Life can so easily feel aimless. You work, you get tired, you work, you get tired. Of course, crazy loons in camouflage gear liven things up a bit, but as we waited in eager anticipation for the piglet race, it felt like we had purpose. Real definite purpose.
To celebrate our daughter's first birthday we treated her to a "petting" farm visit. Aside from the usual collection of sheep, hens, cows, disappointed-looking horses and melancholic donkeys, twice a day the farm runs a piglet race.
The race was set in a field where two winding fences formed the racetrack. A simple track with nothing even remotely close to a chicane, but I decided to let them off. The crowd was heaving, the excitement immeasurable. I myself was sceptical, expecting nothing more than a desultory pack of small pigs to amble round the track, skirmish occasionally and perhaps snort a little.
The piglets were held in a small wooden shed at the start of the track. We could hear them squealing, but there seemed to be a delay in starting the race. The crowd quietened, a tad impatient I think. Suddenly a horrific screeching sound echoed across the venue. A female donkey galloped past in the neighbouring field, screeching wildly as she was chased by a male. He cornered her, mounted her, and the two of them staggered about like a gruesome two-headed donkey goblin from hell. The crowd moved away from the racetrack to watch. "Are they playing?" I heard one small boy ask his father.
The farm staff sprang into action. You could sense their frustration, all the effort they go through to organise a piglet race and they lose their crowd to a couple of horny donkeys. One girl attempted to whip the crowd into a frenzy with a megaphone, another moved amongst us carrying a board displaying piglet names. "Who would you bet on?" she asked. I was torn between Frankie De Snorter and Curly Sue. "Curly Sue", I said firmly.
The race itself was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. Sure, there were skirmishes, and the little critters squealed rather than snorted, but what could be better than watching six squealing piglets sprint round a field to the ecstatic chanting of small children? Boy did they go fast, you would think they were being chased by a butcher, a baker and a sandwich-maker.
The baby wasn't bothered, scrambling about on the grass, the perfect example of self-immersed indifference. No Sweetheart, that's a cigarette butt, cigarette butts are not for babies. No Sweetheart, that's a discarded pistachio shell, pistachio shells are not for babies.
Of course, Frankie De Snorter won the race and as we left the donkeys were still romping in the field. The whole piglet business got me thinking. In an ideal world we would replace the measurement of horsepower with pigletpower. A Formula One engine, for example, might be said to have 50000 Pp - the power of 50000 piglets.