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?

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Interest in People

In the past week, Izzie has decided that faces are awesome (I said faces! I was quite clear about that). Whether pulling faces or, indeed, pulling faces, those things that go together to make up the human face have become inescapably fascinating (and not just human faces either; I have to give a shout out to Ozzie the cocker spaniel, who sits patiently while the baby pulls on his eyelids).

As fascinating as faces are to her, it’s equally fascinating for me to watch how she’s learning what faces mean, and that the things attached to them – people – are just as cool.

Amazingly, she seems to recognise the difference between adults and children, boys and girls – and she’s definitely more interested in those who can one day grow facial hair. At the pub on Mother’s Day she spent the whole meal turning in her seat so she could watch the boy at the table behind us. When he left with his parents, she smiled at him and waved – she’s eight-months old, for crying out loud!

Children elicit a different response to adults. When she sees a grown-up, Izzie watches them, before slowly smiling and then waving – when I took her on a journey around the pub the other night, she made sure to wave at every adult in there until I was sure her arm would fall off. But at least they tend to smile and wave back.

When she sees children, she shouts at them. A loud cry like she can’t contain her excitement at recognising a kindred spirit. She even does it when she sees a baby on TV – she sits in silence, ignoring the noisy idiot box in the corner, until an advert for Pampers or Aptamil or Cow & Gate comes on, and suddenly you jump out of your skin as the baby on your lap roars at the screen. Crazy smart!

Along with waving, she’s learned to point, but only with her right hand. If you point your finger back at her she slowly extends her arm until she touches your fingertip, just like God and Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And this’ll sound really syrupy, but it’s the most adorable thing ever.

Except, perhaps, when you see her practicing her Jedi skills. She reaches for things that are way out of reach – like fifteen feet out of reach – and keeps on reaching, staring at it intently as though she can use the Force to draw it to her. She also sweeps her palm from one side to the other in front of your face from time to time as if doing the Jedi Mind Trick – ‘You will bring me milk and cookies. None of that broccoli shit.’

She’s been so drawn to the TV of late we’ve had to fence it off. She wants to touch it all the time. At first, we thought she was looking at herself in the reflection, but then this happened:

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What’s an Aneurysm, daddy?

[As an aside, I showed this picture to an acquaintance and she thought the person on the screen was Lady Gaga. When I told her it was one Kurt Donald Cobain, she replied, ‘Oh yeah, he was in Thin Lizzy!’ For those of you unsure why that’s so, so wrong, look up Smells Like Teen Spirit, and you’re welcome.]

Because she loves her reflection. If she’s screaming her head off, you just need to hold her up in front of a mirror and she stops instantly, to laugh, and giggle, and reach for the baby in the glass. If you give her a small mirror, she can’t help kissing her reflection like a tiny Narcissus.

And that’s the problem: her fascination with faces isn’t satisfied just by looking. She’s constantly trying to pull your mouth open, twist your lips, ram her chubby little fist down your throat. As she’s so strong, you can easily get hurt along the way. I had no idea a baby could gouge a chunk of flesh out of your cheek:

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That’s going to leave a scar…

This need to pull at faces is teaching her about life and death, or rather, the difference between animate and inanimate. At baby group the other day she picked up a doll for the first time (she normally prefers to play with things she’s not allowed, like TV remotes, phones, i-pads, drinks cans, nunchuks). The first thing she did was try to open its mouth by prising apart its solid plastic lips, and struggled to work out exactly why this was a non-starter. Since it seemed to be ignoring her, and was confusing, she went to the old fall back of giving its hair a good solid yank.

And – ohmygod – it didn’t react. She looked around, confused, perplexed – when she pulls daddy’s hair, especially the hair on his belly, you can bet your bottom dollar it provokes a reaction. You could see her trying to fathom out why this thing that looked like a person wasn’t behaving like a person. It’s like watching a leap up the evolutionary ladder, the moment a monkey first realised it could use a stick to beat the crap out of other monkeys. I’m not entirely sure the penny dropped – there was no ‘ah, I get it – it’s a doll’ moment – but then she has plenty of time to work out that dolls are not real (for one thing, they don’t wake you up at three in the morning, and for another, you don’t have to worry about them one day coming home and telling you they’re pregnant but that it’s okay, he’s a rock musician and one day his band is going to be really big – ‘Well, you did let me listen to Nirvana when I was a baby, dad, so what did you expect?’).

Other than this confused, befuddled, all-is-not-well-with-the-world expression, she’s picked up a couple more. There’s the shocked, split-second oh-my-god-I’ve-lost-my-balance-and-I’m-going-to-fall expression, which she’s become rather adept at as it happens every few minutes. But far scarier is what I call the I’m-a-grown-up-girl-and-I-know-what-I-want-and-how-to-get-it expression. In this second expression, I can see the face she’s going to grow into: self-assurance in the set of her mouth and wisdom in her eyes far beyond her years (months?).

It’s the face of someone who’s going to be strong, and smart, and determined. And quite probably a precocious know-it-all who can cry on cue as she fights tooth and nail to get her own way with everything.

In all honesty, that’s not a face I’m ready to see yet. I provide it here for posterity. Look upon the future and tremble!

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*Gasp!* Magnum!