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Champion Berkshire boar

Great-Aunt Augusta was thrilled: she placed the photograph of her namesake

in its silver frame on her bedside table, beside her bottle of Dewlap Gin for the

Discerning Grandmother.

She had always meant to write to the company to protest that elderly maiden

aunts also appreciated the tipple, but she was too pre-occupied in imbibing its

mellow liquefaction to bother with the correctness of its appellation.

She didn’t mind at all that Murgatroyd had named his new porker after her.

Like the ninth Earl of Emsworth, Lord Clarence, Syylk had just taken charge of

a wonderful Berkshire sow, or it had taken charge of him.  Owing to some

marked physiognomical resemblances and similar traits of flightiness, he had

awarded his summer guest the accolade and honour of having her Christian

name bestowed on the worthy animal.  And, having no natural offspring of her

own, she anticipated the birth of piglets with as much eagerness as she looked

forward to Happy Hour at Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry.

Augustus Snodbury, her adopted nephew, was less impressed.  In fact, he

considered it an impertinence.  He expressed as much to Virginia, the School

Secretary and his daughter in the new canteen-style, Hugo Frondly-

Whittingsty’s informal eatery.

Virginia had persuaded father and daughter to come out on a Friday evening

as the interminable term was leaching their zest for life.

Drusilla was tucking into some parsnip shavings and multi-coloured beets;

Gus was demolishing some moist roast gammon.

Dad!  You’ll never guess what?!

Gus continued to trough and grunted like a pig in clover, or Timothy Spall

in a Margate boarding house.

He knew she would tell him anyway.

Timothy Spall Cannes 2014.jpg

You know Murgatroyd’s sow…?

Augusta? replied Virginia, though no one had addressed her.

Gus threw her a warning look- the one he utilised for The

Lower School and which had caused some chitterlings as they

were called to blub, or wet their shorts.

Virginia was made of sterner stuff.  She was interested in all

varieties of husbandry.

Yes, answered Dru.  Except that the vet came round yesterday

and re-sexed it.  So, you know what I’m going to say…?!

Don’t! spluttered Gus, choking on a morsel of rind.  He was

outraged at the thought of the name being transferred into its

masculine form.

It won’t be having piglings bland, or even piglets Blandings,

continued Dru.  It has a pizzle.  Wonderful Thomas Hardy word

that!  Anyway, they’re calling him The Emperor instead, with a nod

to P G Wodehouse, or Beethoven.  Great-Aunt will be disappointed,

but a few gins should dull her disappointment.

It should have been a Middle White if they were referring to the

latest tv series, Virginia added.  Then, as a non-sequitur, she

said meditatively,  Pigs can be very intelligent, you know.  A neighbour

of mine once had a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied variety and we used to keep

our veggie peelings in a swill bin for it.

She tried to avert her gaze from Gus’ midriff.

They’re probably brighter than some of the young porkers I have in

my Common Entrance group, scowled Gus.  I’d rather have one than

a silly toy dog.  He brightened up.

What are you thinking about, Father?  Dru could tell he was about to

share some porcine anecdote.

Oh, just The Very Rev. Wykeham Beaufort.  He was the School Chaplain

when I was a chitterling myself.  He used to walk through The Cathedral Close

to Evensong with his pet pig on a string.  It used to enjoy a pint of Hogsback

with him after Compline.  Fully House-of-God trained, it was.  Used to lie

continently in the choir stalls, under the misericords, but The Dean

excommunicated it and forbade it entry after one Advent, when it made

itself comfortable in the crib’s straw.  You can see its portrait on its

master’s headstone.

But why is Murgatroyd raising a pig? Virginia asked.

He is building a smoke-house and has consulted with a Master Butcher.

He’s going to produce quality meat products, once his breeding programme

gets under way.

Sausages? Gus perked up considerably.

Yes.  He and Mum intend to take a stall at some Farmers’ Markets.

He’s not so dense after all, approved her father.  Well, who would have

thought it?  Pigs might fly yet!

And he shovelled a forkful of pork scratchings into his capacious mouth.

Next to faggots, sausages were his favourites.

He must take a trip north very soon.