My Reader will recall that The Ericle spent last weekend in Romania and that pig-killing, on The Webmeister’s insistence, had been set up as the centrepiece of that particular odyssey. On the surface of it, this exercise in animal husbandry seemed to be more of a challenge than anything else – His Webfullness calling into question whether my cosy Western European outlook could accommodate the realities of the Food Chain. From my end, the visit was purely motivated to see a little of rural life in Romania and if pig-killing was to be on the menu, so be it. In the end, paradoxically, the pig-killing proved to be both an irrelevant and quintessential part of the experience. The irrelevance stems from the act’s ordinariness within the context of Romanian country life. As a result, it was neither a traumatic nor ghoulish experience but simply a consequence of the life situation of my hosts. In fact, I would think that witnessing the hand-dispatching of a seasonal family pig is a significantly less gruesome process than the journey of a pig from farm to slaughterhouse. One moment the pig is in the sty, where it is has been for the whole of its life – a period just short of a year – and within less than a minute it has been led out into a yard it knows well and efficiently dispatched, at the hands of a man whose life’s education had brought him to this point on countless other times from his earliest days. The preparation and dismembering of the animal was no less accomplished. Within 2 hours the pig was cleaned and butchered; every morsel of its anatomy cut-up and prepared with an efficiency that only routine can accomplish. The truism is that relevance is contextual and that is what made witnessing a pig-killing in a Romanian farmyard quintessential to my visit. By 21st century standards my hosts have so very little compared to the perceived material wealth of most other EU countries. What dictatorial communism hasn’t taken from their lives, inefficiency and corruption since then have contributed. And yet these people on certain levels have a quality of existence that is enviable. Theirs is not a cash economy by any stretch of the imagination – perhaps 95% of what their survival and material existence is derived from self-sustenance and barter. Their cow has to produce milk, their hens eggs and their maize is needed for polenta and animal feed; the vegetables they eat are home grown and their protein derived from butchering their own animals. In the end, my weekend in Dumitresti was more time travel than tourism which raised for all sorts of questions as to what we, in Western Europe and beyond, may have lost on the way. I don’t envy the harshness of my hosts’ day-to-day lives but their co-dependence and synchronisation with the seasons have qualities that bear admiration.