Gardening: Pigs will go like stink if you let them

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The Independent Online
I am surprised at the number of acquaintances who are under the impression that they are suffering from clinical depression, considering that being under the weather, most of the time, was thought to be a perfectly normal condition of human existence until quite recently. Personally, I

regard a modicum of gloom as

unavoidable, even desirable, as do most of my friends, who often induce it deliberately by ingesting bottles full of alcohol. Lately, however, the hope appears widespread that new drugs may grant a temporary dispensation, at least. I fear not.

A dear friend has been testing the brand most universally hyped. I asked him how it worked. He had recently booked into a hotel abroad, he said, on the ninth storey or so, and took his customary walk out of the window and along the parapet, gazing down at the street below, in case he felt like committing suicide during the night. 'I take it, then,' said I, 'that the anti-depressant drug does not work very well?'

'On the contrary,' he said, 'it works extremely well. I always go for a walk on the parapet; this was the first time I wasn't petrified.'

He has come off the stuff. Obviously, anything that interferes with vertigo should be avoided. I have trouble myself stepping off a pavement, which probably accounts for the fact that I am still alive. In my experience, the only effective anti-depressants are chocolate, champagne, good- looking women and cheques on the doormat. Of these, the least effective is chocolate.

ONE OF our MEPs, Mark Killilea, has come up with the idea of eating seals instead of merely culling them. I understand that he is a considerable gourmand, but I wonder if he has ever tried eating these animals. Something tells me that that you would need teeth like razor-blades and a digestion like a shark to make a meal of even a small portion of one. I certainly would not care to try it.

Seal-shooting used to be a sport on the western coasts within liv-

ing memory, like crow-shooting, and for the same reason. These animals were considered vermin because they have the impertinence to compete with us at the same level of the food-chain. Crows eat grain and seals eat fish, presently accounting for some 100,000lb a year. I remember them stripping my nets of herring some years ago in Kinsale.

I confess I do not like the creatures. They get by on looks (as Brigitte Bardot, their principal champion, used to), being conceived by those who have never come across them, as cuddly, harmless fellows. In fact, they are unregenerate thieves out for a free meal, and I do not recommend swimming near them; they bite. Also, they have bad breath.

I MISSED the great pig race in the main street at Naas in Co Kildare this week, but so did everyone else. The idea was to let a bunch of piglets loose at one end of the town, bets being placed as to which pig, or pigs, would make it first to the other end. This was to have complemented, for the third time, the National Hunt Festival at Punchestown, which I might say was the Irish equivalent of Cheltenham, were it not for the fact that Cheltenham is itself so largely Irish.

Anyway, the pig race was cancelled, due to intercession of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That was a great disappointment to me, as I reckoned I could scarcely do worse betting on pigs than I do on horses. I have some experience also of dealing with them, having been pressed into service last year to wash one that was kept as a pet by a member of the Guinness family. This entailed catching it first. I may tell you that they can move, those pigs.

The society's objection to pig racing, on the grounds that it would subject the beasts to nervous strain, was tamely upheld and the organisers backed down. When it was pointed out that the pigs in question were otherwise destined immediately for the canning factory, but by covering themselves in glory could obtain indefinite reprieve, the animal- lovers held firm. Very depressing. It is in the nature of a pig to run like blazes when it gets the opportunity. It is not in the nature of pigs to volunteer for the abattoir.

At Punchestown I had the usual difficulty gaining admittance to various enclosures, having been given the wrong tassels and wrist- bands to wear. Finding my way eventually into the principal hospitality tent, I discovered Finnegan in fine form. By the judicious garnering of tips from experts whose company I had been denied while the security guards established that I was not an impostor or a hunt saboteur, she had made a fair pile of money. Frigid Countess had let me down badly and so had Fifth Symphony, but Mary had struck lucky with Oh So Grumpy.

'Why that particular animal?' I snarled.

'Can't you guess?' she smiled sweetly.