Suggestions that jobs might be done have a slow cumulative effect; like water seeping slowly through a dam wall, they slowly wear away at the resistance until the resistance gives way altogether. So it was with tidying the study, which doubles as a den for the family; a room removed from the large, high ceilinged rooms that provide most of the accommodation in the mid -18th Century house. A solid fuel stove was installed in the summer and the room will admittedly be much cosier now that much of the accumulation of books and papers and files and old magazines has been cleared, much of which might have gone straight to recycling bin instead of coming through the letter box.
The sorting of photo albums delayed the process for a while, there were pictures that prompted questions, like the photograph of a small boy feeding a pig. It is the sheer oddness of the photo, that must be from around 1963, that provoked a closer look.
Why would anyone feed a pig from their hand? It is not like giving sugar lumps to a horse. You don’t pat a pig on the muzzle or stroke its mane. Pigs guzzle in an impolite way.
And what was the pig doing in a field of grass? Anyone who watches pigs will know that they tend to turn ground into a bare mudpatch. They eat every piece of vegetation, including is roots; they do not graze in the way that cattle or sheep do, leaving meadows green after they have been moved on. Pigs are the nearest thing the animal kingdom produces to a scorched earth policy; they leave nothing behind.
And why were there piles of branches in the background? Was somewhere being cleared for the building of something? And if it was, why was there a pig there?
The most perplexing question of all was how a small boy came to be in a field feeding a pig in his best coat. There was a time and a place for everything and feeding a pig in a field was neither the time nor the place for the wearing of the best coat. It was behaviour that might bring a stern rebuke.
Looking back in a long retrospect, there are many things that seem as as odd as feeding a pig in your best coat, odd people, odd events, things that passed without question at the time.
Fortunately for the endeavour of clearing up the room, there were no other porcine pastoral scenes – one was enough.