I don’t know how farmers cope.
I’m astounded there isn’t an Agricultural Administration Anger Management Crisis Centre on every rural street corner.
It wouldn’t be the farmy bit of being a farmer driving them there. That’s easy.
It would be the phone calls.
It started relatively well, with just a minor governmental delay.
Ahead of the piglets’ arrival, I dutifully applied for my County Parish Holding (CPH) number from the Rural Payments Agency at the beginning of March.
After a few weeks of no word, I called them to discover they were a bit waylaid, but I was issued a CPH number over the phone.
So far, so farmer.
We were go for launch.
Huff, Puff and Snuff legally and legitimately moved from Lyndhurst – their birthplace – to Rowan Farm on Saturday.
Paperwork and Pig Movement References were perfectly proper.
Feeling very smug that I was so thoroughly organised, I called Hart District Council this week to get myself a Herd Mark now the pigs had safely arrived.
And here is where the pig pong hit the proverbial.
My red tape first started to unravel when I spoke to Spamela at Hart.
There’s a competition there to see who can be the least helpful person in the Council offices.
Spamela’s winning. Hands down.
I knew things weren’t going well when she said, Herd Mark, Schmerd Mark. If I didn’t register as a food business I would likely be prosecuted.
When I argued that I had no business to register and was merely hoping to feed myself, my family and some mates a few sausages, Spamela did a lot of sucking through her teeth.
Unperturbed, I asked her to define the legal parameters so I could stay above board and avoid criminal proceedings. Spamela started using helpful, specific and definitive phrases like ‘sort of’.
Then she told me I’d taken the threat to prosecute ‘out of context’.
I think that’s the bureaucratic way of saying she was just messing with me.
After 20 minutes of this enlightening experience, Spamela told me I shouldn’t be speaking to her anyway but should instead call Winchester Trading Standards to get a Herd Mark.
Like all good comedy sketches, when I got through to Swinona at Winchester she told me I needed to speak to Spamela at Hart.
Determined to drive on despite a crying toddler now clinging to one of my legs, I called Hart again and this time got Hamish. Who sent me to Abraham at Customer Registration at the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Who sent me to Boaris at the Rural Payments Agency. Who sent me to Loina from the Customer Advice Team. Who sent me round the bend. And then put me on hold.
I still don’t have a Herd Mark.
Although I’m registered with a CPH number, it won’t download onto the right computers at the right office to match it up with APHA’s database.
I hope you’re following because I’ve lost the swill to live.
I’ve been told to sit tight while Orwell’s Officials sort it out.
I’m starting to wish I’d never bought the sodding swine in the first place.
(*All names have been changed to protect the litigious)