A Viking in my Dustbin. #81. A PIG OF A DATE.

During the strange limbo period after my separation from my first wife and before becoming totally immersed in animation, I’d decided to re-invented myself, so besides new clothes I tried on a couple of short hot flings.

My fashion muse took the form of ‘creative meshing of the second-hand meets nervous breakdown’ look.
I had the gear. Someone had given me this moth-eaten yet amazing long goatskin coat, not an Afgan, but similar, more exotic, like it had seen action in the desert long ago on the top of a camel. I began to wear it constantly; grew my hair long and bought myself a ‘man-bag’, with a little strap, however it should be said that Headingley, Leeds, in the late nineteen seventies was not quite ready for man-bags. But having decided that if I really was crazy, I might as well enjoy it. It worked.

In this new guise I started getting invited to parties, the sort where singles meet. I met a now grown up twenty something, ‘Janet Beardsley,’ who I’d last seen on the back of the school bus. She must have been about thirteen and I must have been sixteen. I hadn’t given her a second look on the bus, but she’d changed a bit since then. There she was at this party, giggling over Babycham and shooting fluttery glances in my direction.

“I’m Janet”, she said, “do you remember, Girls High School and the 58 bus. I remember you.”

“Yes” I said, “you were just a kid then.”

“Well I’ve grown up” she said, “all over.”

“I noticed.” I said, and that was the wooing bit over.

We spent that night together at my friends’ place and went at it like hammer and tongs, like we were writing an instruction manual.
Then she came over and stayed with me at my digs. It was OK and we continued to have fun, but it almost all physical and a bit shallow, but what the hell, serious stuff I was in no mood for, or capable of after my separation.
As it turned out, the most memorable thing of our fling wasn’t the sex, it was where she lived and with whom.

Home was an old farmhouse near a West Yorkshire village called Bretton.
After a week or two and shagging in unlikely places, like the upstairs back seat of a 58 bus for old times sake, she invited me round for Saturday lunch to have a stay on a farm and to meet the family; her mother and brothers. It sounded like a real treat, not more sex, the treat of a real farmhouse meal with real food as at the time I was existing almost solely on baked beans and starting to turn orange.

The week before the party where I met her, I’d managed to buy myself a second-hand car, the sort that goes with a man-bag, big furry coat, dark glasses and a nervous breakdown. A Lancia Fulvia, a genuine italian sports car, which I’d landed for a surprisingly reasonable price.
It was a lovely shiny dark maroon; the man at the garage told me it had recently had a re-spray. I didn’t ask why. I thought it was really sexy, even if my mates universally put it down as a, “puff hairdressers’ car”. I didn’t care, what did they know?
The reason why I’d got it at the price I had, of course was because it was held together by the paint-job, there wasn’t much else beneath. Being Italian, it had never been rust-proofed. Probably because it didn’t rain as much in Milan as it did in West Yorkshire.

Although it looked great to me, I noticed that after being parked, as I drove away, there was always the outline of the car left in rust on the road. This, correctly I took to be not a good sign.

But my Italian job drove like the wind and purred like a puss on heat, speaking of which it was Saturday and I was off for a weekend down on the farm.
Me and my lady Fulvia, turned off the country lane at a sign which just read, ‘Beardsley’ and on up a rutted lane. I was already salivating at the prospects of a big fat free meal.

The house squatted on the top of a low hill; it was hunched over like a humpback having a bowel movement, for the world it appeared to have grown up and out of the ground eons ago giving the impression that it had been there since God was a lad.
Parking in a muddy patch at the back of the main house, I went round to find the door.

Luckily the sheep dogs were well trained and responded to Janet’s whistle and voice commands! They’d pinned me up against a barn door. In that coat they must have taken me for a goat rather than a guest. But to please her they released their jaws, wagged their tails, stopped barking and growling and danced around us whilst she and I exchanged a hug and a wet kiss.

“Welcome John to Beardsley Farm.” She said as she lifted the latch on the back door."Just one thing, she said “don’t mind the family, or the mess and I’m not sure about that little bag.”

Inside, from the ‘mud room’, an accurate description,what I could see of the house appeared to be animal, vegetable and mineral all at once, it certainly had a strong smell, but of what? I wondered if I’d un-wisely agreed to stay the night at Vampire Cottage. As soon as we were in, Janet wanted to show me the bedroom where I’d be staying, she never wasted time didn’t Janet.

Once up there, after a difficult climb up a dark staircase covered in something I wasn’t sure what but it felt like I was climbing up a pile of bodies, any thoughts that the weekend would be a sex-fest smothered in thick onion gravy, disappeared from both my lips and my loins.
The bedroom, (hardly a room really, because the state of disarray made it hard to tell where the walls or the floor were), was in a much worse state than my own grubby attic. Granted the curtains were drawn which made it difficult to see, but God it was a hell of a mess and smelled of dead air and old sweat. What I could make out in the gloom, were four separate beds, one of which she told me was to be mine for the night. As far as I could tell I’d landed on the set of, ‘Goldilocks meets Ghormenghast’.

Not so much a room, more a laundry depository, everywhere piles of dirty clothes came together as one, forming shadowy shapes and lumps, hills and hummocks; then as I was just getting used to the pong and the laundry, one of the piles moved.

“What’s that?” I said surprised and a little alarmed.
She laughed at how I’d jumped. “That’s Dick, my brother,” she said, “up last night lambing ‘till late, he’s still fast on. That’s my bed the one there with the pink teddy, next to yours, just a grope away. We can push them together.”

“You share this room with your brothers?” I said.

“Yeah, since we were little.”

“You’re not so little now.” I said.

“No and neither are they, but they don’t seem to mind. We’re down to earth here.” She said. Then the pile that moved, farted.

“Dirty sod” she said, “we’ve got a visitor.” The lump farted again, I think by way of a greeting.

“It’s all very Family isn’t it?” I said.

“Yep,” she said, “one big happy family, we’ve been in this house for centuries.” Pausing and looking down to her feet she moved some clothes around. "We think Grandad’s still here somewhere, we lost him about eight years ago, but you never know in this place. He could still turn up, there’s noises in the night that might be him.” She said wistfully. “Come on” taking my hand, “let’s go down and meet mum.”

My eyes were now adjusted to the twilight. I noticed the place had once been decorated in an early dung and daub style, but it wasn’t the ancient décor that struck me, it was the floor and the steps or rather the lack of them, as Coming out of the bedroom we walked on a trail of clothes at least two inches thick, covering the floor entirely and loosely, like an unfixed carpet.
Once outside on the landing, the trail from Janets’ bedroom entangled with two other laundry trails emanating from rooms further down the corridor.

“That used to be mum’s room and that used to be dad’s before they broke up”

(I could tell this was correct as the trail from her mums’ room had corsets and large brassieres in it, whereas the other was mainly made up of vests and socks).

Then, like a glacier made of cloth, the trails came together and began a slow yet relentless descent of the staircase towards the kitchen below.

I hadn’t really noticed the kitchen when we came in; if upstairs was where the fall of dirty laundry began, it was where the outfall met the collected familial detritus of millennia; a stratified history of a family, layers upon layers of it. The central focus, besides the television which was flickering silently in black and white in a corner, being the ancient fireplace with its’ tall crowded mantelpiece complete with shotgun and dark photographs presumably of ancient relatives, some of whom I wondered might also be wandering about.
The atmosphere was warm and thick with a pungent aroma of cooking mixed with crossed olfactory threads that rang bells up my nose. I’m sure I detected in the mix; dead mouse or worse, mildew, cow muck, warm bread, damp clothes and wet dog fur, all mixed with smoke from the fire and the salty aroma of fried bacon.
A surprising cocktail, and one not entirely unpleasant; ‘thickly homely’ might be a good way to put it.

“Sit there in dad’s chair while I go and find mum.” Janet said, pointing to a taller pile close to the fireplace which had shoulders and the muted shapes of arms covered in old knitted blankets and newspapers.

“Won’t he mind?” I said, “ Looks like your great granddad or your dad might be sat there already?”

“Not likely,” she said, “dad ran off to Blackpool, with a fish friers’ wife a long time ago. Could be grandad though, he had that chair before dad. Anyway take the weight off your handbag and relax, I’m going to get mum.”

She went out the back door. I watched as she crossed the farmyard before going into a stone barn across the yard.
I sat.
Beneath me something jumped, yelped and growled all at once. I stood up quicker than I’d sat down.
Two heads, both belonging to Jack Russels, one greyer than the other, poked out from under the papers baring teeth.

“Bloody hell,” I shouted to Janet who’d run back,” I nearly got me bum bit.”

“That’s Maddy and Mitzzy. They’re in the dog house.”


“Well it wasn’t entirely their fault. Dick keeps ferrets, you know to go after rabbits with, and he had three baby ones, which he was hand rearing. He was keeping them warm in a shoe-box in the oven in the range (fireplace), they were only little, poor things. The dogs got interested and must have accidentally shut the door. Fricasseed ferrets was the result! Anyway, here’s Mum, don’t mind what she says, she’s a bit outspoken, especially with men.”

“That why your dad…?”

“Buggered off? Probably, I couldn’t blame him.”

The door opened. A broad sized lady carrying a bucket full of potatoes stood four square in the doorway, in a dark blue housecoat on top of a pinny, she looked like a woman not to be messed with. Above her pinny and her purple turnip face sat a knitted bobble cap in rainbow colours, whilst three feet or so below she was anchored to the threshold of the house by muddy wellington boots.

“This is John mum.” Said Janet sweetly.

“Hello Mrs Beardsley.” I started to get up to shake her hand.

“Don’t bother lad and don’t call me Mrs Beardsley either, that’s just a bad memory.” She said slamming the door behind her, “That your poncy car out in back yard?” I realized she meant my gorgeous stylish and rare Italian sports car, "If you don’t shift it soon it’ll be buried under five ton of beets as soon as Dick gets his arse out of bed.”

“I’ll do it, give me the keys, talk to mum.” Said Janet and popped out again.

“So what’s your game then?” She said, as she pulled out some string bits from her housecoat pockets and arranged them on the smoking fire.

“I make animated cartoons. I’m freelance, I work for myself.”

“Meaning you’re on t’dole.”

“No, I’m not and never have been.” I replied, somewhat offended.

“What, cartoons like on t’telly and Pictures? Can you do that for a job?”

“Yes.” I said hoping I might earn a few brownie points as the television set complete with aerial on top was soundlessly airing an animated commercial.“Like that.” I nodded.

“Like what?” She said pulling her wellies off by the table and rubbing her feet. “Do you like me rings?” She said obtusely.

I looked at her fat red hands and her sausage sized fingers.

“No not that kind of ring, that went long ago, silly bugger, wellie rings!” She dangled her pink hairy legs, each bore a circular chap mark from where her boots rubbed.

“They’re regarded as a sign of beauty and refinement round here.”

“Aren’t they sore.” I asked.

“Like most things”, she said, “you get used. So what ‘ave I seen of yours on t’box then.”

“I just did the titles for the 3*2*1 quiz show.” I said proudly. She thought a minute.

“What that thing with that bloke ‘Ted’ that silly bugger, and that stupid Dustbin?”

“Yeah, have you seen it then?” I asked.

She paused again screwing up her face as she lit a roll-up from a tin box in her apron pocket. She looked like she was thoughtfully forming a succinct objective opinion to share with me.

“Biggest load of shitolla I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh.” I said.

“Is that why you’ve got a poncy car and a handbag, because of that tripe?”

“No I just fancied a change.” I said.

“You can have another change this afters if you’re not above shoveling chicken shit.”

Luckily at that point Janet came back in.

“Nice," she said," how many gears has it got?”

“Five?” I said wondering why the question.

“Oh I only got up to four, but there’s not room in t’yard and the fields’ just been ploughed. Have you noticed that when it goes over bumps it drops a lot of rust. You can hear bits falling off”

Her mum chimed in, “Thought so, poncy car, you need a landrover lad if you’re running my lass about,” Said her mum, “something that can take punishment like our Jan.” Giving Janets’ back-side a smack. “Anyway enough car-talk kiddies, it’s grub time. Sit theesens down.”

The table, set in front of the window was the real farmhouse job. Old, and worn it looked like it might have floated in through the door at the time of the great flood. Its’ top, the areas I could see when I sat down, was covered with scars and countless cuts, scratched and even shot; or maybe that was woodworm. It looked like it could tell a few tales.
Strewn on top from left to right were blocks of butter, several on one plate all unwrapped and in different stages of melting; bread and bread-board worn almost hollow. Bread knife, jars of jams and pickles, sauce bottles all with collars of dried sauce, newspapers, farming magazines, mustard jars and vinegar. Whilst above, dangling from a greasy dust covered lamp shade, hung a decorative array of sticky fly papers complete with fly graveyards.

“Hungry?” Said Janet sitting down. I didn’t tell her my appetite had peaked earlier in anticipation, but now seemed to have gone away, it must have been the living flies struggling in the melted butter and exploring the bread that put me off.
“Oh don’t be put off by the flies," said Janet, " I’d have died years ago if they did us real harm. You can’t help but live in muck on a farm John, it’s a fact. Tuck in I want you to keep your strength up for later.” Funny, but my appetite came back almost immediately.

At the other side of the room, Jans’ Mum was busy: she was peeling, mashing and boiling at the cooker and the stove whilst berating me over her shoulder about the male sex and the lack today of manly men, (obviously me included), adding that her happiest time had been when Janets’ dad had upped and left early one day with another woman, before milking time.
She said that by then, she’d got used to living outside the house in her caravan round the back of the tractor shed and she’d stayed there ever since. I didn’t join in with the smacking down of my gender, instead concentrated on sitting on my handbag as I fancied the Mindy and Mitzy were after revenge.

Then it was time to eat. As Janet, opposite, smiled sweetly across the sauce bottles, her mum dumped three or four pounds of mashed potatoes on my plate and hers.

“Help yourself to whatever you can find, lad we don’t stand on ceremony here!” She said as she ferried more bowls across the stone floor.

“Can I help mum?” Asked Janet.

“No lass sit there and keep toy boy happy.”

“I’ll do the washing up.” I offered, gamely I thought.

“Bloody right you will, I’ve done slaving for men in any shape or form.’ She said.

A continuing procession of sprouts, peas, gravy, carrots, sausages, made its’ way from stove to table where by now most of the available space was taken.

“I picked these me’sen.” Said Jans’ mum, as she put down steaming bowls of new potatoes steaming and slathered in butter
This was followed by a huge ham hock on a board with a carving knife that looked like it had seen action in the crusades.

“ This were hanging up there this morning.” She said pointing with the carving knife, “gets naturally smoked up there.” She looked again at me like she’d just seen me for the first time and pitied me. “You’d better carve it Janet, toy boy looks like he’s limp wristed.”

“He’s not mum, I can vouch for that.” I blushed, they didn’t. “Go ahead John,” she said, “ I know you’re not limp anywhere”. Encouraged, I carved.

“Ooh well then, looks like you’ve got more to yer than I thought.” Said her mum sidling up to me and ruffling my hair.

Just then the back door was kicked from the outside by some mighty force.

“Sounds like Joseph.” Said mum.

“Is he going to join us, mum?” Janet said, heaping sprouts on her already full plate.

“Depends if he’s feeling sociable, as you well know.”

Then ducking under the lintel, in came one of the biggest men I have ever seen complete with a leather jerkin with big buttons, a big black beard and a medium sized dead pig over his shoulder. Obviously the Bluto of the pig world.
Janet leaned over across the steaming mash mountain as his mighty frame stood in the doorway.
“Don’t be worried," she whispered, " say nothing.” Winking at me she said louder, “He’s harmless, aren’t you Joe?” I bloody hoped so, I looked up at him, as he grunted from a great height. The pig on his shoulder with its’ dead milky eyes looked down on me, I wondered if this might be my fate too, maybe they were fattening me up before popping me in the oven along with the porker and the ferrets. I started to open my mouth to say a small squeaky hello just to be friendly, but Janet kicked me under the table.

Joseph then bent down to the table to the left of me and with one arm cleared a space. I thought he’d decided to pull my arms off for fun.
He managed to create a space on the full table by sliding everything to the right. My plate slid about nine inches, which was a surprise when I put my fork back down to my plate only to discover I’d stuck it in an open jar of raspberry jam.

He laid the pig down on it’s side on the table, then opening a drawer at the end pulled out a large meat cleaver and with a huge blow, which nearly split the table in half, started chopping up the pig. Mighty blows sliced off its’ legs in single goes as off came it’s head. I didn’t move.
Little bits of pig flew around and onto the floor. The dogs were onto them like carnivorous vacuum cleaners on steroids. I looked over at Janet and faked a smile, but she was paying no heed to brother Jo or to me as she tucked face down into a slice of ham herself, “Thith ith gud mum.” She said through a mouthful.

When Joseph had finished, still not having said a word, he put all the pieces of the pig into a large canvas basket and exited through the back door. It felt like the giant had just left the castle.
Noting that I hadn’t eaten much during this display of domestic butchery, Janet said to me,

“Aren’t you hungry? We’re all big eaters here you know.”

“Aye lad you’ll need your strength with our Janet.” Said her mum laughing.

“Mum!” Said Janet then she fluttered her eyelids and blew me a kiss.

I leant over, “Is he always that quiet, your brother.”

“It’s not so much that he’s quiet lad he’s deep, that’s what he is Deep, ’inhe Jan?” Mum said wiping her hands on a tea-towel, “-still waters. Thinks too much.”

I’d speared three nice green peas on my fork and was looking at them when a thought occurred.

“Does Joseph sleep in the same room as you/us?” I asked Janet.

She said, “No silly. Did you hear that mum, Jo in my room. Bloody hell no, he has a room of his own…. but his twin brother does.”

After polishing off the most glorious treacle sponge and custard pudding ever created by an earthling, all we could do was flop onto a broke back sofa and sweatily digest.

“So we’re going to that party then?” Said Janet from my shoulder. The thought of escaping was attractive, if only I could stand up, I’d been speared by the springs which below were trying to enter my rectum.

“Yes lets, “ I replied keenly, “ let’s go soon and have a drink at the Oak on the way.” I said.

“Alright,” She said. “I’ll go and get ready.” I didn’t mind her leaving me unprotected now as her mum had pulled on her boots and was gone to the chicken shed to shovel guano. And Bluto had gone to kill something.

I must have dozed off when a cough woke me up.
As my eyes opened I thought I’d died, there was someone, or something, shining at the bottom of the stairs; a ghost of guests past perhaps, no, more like a silver angel standing there on a swathe of laundry with a big head of brunette bouffant hair. (Janet’s hair was dark blonde). Who was it?

“Hi, are you Janet’s sister?” I asked rubbing my eyes under my specs. I looked up at the grandfather clock. It was almost five I’d been asleep for a couple of hours.

“It’s me silly!” She said. It was. Normally she was quite plain in her choice of clothes, not surprising as most of her wardrobe was making its’ way down the stairs, but it was her, and she’d morphed into Goddess and grown three inches in height!

Posing as though in a fashion magazine, she smiled through wet glossed lips. By gum she looked stunning; her dress was silver and silken, full-length down to white satin high heels. Over her bare shoulders was draped a frothy white woolen shawl with sequins which was complimented by a high lace neck, adorned with pearls.
If this heavenly apparition was not enough to confuse a poor chap more used to seeing Janets’ mortal self in jeans and lumberjack shirts, she also had this huge amazing hairdo.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said seeing my mouth open, “It’s a wig. My grandmas’ ”

“Is she?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, with a smile and a little shake of her head, “she’s missing, like grandad!”

A Viking in my Dustbin. #81. A PIG OF A DATE.

John Sunderland

New York, United States

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A short hot fling with a farm girl between marriages.

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