Saturday, 26 February 2011

Having Issues with the Disco

It was spitting with rain, but after a while it stopped doing that and started raining properly. I pulled into the verge and began setting the Land Rover for bad weather, which involved hanging a bucket from the rear view mirror to catch some of the rain that leaked inside the car, and replacing the fuse for the windscreen wipers that had developed a habit of switching themselves on whenever they felt like it.

Then I set off again. Very slowly. The suspension had given up behaving itself and gone flop. Not all of it, the front was still okay, but the bum of the car was now only about an inch off the ground so driving it felt like I was doing a wheelie.

Pootling along at 15 miles an hour, I couldn’t help thinking evil thoughts about Auto-Slaughter, and GBH; Grievous Banger Harm. It was all I could do to stop myself from pulling over, grabbing a branch and giving the thing a Basil Fawlty thrashing, or driving a stake through its heart.

Vampire, that’s what it was. It sucked blood. Some cars are nice, and some are just downright nasty, and this one was wicked to the core. The radio hadn’t worked since the day we got it, the heated seat would only work on the hottest days of summer and was so pleased with itself it would ignore all attempts to turn it off, and the electric windows would only go down, not up.

Fill it up with diesel and you empty Kuwait.

I pootled on.

The windscreen had cracked in the snow, a big split from one side to the other. Vampire car—where was the heart of a car anyway? The engine? Probably. That’s where I’d drive the stake. Hammer it in, all the way in, in the… the… well under the bonnet in the big metaly bit. I’m not great with mechanics.

Didn’t Stephen King write about a possessed car? Christine, I think it was called. My lump of Land Rover certainly wouldn’t have a girl’s name. There was nothing pretty about this Disco.

I pootled on.

At one point I had a string of cars and vans and lorries behind me. Along a straight bit I hugged the side and let them all pass, ignoring all the irritated hand gestures.

The thing is I need a big 4x4. I need something that will go off road and onto my land, something that will tow the animals about. I guess as much as the Land Rover hates me, I hadn’t exactly been kind to it. It hadn’t had an easy life.

Still, I felt no sympathy.

It’s amazing how bouncy it gets without suspension. Hit a pebble any bigger than a marble and the whole thing shudders as though it’s driving over its own private earthquake. But worse, much, much worse, is when it hits a pot-hole.

I hit a pot-hole just at the moment a Police car overtook me. I’m pretty sure it’s not an offence to drive a knackered car, albeit a legal one, slowly to a garage, but it’s still a worry. They went past slowly and I tried hard to look relaxed, like I do this every day. Then two things happened simultaneously, I lifted my hand in friendly acknowledgement, and hit a pot-hole.

I rattled about that much I could have lost fillings. The Police continued up the road, probably too busy laughing to bother pulling me over.

Cursing the vampire car, I pootled on.

Making the garage in record slow time, I pulled in.

“Well, I’m not certain what’s wrong with it,” I stammered, unable to meet the mechanic’s eye, “but I don’t think it’s serious. Just needs a bit of TLC, and it’s such a good car, never lets me down.”

Friday, 11 February 2011

The General is home!

I threw down the tailgate and announced, “Give it up and go nuts everyone, the General is back!” The General ignored me and so did all the rest of the pigs. He made his way out of the trailer and stepped into his old pen for the first time in more than a month, sniffed the air and ignoring the pigs and food in the middle set off on a reccy around the perimeter fencing.

Meanwhile I’d gone from a fine rendition of, The General’s Back in Town by Thin Lizzy to Robbie Williams Let Me Entertain You, mashing it up with some Wurzles I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester. I was pleased to see him back if no one else was. I wanted them all to go mad but pigs can be very conservative at times. Unlike me.

Having lost my glasses the week before and now using an old pair with an old prescription that severely limited my eyesight, I was confident nobody was around to see me acting a fool, working on the ancient rule of if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

Just as I reached the chorus, fifty stone of handsomeness sauntered along the last few feet of the perimeter and stopped in front of me. Truth is, I’d really missed him. He’s my mate and I’m his. While he was away I’d missed not being able to talk to him, not having someone with whom I could share how I was feeling and gossip about what was going on.

I guess we all need a confident and I felt comfortable with the General as mine. I stopped singing and larking about and went quiet. For ages we just stood next to each other. I put my hand on his shoulder and leant against him and he leant back. Then he wandered off.

He walked over to the group. It was dinnertime and they were tucking into pig nuts and barging one another about, which is normal. I try and limit competition for food by spreading it as wide as I can, but even so they’ll still congregate and argue over the same bit even though they’re surrounded by goodies.

The General didn’t bother eating. He just bumped into all of the pigs one by one in a kind of greeting, the way we might shake hands or hug.

Bump: Hey, General, you’re back!

Bump: Good to see you man, what’s happening?

Bump: Do you mind, I’m trying to eat my dinn—Oh, it’s you! How you doing General?

Pigs only have seven audible sounds with which they communicate, and they’re reserved for the big emotions, fear, food, sex, etc. Behind that, all the subtlety of conversation is conducted in body language. Pigs are masters of body language. Of course it’s all interpretation, but when you watch them communicate amongst themselves it’s laugh out loud funny.

I don’t know if he was seeking out Whinny, whom before he went off was his special girlfriend, or if she was seeking out him. But they found themselves together. She turned her back on him and he nudged her bum. She ignored him. He nudged harder. She still ignored him. When he went to walk off, she turned and charged and bit him on the shoulder. Hard.

He immediately went into full love seduction mode and she went, oh no, no, no, no, no! And bit him again. Then she started squealing and running away while looking back over her shoulder at him, and he lumbered after her. We were all pleased to see him home.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Shep & Jo BBC Radio Devon

How is it possible to love doing something that makes you so nervous?

I’ve been lucky enough to get a regular spot on the radio talking about self sufficiency and giving fun tips. Yesterday was my first show.

I was on at five past four in the afternoon, so I started prepping for it about 10 hours earlier. I sussed out what I wanted to say and then paced the length of a marathon up and down my lounge as I rehearsed and rehearsed it. I desperately wanted it to come across as fun and interesting and witty, and I sounded great… right up until I went live.

The produce phoned me up and put me through to Shep and Jo, the presenters. We had a quick chat while some music was playing, and then they introduced me.

It’s like your brain splits in two. One half is concentrating on what you’re saying while the other half is kind of commentating, saying things like, ‘you’re live on the radio man, don’t mess this up… Oh! What did you go and say that for!... Don’t sound nervous, don’t sound nervous, DON’T SOUND NERVOUS! Ow, you’re sounding nervous…’

It’s really weird.

Shep and Jo are just so nice and so good at what they do. You don’t realise how clever and how much work goes into making the show sound so effortless and smooth until you’re part of it and get a tiny glimpse behind the scenes. I know with the writing, which is more of what I’m used to, to make it sound easy is actually really hard, and they do it brilliantly.

So next time I’m on will be the 1st March. I loved being on yesterday, really loved it and I can’t wait to do it again, and next time I won’t be so nervous!

Shep and Jo are on every weekday afternoon on BBC Radio Devon 103.4fm / 95.7fm and dab. Even if you don’t live in Devon, give them a listen.

I’m on the BBC iplayer for the next few days at

Right, this media tart is off to muck out some pig poo. It’s a charmed life I lead.