Peppa Blooming Pig

My wife, who I used to love very much, spent about six months buying up all kinds of Peppa Pig merchandise in an attempt to get Izzie into Peppa Pig. Over the past couple of months it has paid dividends, because the little one is now obsessed with it. And my feelings towards my wife have become rather complicated since she’s the one who inflicted the Pink Horror upon this household.

Every day I have to help Izzie colour in pictures of Peppa Pig, load the massive Peppa Pig teddy into the Peppa Pig pushchair, resist her demands to wear her Peppa Pig tights (and only her Peppa Pig tights), put Plastic Peppa on the rides in her Plastic Play Park, read her Peppa books, push the Peppa car and the Peppa train, and make lunch on the Peppa plate with Peppa bowl and serve her Peppa yoghurt with a Peppa spoon. That’s before I mention the Peppa sticker book, Peppa pyjamas, Peppa Mega Bloks, Peppa Weebles, Peppa backpack, Peppa Wellington boots and Peppa toothbrush.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t have that much of a problem with this – if it wasn’t Peppa Pig, it’d be something equally as crass and commercialised. And the show itself, which I’m forced to watch at least four times a day as Izzie jumps up and down singing ‘Bear-per Big, Bear-per Big,’ isn’t completely horrible –  although I’d rather the little one would still be happy watching the family-friendly crap we used to enjoy together, like Hunting Hitler and Curse of Oak Island and sometimes Ghost Adventures (don’t judge me). But as a grown man, and particularly a grown man with autism, there are some things about Peppa Pig that drive me freaking insane.

Like the stories. Ever since I was a kid, watching things like The Littlest Hobo, Airwolf and The A-Team (I said don’t judge me!), stories had a start, middle and end. Start: when property-developing hicks arrive to bully some downtrodden woman with a perm off her dirt farm, they are soundly routed by the A-Team. Middle: the baddies respond to this with escalating TV-friendly violence, culminating in the capture of the A-Team. End: having been locked in a machine shop with all the tools necessary to make a flamethrower tank out of a washing machine, the A-Team bust out and save the day. Yay!

Peppa Pig doesn’t work like this. I’m not asking for narrative complexity in a five-minute children’s show, but the programme starts, and just when it’s building up to something, everyone falls down laughing and it ends, leaving you staring at the screen going, ‘What? Where’s the resolution? Where’s the climax? You said you were going to Pirate Island, you’ve only just got there and it’s the end credits? Where the hell is the third act? What was the point in all this? We haven’t been on a journey! We haven’t learnt anything! We haven’t followed a character arc! All we’ve done is kill five minutes!’

Okay. Maybe I am asking for narrative complexity from a five-minute children’s show.

But then there is the Pig family, who are equally as annoying. They are Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig, Peppa Pig and George. Why is he not George Pig? Why is he never referred to as George Pig? Why set up a pattern of ‘syllable-syllable surname’ and then abandon it? Or is George not really one of them? Is he actually a boar that they’ve kidnapped and are raising as their own? Whatever the case, I don’t anticipate an answer any time soon.

Another unexplained betrayal of internal logic is the animal hierarchy. I’m right behind the whole talking animals thing, and barnyard beasts adopting anthropomorphic characteristics, but how come Dr Hamster has a pet tortoise? What on earth in the Peppa Pig universe makes a hamster good enough to go to veterinary school, but a tortoise into nothing more than a pet? How come a rabbit is now a person but a budgie is still an animal? It makes no sense.

Just as the animal groupings make no sense. You have rabbits in a class with a fox. The neighbours to the Pig family is the Wolf family, and I’m no expert on wildlife but my knowledge of nursery rhymes implies that wolves and pigs don’t really mix. And if the prey animals like rabbits, deer, antelope, cattle, pigs, etc., are now people, does that mean the carnivores are now vegans? Or are there an awful lot of murders in town where the victims appear to have been devoured?

But the most annoying part of the whole programme is Miss Rabbit, and it’s not just because she has a voice that could strip wallpaper. She is the local bus driver. And she works in the local shop. And she’s the librarian. And runs the ice cream stall. She’s also a firefighter, and operates a rescue helicopter, and flies a hot air balloon. And she’s a nurse, and a dental nurse, and a train driver, and probably a rocket-ship pilot, deep sea diver and forensic pathologist too.

Look, I know it’s for kids, but is a little logic and consistency too much to ask?

Making Memories

Anybody who has seen the movie Alien cannot forget the scene where they try to cut the face-hugger off John Hurt, only to discover it has concentrated acid for blood. It burns through the deck, so they run down below to see it burning through to the next deck, and the next, and the next. It stops just before it eats through the hull and vents into space. Great scene.

Except when you experience it yourself.

The other night Izzie was sitting in my lap while I was feeding her when I suddenly thought, ‘Why does my general groin area feel damp?’ It turned out that Izzie had peed, and it had somehow made its way through her nappy, through her vest, her leggings and her dress, through my shirt, through my jeans, through my underwear and to my skin. She doesn’t have urine in her bladder: she has some super powerful alien pee that cuts through whatever you put in the way to stop it. I thought showering vomit out of my armpits was bad; washing your daughter’s pee off your man-parts in the sink is something else altogether!

But now I’ve written it, this story will be remembered. That is my revenge. It will be resurrected in years to come whenever Izzie needs a little embarrassing, and should she wish to know what she was like as a baby.

The same can’t be said for my origins. All I know about my birth is that my mother didn’t form placentas properly, something she found out when my brother was born weighing three pounds, so when she fell pregnant with me she had injections to give me extra nourishment in the womb. My dad missed my brother’s birth so was adamant he’d be there for mine. During labour the midwife told my dad it’d be hours before I arrived so he should go to the canteen and get a cup of tea. Five minutes later I popped out, and I’ve been disappointing him ever since.

Having had a baby, I want to know more. What exactly were these injections? Where did they go? How long was the labour? What pain relief did she use? How did they feel when they first saw me? And afterwards, what was I like as a baby? How was I over the first few weeks? I want info!

Unfortunately, my parents can’t remember anything beyond the fact that I was a miserable sod who made their lives a living hell. For one thing, it was thirty-five years ago; for another, in the blur of nappies, feeds, a jealous toddler, and moving house two weeks after I was born, all the colourful little details that put flesh on the bare bones of the story weren’t committed to memory, so were lost.

I’m not unusual in this. Asking around, it seems that for most of us, our early years are a hazy dream, some facts with very little context and a couple of out-of-focus photographs of us being held by people with bad haircuts and worse clothes. In those days, before paternity leave, when men’s involvement with babies started and ended with ‘breadwinner’ and they left the women to raise the kids, when the most technical thing in the house was a calculator and everything was written by hand, dishwashers were for the rich and microwaves cost the moon, it’s only to be expected that they spent their time trying to survive, not recording the minutiae of my life.

In today’s day and age, there’s no excuse. Apps, blogs, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter; cameras and notepads and recording devices built into your phone; it takes just a couple of minutes a day to make sure that nothing is forgotten.

All those little idiosyncrasies you love right now, the funny faces, the amusing behaviours, those precious features that make your baby so uniquely yours, can easily be lost in the fullness of time. As our children cannot remember this time themselves, it falls to us, their parents, to remember for them: the way Izzie stares at a point over my shoulder when I feed her, making me paranoid someone is sneaking up behind me; the way she grabs my bottom lip and tries to twist and pull it off; and the way she reaches one fist above her head and stretches out her body as though she thinks she’s Superman. The stories we tell now need preserving for posterity.

In years to come, when they hate us and wish we were dead, when they’re pushing our buttons and making us insane and we can’t think what on earth ever possessed us to have kids in the first place, we need to remember how we feel now, the love that binds us all together, and all the little things that make it worthwhile. Because this is the best thing we’ve ever done.

We owe it to them to make memories of this time. We also owe it to ourselves.