Alex James: Happy as a pig in a good pair of wellies

Rural Notebook

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A pair of good wellies confers invincibility on the wearer, a feeling beyond anything Savile Row can muster. There were some serious cobwebs adorning the hay bales in the pigsty: vast dripping complexes, all strange geometry and secrets. It was hard to tell if there would be one very large spider in the middle, or a million little ones.

The world of the spider intrigued me, suddenly and I felt I could happily spend a lifetime investigating its mysteries, but as usual there was no time to dwell – the vet was coming, and I wanted to make sure everything was tickety-boo in the pig department.

The wellies of fearlessness worked their gentle magic, and I felt wonderfully connected with the world standing in pig muck, up to my arms in huge cobwebs. The bales are like big packets of shredded wheat, and explode pleasingly when you cut the twine, into a comfortable, sweet-scented carpet.

I was throwing straw and spiders around, the pig was galloping up and down with glee, a curl in her tail, tossing clumps in the air with her snout and singing gently when the vet arrived, emanating the benevolent stillness that people who spend their lives dealing with animals all seem to develop. He persuaded the pig and me to calm down without so much as a word. We had to change the tag in the pig's ear, quite a simple job, but one that seemed to end up involving all hands present. Pigs attract people, the same way that spiders repel us, and everybody wanted to get involved. Pretty soon, everything else had ground to a halt and all kinds of people were waving apples and chasing her, grown men falling over in the straw giggling. One snip and it was done.

"Does she look all right, other than her ear?" I asked the vet.

"She's a fine pig," he said. My heart filled with pride. She certainly is.

A is for apple

A pig will do anything for an apple - even an unripe one. The vet was very taken with our braeburns, which are as big as grapefruit. There's so much more to say about real apples than the boring ones in the shops. There's still about two weeks to run until the apple festivities, but enterprising children are already selling them along the A-roads. It's well worth stopping. Pigs are never wrong, you know.

The miracle of life

Our daughter arrived last Thursday, 8lb 3oz. I've been gazing at her, as one does. A tiny toad hopped inside yesterday and as I held it in my palm on my way to the pond for lost frogs, all the miraculous quick glimmer of a new life was there in my hand. Frogs and princesses: they're more similar than I thought.

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