24 August 2012

The pig and the ostrich egg

Let's face it: in every marriage there clearly comes a time when you just have to throw an ostrich egg at your partner, says Susan Erasmus.


Let's face it: in every marriage there clearly comes a time when you just have to throw an ostrich egg at someone, says Susan Erasmus.

A man from New Zealand Phillip Russell has been jailed for six months for doing just that after his wife's pet pig caused havoc and he lost his temper. But we cannot just leave it there. There are several pressing questions we simply have to ask:

What led to this astonishing outbreak of violence? Why an ostrich egg? Where does the free-range pet pig come into it?

I am getting beyond myself here. So let me take a deep breath and contemplate this tale of woe from a well-considered scientific point of view – a bit like Jerry Springer deals with the issue of infidelity on his show. (This column will have to be the unplugged version, as I have no security guards.)

This is why we have the media: it makes us feel so much better about the ridiculous things that go on in our own homes from time to time.

First things first: Mrs Russell has a pet pig. Presumably not of the miniature Teacup or Vietnamese pot bellied variety, as it managed to do a huge amount of damage: not only did it eat parts of their farmhouse, plus pieces of the house of a neighbouring farmer, it walked all the way to town and had some council property for supper. Then as dessert it scoffed bits of Mr Russell's power saw. And that was the final straw. And in his rage he grabbed an ostrich egg, which, as you know, people in New Zealand routinely have lying around in their kitchens.

Back to the pig. It is a free-range pig, not the normal variety stuck in a nasty pig pen. This pig has been given the freedom to give full vent to its creativity and its appetite: whichever comes first. Mrs Russell apparently believes the least she can provide for her free-range pet is the odd nibble of curtain, storm water drain, kitchen floor – and then finally for it to get its teeth into the power saw. Even animals learn by experience and how will it know it likes deep-fried power saw if not given the opportunity to try it?

I am not in favour of domestic violence, but if I were, I cannot imagine that an ostrich egg would be my weapon of choice. It's cumbersome, it contains the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs, it breaks easily, and is bound to make an awful mess on the already damaged kitchen floor of the Russells. But throwing an ostrich egg at his wife was not  the only dastardly deed Mr Russell did to deserve his 180 days behind bars: he also verbally abused her and spat at her. Dangerous guy this.

Mr Russell's learned counsel tried to defend his violent action by saying that he expected his wife to catch the ostrich egg. Duh? You try and catch a chicken egg that has been hurled at you unexpectedly. Now multiply that by 24. The egg, presumably still filled, hit poor Mrs Russell on the chest, causing bruising. She didn't duck. Other people are pigeon-chested, but she, she is ostrich-chested. She certainly cried foul, and laid an assault charge, as she rightly should have. OK, enough.

I have to say that Mr Russel sounds like a nasty piece of work, as he already had clocked up a record in the domestic violence department in the pre-ostrich egg days. I wonder what he threw at her the last time? Soap bubbles? A stuffed dodo?

The thing that gets me is this: how does anyone (perpetrator, victim, judge, cops) keep a straight face while reporting, investigating or hearing such a case? I have no idea. Imagine having to explain what you're in for to your tattooed cellmate.

But I do have advice for Mr and Mrs Russell: in the unlikely event that they decide to give it another go (and I personally don't recommend it), it might be an idea to sit down at the kitchen table, and rather than hurling things about, consider having a large bacon-and-egg breakfast. Problem solved all round.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, August 2012)


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