Goodness! It looks like the end is nigh for dear old Porker. Nicola shares her thoughts…

The Hog Blog – February 2008, part 1

The Hog Blog - February 2008, part 1 

Bitterly cold with a strong easterly wind, but the sun is shining and there’s a frost on the mud, so not claggy, but sparkling. I meet Tom in the field, he’s already reversed his Landrover and trailor up to the gate and is asking me which pig? I point to Porker, feeling like Judas except I didn’t get the 30 pieces of silver. No, I had to pay much more than that for this particular act of treachery. Porker, as usual, is at the front of the queue so it’s easy to open the gate and let her out and start shutting it on Mabel. The new little ones escape too, though, and rush up the straw-ridden trailer ramp as if they are just sooo excited about a trip to the slaughter house. Tom puts them back in the pen and Porker is alone. He loads up the ear tag thing and advances up the ramp to insert it. I walk away and look over the fence, dreading the moment I will hear her scream. How unfair to have to have this shock and pain and then go to the abattoir with nothing nice happening in between. I resolve to tag the next one at least two weeks before slaughter and then give him treats in between so he’s forgotten all about the ear when the trailer time comes. A pineapple I am thinking, or some kiwi fruit, their favourites. No scream comes at all. Tom comes down the ramp and says he dropped the tag at the last moment because she moved her head. He loads up another. I think maybe 50 wasn’t enough? Second attempt resoundingly successful judging by the terrific noise. Pigs are the most dramatic creatures on earth. They should all be on the stage. If you don’t believe me pick up a piglet, gently and kindly, and they’ll make the sort of noise that is only heard during the last few minutes of a Jacobean tragedy when all on stage are tortured and killed and there’s a lot of fake blood.

Nevertheless the sound produces fear in me. The same sort of fear one feels when holding out your precious baby to the surgery nurse for a jab. I immediately give her an apple to cheer her up. She eats it happily. Good.

Off we go then in the Landrover to Frome. Cross country – through Chew Stoke and over hills and down dales. Sun bright and low, flickering through hedges, blinding round bends. And Tom talks. We chatter about family, animals, bloody paperwork, how things have changed. I’m getting old: I enjoy it.

Nicola

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As promised last week here is a new set of sample pages from Go Slow England that have not previously been available anywhere else. So I hope you enjoy the Angel Inn in Yorkshire and remember that all previous sample pages can be found here.

Also, for those of you in London don’t forget Alastair’s appearance at Standfords next Tuesday. Click here for more details.

Cheers, Thomas

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Angel Inn 

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It’s time for another Hog Blog and I think you will agree that it’s starting to get a bit dramatic!

Cheers, Thomas

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The Hog Blog – January 2008, part 2

The Hog Blog - January 2008, part 2 

Rang abattoir in Nailsea today. Porker has only four weeks or so left to go. I need to hire a trailer and also get her an ear tag or slap-mark of some description. Not sure how to go about it, but I phone the North Somerset council man and he tells me which company to order them from. He is also, he says, coming to inspect me in February. Blimey. Order ear-piercer and tags with my herd number stamped on them over the internet and they arrive in the post. Fifty ear tags minimum order. Oh well, I shan’t have to order again in a hurry.

I have a mad two weeks trying to get out of going to the Nailsea abattoir (I hear gossip from Steve the butcher at the farm shop that a mate of his sent some rare-breed pigs to Bakers and didn’t think he got his own pigs back; and there were bits missing that he had specifically asked for). But I’m worried about not having any alternative. People keep telling me about nod-and-a-wink travelling folk who come with a small gun and do it in the field. On research, they don’t appear to exist, or only do it secretly.

Steve says there’s another abattoir in Frome which is smaller and less commercial and gives me the number of a mate who knows them. The mate recommends them and I worry about the fact that it is 27 miles away rather than eight. My address book, which used to be filled with city numbers, is now criss-crossed with numbers for trailer hire folk, ark builders, mates of mates who shoot pigs in fields on the sly, farmers and hedge trimmers, oh and abattoirs. Weird. It is make my mind up time. Every time I look at Porker I feel like a traitor.

Later that month…
Time up. I opt for the Frome abattoir. But how to get her there? Ring Pete the hedge trimmer as he is a Long Ashton local. He tells me to ring Tom James who keeps cows in the field below me. Tom is brilliant and agrees to help (for £60!) We talk pig on the phone and I like him. He meets me in the field the next day and we check to see he can get his trailer in and every question I ask (there are many) he answers patiently and kindly.

Nicola

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I’m posting later in the day than usual as all of us in the Sawday’s office were attending a drumming workshop this morning – yes, you read that right.

Anyway, in case you missed it our April newsletter wend out this morning and it can be read on line by clicking here.

Meanwhile, one our readers, Barbara from Surrey, has sent in the below photo that was taken from her window during yesterday’s snow downfall. Barbara writes:

We live by the River Mole and River Ember that both join the River Thames just yards away. Each year a pair of swans bring their new cygnets to visit us most days and they don’t seem at all afraid of the fast flowing water of the weir.

It sounds rather delightful doesn’t it? Barbara also tells me that the area has been invaded by green parakeets that some consider interesting and beautiful while others feel they are a nuisance. It sounds like a debate is brewing!

Cheers, Thomas

Surrey in the snow

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Sorry about not posting yesterday! I’ll make it up to you by uploading some more sample pages next weeks (ones that haven’t appeared anywhere else hopefully). In the meantime I’ve got a few bits of info for you today:

Rude Health offer
Our friends at Rude Health have a generous on-pack offer for Go Slow England that will hit the shelves next week and appear in 5000 Riverford veg boxes.

Rude Health offer

April newsletter
We’re sending out the Alastair Sawday Publishing April newsletter next Monday. These newsletters are monthly and contain information about all the Sawday’s books, featured properties, special offers and any other bits of information that we think may be of interest to you. The theme of our April newsletter is Paris Hotels in the Springtime and it will contain a code to purchase our Paris Hotel book for half price.

If you don’t already receive our newsletter then you can first register on our website (quick, safe and free) and then request to be on the newsletter mailing list by clicking here.

2008 catalogue
Our new catalogue has arrived! It contains all the infomation for available and upcoming titles in 2008 so click here to view it online or right click the and select “Download Linked File” (Mac) or “Save Target As…” (PC) here to download.

Cheers, Thomas

Alastair Sawday Publishing 2008 catalogue

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It’s time for another instalment of Nicola’s Hog Blog! (Nicola’s the editor of our British Bed & Breakfast and British Bed & Breakfast for Garden Lovers books you know).

Cheers, Thomas

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The Hog Blog – January 2008, part 1

The Hog Blog - January 2008, part 1 

I collect two little Berkshire boys from the farm, one to be Mabel’s husband in the summer, one for the table. Elvis (the breeder) has a quiff, and Trotter is a bit friendly. He already knows what sex is about because he keeps trying it on with Elvis, who wriggles away. They seem much smaller than the girls when they arrived, and less robust. Just taken away from Mum they view the girls as something bigger with nipples and so rush about them madly trying to get cosy. The girls behave like teenagers who have just discovered their little brother in their bedroom, going through their things. They charge into the ark as one and use their snouts to hurl the boys up into the air and out into the cold. But they don’t care! They rush back in again, sometimes between the baffled girls’ legs and just snuggle in the straw with each other. I suspect their own mother has treated them thus for a few weeks, bored with the constant breastfeeding. Can’t say I blame her. This circus continues until nightfall and I have to leave – worrying about the murderous, jealous look in Mabel’s eyes and Porker’s strong snout. Could they kill the boys?

I get home, cook supper, sit on the sofa and worry. Then I borrow a torch and drive back to the field to creep up on them and make sure that Mabel and Porker are not lying in their cosy bed, with Elvis and Trotter shivering outside. Instead I find them all asleep. Mabel and Porker curled up in a huge heap on one side of the ark, Elvis and Trotter entwined in a tiny heap at the other end. In between them is a pig-made hillock of straw.
These are the boundaries then, as well-defined as a long-married couple who sleep in the same bed but manage never to touch each other.

Over the next few days there is one bitten ear. Victim Trotter; biter unknown. Other than that, and a few shrieks at feedtime when the boys are roughly pushed aside to eat at the edges, there is little trouble. All is calm.

Nicola

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Hi everybody and I hope you were all able to grab the Go Slow England supplement in The Guardian and/or The Observer over the weekend. We’ve been inundated with orders for the book so it’s wonderful to know that so many people are keen to discover the delights of Going Slow.

We’re also naturally thrilled to have received this amount of press coverage and credit must go to Kat, who looks after all of our PR. She does seem to sleep 20 hours a day but still does a extraordinary job getting the word out about our books. We though you would enjoy this photo of her reviewing her work.

kat.jpg

(OK, that was a lame gag but I completely forgot today was April Fool’s and this was the best I could come up at the last minute. Our PR person is actually a human named Sarah, she is extraordinary and she only sleeps about 18 hours a day.)

Cheers, Thomas

PS Thanks to Viv Cripps for sending in the brilliant photo!

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