PC 288 Oink Oink (1)

Before I start these scribbles about pigs, I need to write one of those spoiler-alerts that are so popular these days. I appreciate that Jews and Muslims are not fans of the pig; more about that later! So, if you are offended reading about this animal, don’t read any further – your choice! And don’t, as seems common these days when individuals get offended at the slightest thing, read on and then write some outrageous diatribe on my Twitter account. (Note 1)

I added a postscript to PC 104 from August 2017, the topic of which was customer satisfaction: “I know some of you feel that we have a bit of a fetish for pigs. ‘Tis true! For me it started in 1986, buying two of the famous Oslo artist Mona Storkaas’ ceramic animals in that city; one a seagull (Note 1) and one a …… pig!

Then I got a piggy money box …….. and the collection has grown! So we felt at home buying a duvet cover from Pigletinbed – but when I first read this, I sort-of read ‘Pigs Tin Bed’, not Piglet in Bed, which in the What3words locator would put you west of Cromer in Norfolk, UK at a Bed & Breakfast called …. The Pigs!! Actually not true; there is a B&B there called The Pigs but its three word address is dine.commenced.pheasants; maybe roast pheasant is on the menu?

It surely is one of the abiding memories of those who are parents, reciting the ‘nursery rhythm’ about five piglets. Holding on to your baby’s toes; “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little piggy (the little toe) went ‘wee, wee, wee’ …. all the way home.”  And you ignore the common knowledge that this rhythm, like all of them, has sinister overtones. In the tale of the pigs, one went off to the market to be sold, one was feed on animal bones, one was starved and one ran away in terror to escape his fate? And what about ‘Ring A Ring of Roses’, sung by nursery-age children holding hands in a circle and at the end, they all collapse on the floor giggling? The rose actually relates to the skin eruptions caused by the Plague of London in 1665, the posies were used to cover the smell of death and ‘All falling down”? Everyone died; nice huh?

I digress. For some reason pigs have a special place in our social history, presumably since they first became domesticated. The pig – sus scrofa domesticus – often called swine, hog or domesticated pig is an omnivorous, even-toed, hoofed mammal. Their size varies enormously, from 0.9m to 1.8m in length and weighing from 50kg to 350kg! Apart from its meat, the pig’s bones, hide and bristles are used in products. Each foot has four hoofed toes, with the central two bearing most of the weight. Globally there are about 1.5 billion pigs and virtually all of them are slaughtered aged between 6 to 10 months.

In the Christian bible (St Mark’s Chapter 5) the miracle of the Gadarene Swine recounts how Jesus, confronted by a madman called Legion (“For we (us madmen) are many”),  ordered the unclean spirit to leave him and enter ‘a large herd of swine, numbering some 2000, which then ran wildly down the hillside into the sea and were drowned.’ An early story of exorcism, but the translators obviously didn’t know that a group of pigs is called a passel, a team or a sounder, not a herd!

I enjoy eating pork and bacon, although my consumption of both has reduced considerably. There is nothing nicer, in my opinion, than a large pork chop whose skin has crisped nicely into ‘crackling’. In the first decade of this century I used to have one every Wednesday for supper; the habit became known as ‘pork chop night’ and that reminded me of the little advertising slogan “Friday night’s Amami night”.  The makers of Amami hair shampoo encouraged women to use it every Friday night, particularly in the interwar years 1918-1939!

So …. Pork! Belly Pork slow roasted in the bottom of the oven, Pork chops with crispy crackling, Roasted Pork Loin with apple sauce and sage, sausages made with pork meat and other flavours, Gammon (my mother made a wonderful boiled one, complete with orange breadcrumbs on the fatty side!), ham in various forms and bacon, either non-smoked or smoked. On those rarities when you’re staying away and order the ‘Full English Breakfast’ in the hotel dining room, it’s ‘yes’ to the ‘Black Pudding’, made from the blood of a pig’s liver. I think I can do without pig’s trotters and ‘brawn’ made from the animal’s head.

Whether you enjoy eating pork or using a pig-skin wallet for instance, the pig has been characterised countless times; some that come to mind are Pinky & Perky, Peppa Pig, Piggling Bland, Piglet and Miss Piggy.

Maybe the most famous are Pinky & Perky, a couple of anthropomorphic puppet pigs created by Czechoslovakian immigrants to the UK Jan & Vkasta Dalibor in 1957. The pig is deemed to bring good luck in Czechoslovakia. Originally called Pinky & Porky, difficulties registering the name porky as a character resulted in ‘Perky’. Their television series ran for 14 years until 1972 but was resurrected in 2008 in an all-new CGI animated TV series; a DVD entitled Licence to Swill (!!) was released in 2009. Eleven LPs, fifteen EPs and numerous singles were released! 

Piggy Banks originated in the C15th when people would use pots to store what money they had. Many household items were made from an affordable clay called ‘pygg’ so the pot became known as the pygg bank. The potters with a sense of humour would fashion the ‘pygg’ bank into the shape of a pig and the trend caught on. Here’s mine!

More next month

Richard 24th June 2022


Note 1 Difficult as I don’t have a Twitter account!

Note 2 Funny that I bought the seagull back in 1986, as here in the City of Brighton & Hove the seagulls wheel and screech, swoop and cor. They are of course the emblem of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and of our ‘Yoga in The Lanes’ studio.

My painting for our hot yoga studio, featuring their seagull logo

PC 287 Update from The Hope

On Tuesday morning I dropped into The Hope Café around 8 o’clock; I had an hour and a half before I needed to catch the bus to go to yoga in central Brighton. Josh waved as I entered, as I hadn’t been for a few days and it looked as though he had some news. As he prepared my double espresso he handed me an envelope and said it was from Sami, who had been in the day before.

I sat down and used my finger to open the envelope. A handwritten page was inside. Probably best to quote verbatim what he had written:

Hi Richard I was hoping to catch you before I left (‘Left?’ I thought, ‘where’s he off to?’) but I didn’t see you so thought I would tell you my plans. The Post Office Inquiry will not be completed until the end of the year and until it ends there wouldn’t be any firm offers of compensation (You will remember Sami was charged with stealing, sacked and made bankrupt. (PC 271)). Rather than just sit around I thought I would go to India. I had been reading some of your older postcards about finding your family roots, (Note 1) and realised I knew little of my own.

Ok! I know I was born in Southall in 1956 and that my parents had left India on partition in 1947. I also know that my English mother had worked for the colonial service in Gujarat but I know nothing of my father’s family’s surname Gupta.
(Bit like Smith!) I have been to the India Reading room in the British Library but feel the only way to find more is to go there. I am flying out today, Monday, and have a three month visa.

No doubt I’ll send you an email occasionally – my address is 

I’ll miss The Hope but before you know it I’ll be back. By the way I have bought Grisham’s latest book
(Sparring Partners); I bought a new Kindle as it’s lighter for travelling.

Best wishes and stay in touch


Having read this on Tuesday it was weird and coincidental (!) to see a news item on BBC South yesterday evening about another Sami, Sami Sabet, who had run the local Portslade and Shoreham Post Offices. This Sami had found himself in a similar position; in 2009 he had been convicted of a $50k fraud, given a year’s prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours community service. Yesterday he talked of his life destroyed and we now know it was a known fault in the Post Office Horizon computer system! Shame on the management of that organisation.

I sent my Sami a quick email to say I hope his research bears fruit, told him to keep reading my weekly scribbles and wished him luck.

In last week’s post I mentioned the obituary of a Mark Sykes; “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all round upper-class rake.” Having read my scribbles my brother wrote: “Perhaps there’s a challenge here; describe one’s own character in eight aspects!” The writers of obituaries are very objective, and rising to this challenge one is bound to be subjective! However if you feel able to, happy to publish and give the best description a bottle of champagne!

The Hope is not busy. Susie is also behind the counter, so Josh comes over for a chat. I like him and his partner Luke and we swap thoughts and inconsequential news:

Am I the only person who notices this phenomenon?” he asks.

“What are you talking about?”

“I am walking up a pavement and there’s a tree or a rubbish bin or a car half-parked on the pavement or a discarded supermarket trolley that constricts the width of the pavement?”

“OK! So?”

“There’s someone coming towards me and I guarantee nine times out of ten we meet just as the space narrows and one of us has to let the other go first. So weird!”

“Do you know? You’re right Josh, I have noticed that too.” I was about to recount my own similar observations but got side-tracked when I noticed Edith was not here. “Have you seen Edith recently?” I asked.

“No; let’s hope she’s OK.”

I asked him whether he had read my PC 284 Knowing your Nyms and Mnemonics from May? He hadn’t so I gave him a very sketchy overview and said that a xenonym is a name for a people or a language or a city which is not used by the natives themselves and, as an example, used Cologne as the international name for Köln. My little news item was that earlier this month Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan declared that his country would for here-on-in be called Tűrkiye – so there will no longer be an association with the bird traditionally eaten at Christmas or indeed its meaning as something that fails badly or a stupid or silly person. We weren’t sure if this was a xenonym  and I don’t think I have never made any connection to the bird!

My other bit of inconsequential news was that here in Britain a new recruitment company, Indeed, is making a name for itself and building its brand with its advertisement strapline ‘I need Indeed! Indeed you do.’ I wasn’t sure whether the double entendre was intended in an advertisement on the radio a few days ago: “ ….. for instance an expanding Dental Practice has roles that urgently need filling.” We had a laugh and then he had to get back to the counter.

I looked down at my watch. “Gosh” I thought “ I need to get going or I’ll late for yoga. Waving a hurried ‘bye’ to Josh and Susie I hurried out of the black-framed door and off to the bus stop.

Richard 17th June 2022


Note 1 My own roots started in Durston Somerset in 1706, can be traced through India, New Zealand and the USA and thence to the United Kingdom.

PC 286 I’ve read that ……

A Mark Sykes (1937 – 2022), “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all-round upper-class rake” has died; his obituary was carried in The Times on Tuesday 31st May. The Old-English word rake in this case means ‘a dissolute or immoral person, especially a man who indulges in vices or lacks sexual restraint’; reading of his life I felt he lived up to the moniker! Generally obituaries cover the lives of the great, the good and the interesting; certainly Mark Sykes’ life was interesting.

Sledmere House

But his name reminded me of his family and its own colourful past, so well described by his cousin Christopher Simon Sykes in his book The Big House – essentially a biography about Sledmere, a house in East Yorkshire. If you have never heard of it and are interested in how certain families are woven into our national heritage, this is a wonderfully engaging book. 

After reading it many years ago I just had to go and visit the house and see for myself the setting of so many stories. Today I remember ‘Old Tat’ Sykes the fourth baronet famous for his riding exploits, who was said to be one of the great sights of Yorkshire. (Note 1) who died in 1861 at the age of ninety-one; his son who started the day wearing eight coats, which were gradually discarded to keep his body temperature constant (Note 2): the 6th Baronet, Colonel Sir Tatton Mark Sykes, whose diplomatic career peaked in 1916 with the secret deal between France and Britain, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which defined how the old Ottoman Empire would be split up, so drawing the boundaries of the current countries in the Middle East (note 3); and the fact that when Christopher Simon Sykes’ brother inherited the title in 1978, he told Christopher he would need permission to visit the house where he had grown up!! 

I have read that we are importing a nasty habit from America – distortion. Acknowledging that ethnic minorities have been woefully misrepresented in some of our films and dramas, now I sense we have gone completely overboard, with everyone anxious to show ‘they understand’ and wanting to right the wrong. The author Lionel Shriver (her best-selling book ‘We Must Talk About Kevin’) writes that ‘in a 2021 study by the Creative Diversity Network, ethnic minorities are over-represented in British programming in comparison with their share of the population by almost a factor of two. Black people are over-represented by 2.5 times. Casting of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in television productions suggests they make up 14% of the population whereas the true figure is 3%.’   

Shriver also revealed the results of a YouGov survey about how we British understand our diversity, on the back of an American survey which believed that 41% of the USA’s population were black, whereas the true proportion is about 12%. Here respondents thought the figure was 20% as opposed to 3%; other statistics Asian 17% (true 7%) Muslims 15% (true 4%) transgender 5% (true 0.4%) vegan or vegetarian 20% (true 4%). And finally a 2018 Lloyds Banking Group study found that representation of minorities in UK advertising has double in three years to 25%, twice the actually proportion!! Distortion plays to the fears of some in the population and leads to polarisation. (Note 4)  

I have also read that a chap who was Academy Sergeant Major at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for ten years, Ray Huggins, has died. During his tenure some 5470 future officers trained at The Academy. Reading his obituary reminded me of the wonderful repartee these senior NCOs displayed. Huggins was RSM of Old College, one of three colleges, in 1966, during my second year. It wasn’t RSM Murphy Irish Guards (Victory College) but our platoon sergeant Staff Sergeant Cameron of the Scots Guards who berated John Treasure as follows:

“Mr Treasure, Sir, you ‘orrible excuse for a ‘uman. You know what Sir?” he screamed, jabbing his Pacestick (note 5) perilously close to John’s face, so much so one imagined he could have smelt last night’s garlic on Cameron’s breath, “there’s a c**t at one end of this Pacestick and you need to think very carefully before you tell me at which end, Sir!”

Staff Sergeant Cameron Scots Guards at the rear of the platoon

As an Officer Cadet the future King of Jordan’s status was no shield. Overheard during some inspection of his tunic, boots, rifle or hair, one of the RSMs: “Sir, there are two kings ‘ere sir, you sir and me sir. But ‘ere on my parade ground there is only king sir, me sir!”

One of his predecessors was a veteran of the Battle for Arnhem, Operation Market Garden, during WW2, an ASM JC Lord. His very first words to the assembled Officer Cadets were “Gentlemen. My name is JC Lord. JC does not stand for Jesus Christ. He is Lord up there (pointing skywards with his Pacestick) and I am Lord down here (pointing to the parade ground). I will address you as ‘Sir’ but I won’t mean it. You will address me as ‘Sir’ but make sure you do mean it’.

The skull of one of my great friends at Sandhurst, Martin Ward-Harrison, was quite prominent at the back, so much so that his forage cap sat right on the edge. Any hair beneath it was deemed too long and Martin forever had to have extremely short hair. Sadly Martin was killed in Oman ten years later, probably having grown his hair at last!

Richard 10th June 2022


Note 1 The other two mentioned were the City of York and the county itself!

Note 2 A catastrophic fire in 1911 left the building a shell. It is said that Sir Tatton Sykes was too busy eating one of the milk puddings, to which he was addicted, to pay much attention, but villagers and estate workers loyally rescued pictures, statues and furniture, china and carpets, and even doors and banisters.

Note 3 Mark died of Spanish influenza three years later aged 39 and was buried in a lead-lined coffin. Globally 50 million people died in this pandemic. In 2008 his body was exhumed so that samples of his remains could be frozen in liquid nitrogen and passed to researchers looking at how the virus passes from animals to humans.

Note 4 Apparently Britons believe some 20% of the population earn more than £100,000 a year whereas the real figure is some 3%.

Note 5 The wooden pace stick was like a large pair of dividers, capable of measuring the standard marching pace of 30 inches.

PC 285 Lyrical Too

The title could also be ‘two’!

I have seen some wonderful musicals over the years, either on stage or portrayed in celluloid. When it comes to lyrics, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from Richard Rogers’ film ‘South Pacific’ often enters my consciousness. In theory it’s sung by the actor Rossano Brazzi, but the Oscar Hammerstein lyrics were actually dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi.

In the story Emile de Bacque falls in love with a naïve American navy nurse Nellie Forbush and expresses his feelings for her on the beach. “Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger …. across a crowded room …. and somehow you know …. you’ll see her again and again.” Decades have passed since I saw the film and I YouTube’d it. God! It’s become dated, someone singing their heart out to a woman who looks completely disinterested, like some cardboard cut-out! …… but the tune and lyrics stay with me!

I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ twice and remain mesmerised by one song, The Music of The Night; the way it’s sung and its lyrics. To remind you: ‘Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation, darkness stirs and wakes imagination; silently the senses abandon their defences. Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendour, grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender, turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light, and listen to the music of the night.’ Just brilliant!

Some artists own a certain song and no other attempt can match it. If you hear the first few bars and words of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ the late great Whitney Houston immediately comes to mind. As does Jennifer Rush singing the song The Power of Love. “The whispers in the morning of lovers sleeping tight …… and the reprise ‘cause I am your lady, and you are my man, whenever you reach for me, I’ll do all that I can.” And of course the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing “Now I’ve had the time of my life, No, I never felt like this before, Yes I swear it’s the truth, and I owe it all to you.”  No sure anyone can separate the song from the dance sequence in the feel-good film; I certainly can’t!

I mentioned the use of Nessun Dorma by the broadcasters of the football World Cup in PC 283 Lyrics. Another song of the same genre that resonates is Caruso, a song written in 1986 by Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla who dedicated it to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873 – 1921).

The recording by Luciano Pavarotti has sold over 9 million copies. The song tells of the evening a couple of days before 48 year old Caruso dies of throat cancer, when he’s giving his last singing lesson to a girl with beautiful green eyes with whom he’s fallen madly in love. He brings a piano out onto his terrace overlooking the harbour of Sorrento and serenades her and the local fishermen. He sets the scene: “Qui dove il mare luccia, E tira forte il vento. Su una vecchia terrazza, Davntiot al golfo di Surriento.”  And the chorus is: “Te voglio bene assaje, Ma tanto tanto bene sai, E una catena ormai, Che scioglie il sangue rint’ ‘e ‘vvene sai.” You can Goggle-Translate it if you want but listen to the Italian lyrics, Pavarotii’s majestic voice and the music all together and I guarantee a shiver will work its way down anyone’s romantic spine!

I don’t imagine writing lyrics is any different from other creative activities; sometimes they flow, sometimes the inability to express oneself seems frozen in time.  One glaring exception was George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. The whole 259 page oratorio was written over just 24 days in 1741, at a rate of 15 notes per minute for 10 hours; some suggest he had some divine assistance! It was first performed in Dublin the following year. 

And how about this as a plea for someone to stay: “If you go away, on a summer’s day, then you might as well take the sun away, all the birds that flew in the summer sky, when our love was new and our hearts were high ……. But if you stay, I’ll make you a day, like no day has been or will be again, we’ll sail on the sun, we’ll ride on the rain …..” Simply love Neil Diamond’s version of this song written by Jacques Brie and Rod McKuen.

Often singers don’t get the credit they deserve. The other day we heard that Loren Allred had produced a demo recording of the song ‘Never Enough’ for the 2017 film The Greatest Showman. Having heard it, the actress Rebecca Ferguson decided to mime the words; who knew?!

You recall from my first postcard about lyrics that I thought ‘nights in white satin’ referred to medieval knights with silk tights? When I hear Stephen Sondheim’s song ‘Send in the clowns’, the clowns being the fools that should flood a stage if the production is not going well, I hear clouds! I have no explanation; just the way I heard it once and now they’re stuck!

Large numbers of musical groups have come and gone without me really knowing too much about them apart from their hit singles. When the lead singer of Meat Loaf, Michael Lee Aday, died in January this year I just about remembered the hit “I’d do anything for love”. The Streets of Philadelphia was a song about the awful impact of AIDS in the 1980s. I knew a few individuals

who didn’t make it and Bruce Springsteen’s 1993 song brings back the memories. “….Saw my reflection in a window, and didn’t know my own face, Oh! brother, are you gonna leave me wastin’ away, on the streets of Philadelphia.” 

More than one person told Marilyn Bergman that they had been married to her “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”, broke up to “Where Do you start?” and divorced to “The Way We Were.” ‘That’s a great responsibility, being the soundtrack for people’s lives’ she remarked in a rather syrupy way!

Maybe a way to wind up these scribbles is to read the last two lines of ‘The Way We Were’:

So it’s the laughter we will remember

Whenever we remember the way we were.’

Richard 3rd June 2022