We have learned, in recent years, to be on our guard against the terrors of bird flu. Those who cannot avoid handling hens now ensure they wear full protective body armour when doing so, and the rest of us steer clear of members of the hen community at all times. Here at Hooting Yard we have been at the forefront of a campaign to address the particular perils faced by those who have pet swans. General avoidance of birds is well nigh impossible, given their tendency to swoop and perch and paddle and nest pretty much wherever they like, but with judicious use of netting and frighteners and wild gesticulations of the limbs, most of us have been able to keep ourselves safe. Predictions of a world ruled by flu-ridden crows and cassowaries and nightjars, common enough at the turn of the century, have proved to be alarmist twaddle.
Now we face a new danger. As I mentioned yesterday, it is no longer just birds we need to worry about, but pigs too. Virulent strains of so-called swine flu threaten to engulf us. This brings with it new problems, not the least being a wholesale rethinking of the practice of becalming our boiling brains through lengthy contemplation of pigs while leaning against the fence of a sty. As a tried and tested relaxation technique, pig contemplation is unsurpassed. It has been estimated that several wars have been averted through its organised application, and readings on a pneumatic belligerometer confirm its effectiveness. Any outbreak of swine flu will thus be devastating, with fizzing cranial disturbances inside people’s heads having no easy remedy. I am not referring here only to countryside persons, for there are innumerable urban pigsties where mental relief can be sought… or could be sought before this new and terrifying development.
At a special conference to be held at the Blister Lane Bypass Pig Study Building Hub, a panel of boffins will be devising ways to counter the threat. Until they release the results of their deliberations in the form of handy pamphlets, try not to go near any pigs. However, if you are the sort of person for whom traffic with pigs is unavoidable, a course of Dr Baxter’s Antipig Calmative tablets is recommended. Take a dozen daily, with a bowl of cornflakes, and do not in any circumstances operate heavy machinery, such as one of those mechanical pig hoists we’ve been hearing so much about in the hoisting-and-winching press.