Dom Joly: The Great Escape

Sir Francis and Stanley: Pictures of innocence

Sir Francis and Stanley: Pictures of innocence - Credit: Archant

‘It took me 20 minutes to find the tunnel. They had dug it behind a thick bush, so it was almost invisible’

They’d clearly been planning it for weeks. When I look back, the signs were all there. Stanley would make a weird whistling noise when I approached their quarters and Sir Francis would always have an overly innocent look on his suspiciously muddy face. “What have you been up to?” I’d ask jokingly, unwittingly sending my two pigs into paroxysms of worry. It turns out that they had been planning the great escape and they were not going to be foiled by some pesky human.

I’ve written before about just how intelligent pigs are. People often say that they have the IQ of a seven-year old child. I think it’s more the IQ of a 16-year old child and with the corresponding attitude. They want you to feed them and buy them things they like, but apart from that they want to you to leave them alone because you are “sooooooooo embarrassing and soooooooo stupid.” My kids demonstrate this early independence through the medium of festivals. There is always a festival that they need to go to or that somebody else is going to that they want to go. The only festival they have no interest in is any festival that Stacey and I might think of going to. Now, I’m not saying that my pigs were preparing an escape in order to go to a festival, but I wouldn’t put it past them. There was a period when Stacey thought they looked lonely and put a radio in with them. She tuned it to Radio 4 and they went crazy and smashed the thing to bits. She had another go and put BBC 6Music on. They appeared to love this apart from when Cerys Matthews came on but, as I said, they are smart pigs.

So, one morning, I wandered over to say hello and something was different. There was no warning sound from Stanley. There was no desperate rush to the fence from Sir Francis demanding grub. In fact, there was nothing. Total silence. I opened their gate and looked around. It was empty. These pigs had flown.

It took me 20 minutes to find the tunnel. They had dug it behind a thick bush, so it was almost invisible. It was a proper tunnel - room for a large pig to go through and under the back wall and emerging just on the other side in the lower field. I looked around for tools until I realised that they had used nothing but their snouts and trotters.

Where had they gone? It was actually rather sweet that they had escaped together. Sir Francis rather lords it over Stanley and I would have assumed that he would not wish to travel in public with him. I was wrong. They had clearly worked as a team and were off somewhere together.

I assembled a grumpy family posse and we jumped into the Discovery and set off trying to work out how on earth we even started looking for two fugitive porkies? If only I had put GPS trackers on them? I’d done this with the dogs, but the bloody things never actually work and I’d given up in the end. Presumably the pigs would have hacked into the system and designed a fake signal that would have sent me into Wiltshire on a wild goose (pig) chase?

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So, we drove around aimlessly shouting “STANLEY” and “SIR FRANCIS” out of the windows. We must have sounded like people trying to find our elderly uncle and his batman.

Eventually we spotted them. High up on the crest of a hill, hugging the treeline, walking fast and purposefully towards Cheltenham. Where were they off to? Did they fancy a night at 131? Were they making a break for the border into Wales? Sadly, we shall never know. They were eventually persuaded home with the incentive of about a year’s supply of food laid in a trail back to their establishment. How they managed to consume all this grub and keep moving was a testament to their Olympian appetite. They are now subject to regular, random inspections of their quarters. I feel like a prison guard, but I’ve got to keep on my toes. I swear I heard the sound of a motor the other night...

For more from Dom Joly, follow him on Twitter! @domjoly

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