellous this last week, sunny and dry and of course it’s still light for so long. I wonder how the whole thing will feel in the dead of winter? Does one feed them later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon or do you stick to the same times and do it in the dark?

Nicola

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Hi everybody. I’ve got good news and bad news (well sort of bad news). The good news is that this time next week we will be able to start selling copies of Go Slow England from the Alastair Sawday Publishing online bookshop. That’s a full month before its official publication date! Everybody who has pre-registered will be sent their 45% discount codes very soon.

The mildly bad news is that the poll on the best place in England to ‘go slow’ will also end in a week. The leader in the poll is still Ludlow, which as I’ve mentioned before, is not surprising. Cambridge and York are also serious contenders. Many of you have also suggested your own towns and regions (and made me realise how many places I foolishly left off the main list) and Devon & Cornwall and The Lake District are also attracting a very high number of votes. So if your haven’t voted (or want to change your vote) get on to it now!

By the way, this blog will continue after the book is released and I’ll still be adding sample pages, not to mention many further instalments from Nicola’s Hog Blog.

Cheers, Thomas

Vote and pre-register

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Hello everybody and welcome to the next instalment of The Hog Blog, by the editor of Special Places to Stay – British Bed & Breakfast, Nicola Crosse:

The Hog Blog – August 2007, part 2

The Hog Blog - August 2007, part 2

I collected the long-awaited pigs from a farm in Devon and drove back to Bristol as slowly as if I were carrying rare bird eggs in the back. In fact they fell asleep in their straw-covered dog cage and only woke when I stopped. I drove into the hot and sunny field and there were friends and some of my children to welcome us. We took photographs and had champagne – in brilliant sunshine; it was a happy afternoon. Later, when all the fuss was over and it was quiet, I sat in the ark with my youngest daughter Minnie (19) and the two new arrivals. We watched them quietly as they snuffled about, pushing the straw hither and thither, making their snuffly noises and grunts, coming up to sniff our hands now and then, occasionally Porker letting us scratch and stroke him. Mabel a bit stand-offish. But it is a wondrous thing, getting to know your pigs.

We left. I had worries and Minnie (even more neurotic) had big worries. Will they be safe? Could somebody steal them? What if they knocked their water bowl over in the night and then got thirsty?

Needless to say I slept badly – pigmares again. But much more vivid than the vague fear of the unknown before they arrived – now it’s serious. I can’t wait to see them again and leap out of bed by six. They are shy when I open the ark door; like startled lovers they jerk onto their feet, straw hanging from their ears. But breakfast goes down well, including some apples and a few blackberries from the hedgerows. I am so relieved to see them safely through their first night, it increases my confidence. I can do this! I can look after pigs. I go happily home for my own breakfast.

By 10am I am itching to get out to them again. Great that it’s a bank holiday so I have Monday to play with them too. Can’t imagine having to sit back at my desk all day again. Feel like a pig farmer instead of an editor. Minnie, who hasn’t got up early at a weekend for about five years is waiting by the front door wearing wellies. Good grief.

Mabel and Porker had three hours or so out of the ark and in the nursery area. In that time they created a mud pool beside the water trough, their strong little snouts digging up huge clots of earth and hurling it into the air. They are the perfect rotivators and manure comes out the other end. They then started on another dig at the other side of the pen. It will look like a mud scene in weeks, I know. But that is what they like. Locked them in the ark at 1.45 and will return this afternoon at about half past five for a bit more play. They are rather a waste of time I have to say: the house looks neglected, my garden worse. Hey ho.

Nicola

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It’s time for another set of sample pages and the editor of Go Slow England has suggested that I treat you with something from up north. So we’ve chosen a spread on England’s answer to Ronda, Spain – Gallon House in Yorkshire. Enjoy!

Thomas

Gallon House in Yorkshire sample pages

See other sample pages

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Gallon House sample

What a better way to start the week than to post the first instalment of Nicola’s Hog Blog. Last week I posted a link to Nicola’s article “Can you rear a pig without giving up your day job?” from Go Slow England. You can read my original post here and Nicola’s article here but right now I hope you enjoy reading…

The Hog Blog – August 2007, part 1

The Hog Blog - August 2007, part 1

I am like a new parent. My perspective has shifted a tad and all my organs respond. The brain is active with thoughts, the heart exploding with love and the body exhausted with lack of sleep. Bliss. Only instead of a tightly clad bundle of baby, I am staring at two little pigs who are nine weeks old. Berkshires.

Mabel and Porker. Mabel is to keep and breed from, Porker is for fattening up. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them. And at first I couldn’t – but, there are several. Mabel was more expensive (£80 instead of £60) and I can see now that she has a thicker neck and larger jowls, she also has sturdier legs and a fatter bottom. She’s slightly larger than Porker and has more white on her face. She has a big freckle, like a chocolate brown puddle on her snout. Her character is refined, quite graceful, and she is shy, rearing away if you touch her. She loves the water bowl and stands in it with her front legs, dipping her face right under the water.

Porker is smaller, but not much. She has a white splotch on her bottom and a single small freckle right on the top of her snout. She is friendly, with not a hint of shyness, and I think may be a bit naughtier in character. She likes overturning the water bowl. I put a heavy stone in the bowl to secure it and she picked up the heavy stone and hurled it into the straw then overturned the water bowl again. It now has three bricks in it.

They are both robustly noisy, although I haven’t distinguished between their voices yet – perhaps I never will. They have a deep grunt, which mostly they emit when they are eating, or agitated in some way. Sometimes in between the deep grunts there are high almost mouse-like squeaks, and of course the inevitable high-pitched hysteria if you pick them up. I had to catch Porker yesterday who escaped from the ark leaving Mabel distraught – they are deeply attached to one another’s company. I doubt I will be able to pick them up for very long as she was extremely heavy, very wriggly and I was glad to put her back. The ark is huge, hand-built in Staffordshire and was ridiculously expensive – my friend Jackie says it is more like a Barratt starter home than a pig ark. But I can stand up in it so cleaning it out will be easier on my back.

Nicola

(Next instalment on Wednesday!)

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Just in time for the weekend I’ve uploaded another sample page from Go Slow England. Each section of the book begins with a map of the region, a list of recommended ‘slow’ places to visit, slow places to eat and the best pubs. I’ve put up the Pubs & Inns page from the section of the book on Warwickshire, Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire. So if you live in those areas then it’s goods news for you and if not then hop on a train and visit for the weekend. The weather is looking good.

Pubs & Inns in Warwickshire, Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire

Cheers, Thomas

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Hi everybody

I’m rather pleased to announce that I can give 3 April as the official release date for Go Slow England. However in early March I’ll email all the people who pre-registed a special discount code that will allow you to buy Go Slow England from our online bookshop at a discount of 45% (plus p&p). If you haven’t pre-registered yet then you still can here.

In other news (or shameless cross promotion if you prefer) Alastair Sawday Publishing have just released one new title and two new editions from our Special Places to Stay series. If you haven’t discovered our Special Places to Stay series of accommodation guides before then any one of these books will be a terrific place to start. The books probably haven’t hit the bookshops yet but you can buy them online from us now with a 35% discount (plus p&p) by clicking on the links below:

Devon & Cornwall

Italy, edition 5

French Hotels & Châteaux, edition 5

OK, sorry for going all salesman on you there but I figured you’d like to hear about these books as they advocate the slow and eco-travel attitude of Go Slow England (sorry, I’m doing it again.)

Cheers, Thomas

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