Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lesson No7, pay more attention!

‘I have three different lipsticks,’ Debbie told my mother. ‘A daytime one, an evening one and a fun one.’

With mother down from London for a week, there were a lot of conversations about make-up, moisturiser, eyeliner and now lipsticks, and I was learning a lot – not about make-up, but about my wife. I didn’t know she had three different colours, and I certainly never knew about a fun one! With my mother distracted, I looked a question at Debbie.

‘What?’ she mouthed.

I didn’t bother to reply quietly, ‘I never knew you had three different colours?’

The seconds that followed were some of those horrible moments in a relationship where time gets sticky and slows down. I watched her shoulders sag and her eyes close in an exaggerated blink. When they opened, the look she gave me was utter disappointment. She wanted to scream at me for not recognising and I wanted to explain that it wasn’t my fault because … um, because … oh dear. Instead we both looked at my mother and smiled.

‘Come on, let’s go and move these pigs,’ I said.

We needed two vehicles down on the land, and I would like to have engineered it so Debbie and I rode together and we could clear the air, but unless my mother could drive the quad bike down on her own, that was never going to happen.

In fact she rode on the bike with me and my dog Dex, who had taken the opportunity to dab a little perfume on some intimate spots by rolling in something unmentionable in the top field.

‘Don’t worry,’ I announced, gunning the engine into life with mother gripping on to my t-shirt for dear life, ‘as soon as we start moving the smell will go.’

Doris and Whinny are the best of friends. Two sows who have spent their entire lives together. Now they are both pregnant and due in just over a week. Time to bring them in for a spot of pampering.

With Dex well out of scent range, I parked mother to one side and hitched the stock-box on the back of the bike and drove down to the pig area. The trick was how to get the two pregnant sows in the back and not all the others. And I wanted to show off.

With devil-may-care, I leaped the gate and landed in the thick of a scrum of pigs with nothing more to protect me than a bucket of feed, a stern voice and a very pointy finger. I walked some feet away and poured feed on the floor, before rattling the bucket quietly next to Doris and Whinny hoping they would take the hint. They did, and followed me back up the ramp of the trailer.

‘That was easy,’ mother said.

‘You didn’t get bitten this time dear?’ Debbie said. ‘What a shame.’

The birthing area is an open fronted field shelter with gates and fencing making two snug quarters side by side so the pigs can see, touch and hear one another. Doris and Whinny walked in either side like a dream.

I wasn’t until we went to bed that I finally got Debbie alone. ‘It came out wrong,’ I explained. ‘Of course I know you have three lipsticks. I was just surprised at the fun one, that’s all.’

‘Yeah? Name them.’


‘If you know all about them, what colours are they?

‘Ah, you think I don’t know. Well I do. Lipsticks don’t come in colours, they come in numbers. Your three shades are slight variations on the same colour, so they all have the same number.’

‘Which is?’

I started grinning at how clever I was. ‘No7.’

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