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