Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

The cheese world has surprised me. It's an elegant soirée, a heavenly place, a garden of Edam. I spent Christmas wallowing in prototypes and perfect pickles that aren't commercially available. I met Jeremy Bowen, the cheesemonger royal, at one party. "Where is this cheese, then?" was the first thing he asked. I told him I had some really lovely lamb, but it wasn't what he wanted to hear.

The sheep scene doesn't quite have the glamour of the cheese circuit. I made a joke about Slow Food, but Juliet Harbutt, who is supreme adviser to the imperial cheesemonger, was listening. She shook her head and said: "Go and kick Crudge's flaming arse, Alex." I went to kick Crudgie's arse. He was in the cheese factory playing with a little mechanical flying cow that was whizzing round the ceiling. "It's brilliant, isn't it?" he said. "Still, not long now, eh? We might actually have some cheese soon! Ha! Hey, I've been thinking. What's French for blue? Geddit? We should do some blue cheese."

I've been spending more time than I should with the pigs. "I'll just go and check the pigs," I say to myself about 12 times a day. They are very engaging creatures. The quality of contentedness that emanates from a satisfied pig really rubs off. I'll let them run in the woods when it's warmer, but for the winter they're very comfortable in the long stable. They've made a nest in the straw and they snuggle up in the corner.

The man who delivered them said the straw I was using was far too good for pigs. The day after they arrived I got a text message from the farmer I bought them from, saying: "Don't give them names or you won't be able to eat them!" We've settled on "the empresses". I've been trying to get them to play football, which someone told me they enjoy, but they prefer playing with apples. They chase the apples round, nibbling at them. They are both gilts (young sows), and they clop around elegantly. Their dainty knee-lifting gait gives a strong impression of femininity and ballet. The trotter is a similar design to an impossibly high heel; maybe that's what it is.

Since they've arrived, we haven't had to throw any food away. This is making me far happier than it should. Leftover gravy and salad are two of the most redundant things in the universe. There are a lot of mouths to feed here and inevitably food goes to waste. You can't use cooked food for compost. It just hangs around, spoiling the fridge's feng shui.

The snorkers have opened the channels of food flow. They transmogrify the guilt of throwing away 21st-century food into the old-fashioned pleasure of giving. "Ooh, the pigs'll love that," I think. A sack of old yellowing sprouts; yummy!

The pigs are growing at a phenomenal rate. When they arrived a month ago, they weighed less than the twins; now they weigh more than Geronimo, who's two years older. They'll be ready to eat soon, possibly before the cheese. I'll have to have a cheese and swine party.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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