"Oh it all makes so much sense now. Those sensible shoes…" Picture: New Statesman
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Exclusive: the long-awaited lesbian Peppa Pig fanfiction

Norman Lamb MP recently critisized the lack of queer representation in the hit children's TV show. But how would it work in practice?

Marriage; tick. Right to adopt; tick. Legal protection from discrimination; tick. Visibility in cartoons about twee, porcine adventures; massive cross. Last week, my niece’s favourite programme, Peppa Pig, was scrutinised by Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb (who, fittingly, sounds a bit like a character off the show himself) for its dearth of lesbian characters. And he’s absolutely right. In the fantastically popular cartoon’s entire cast of misshapen anthropomorphic freak beasts, not a single one of them is an out and proud gay.

So I’ve, frankly, done us all a favour by writing some much needed lesbianism into an episode of Peppa Pig…

***

[Insanely annoying musical intro]

Narrator with “I have a comforting formation of pixels where my penis should be” voice: Mummy Pig Tips the Velvet

Ext. the Pig household, night. An owl is hooting.

Narrator: It’s nighttime. Peppa, George and Daddy Pig are are fast asleep. But Mummy Pig is still awake…

Int. Mummy and Daddy Pig’s bedroom. Daddy Pig is snoring loudly. Mummy Pig looks cross. She nudges him.

Mummy Pig: Daddy Pig… DADDY PIG!

[Daddy Pig wakes up with a start]

Daddy Pig: SNORT. Wha – goodness me, what is the matter, Mummy Pig?

Mummy Pig: You were snoring again.

Daddy Pig: No I wasn’t. I know when I’m snoring.

[Mummy Pig closes her eyes and raises her weird pig hands in an “I give up” sort of gesture]

Mummy Pig: Daddy Pig. We need to talk.

Daddy Pig: Nighttime isn’t for talking, Mummy Pig. You’ll wake up Peppa and George.

Mummy Pig: Well, your snoring hasn’t woken them up, has it?

[Daddy Pig snorts indignantly]

Mummy Pig: Listen, Daddy Pig…

Daddy Pig: What?

Mummy Pig: Are you… happy?

Daddy Pig: As happy as anybody in a bizarre, post-nuclear dreamscape where everyone’s nose is on the side of their head can be. Why?

Mummy Pig: Well, I’m not.

Daddy Pig: Oh. Is it Peppa? Look, yes, we’ve raised an obnoxious little shit. But it’s not entirely our fault…

Mummy Pig: No, it’s not Peppa. Yes, she’s a nightmare and I have no idea how we managed to spawn the living Devil, but that’s beside the point. It’s you, Daddy Pig. It’s us.

Daddy Pig: What do you mean?

Mummy Pig: Daddy Pig. I love you. I love George. I even love Peppa, in a way. But I’ve been dishonest with you for a while. I’m a –

Daddy Pig: Don’t say it, Mummy Pig. Do not sit here and tell me you’re a –

Mummy Pig: Lesbian.

Daddy Pig: Sweet Jesus.

[Daddy Pig starts bawling uncontrollably]

Daddy Pig: [through tears] Oh it all makes so much sense now. Those sensible shoes…

Mummy Pig: Now hold on a sec – there’s only one type of shoe in this universe and we all wear it. You can hardly –

Daddy Pig: [ignoring her] the life-size sculpture of Gillian Anderson you bought on eBay, “for a joke”. Your completely irrational aversion to my hideous, foot-long corkscrew pig penis…

Mummy Pig: [in a soothing tone] Look, Daddy Pig…

[Daddy Pig continues to expel a stream of loud sobs, punctuated by snorts]

Daddy Pig: So is there… is there a woman?

Mummy Pig: [sighs] Yes. Donna Dolphin.

Daddy Pig: So you’re leaving me then? For a dolphin? Does she even live on land? What is this fucked up world we live in where lesbian dolphins live on land? That nuclear fallout really has done a number on us all.

Mummy Pig: We’re in love.

[Daddy Pig jumps out of bed and starts pacing, head in hands]

Mummy Pig: Daddy Pig, I know how hard this must be, but –

[Daddy Pig opens a window]

Daddy Pig: [Shouting out the window] GOOD NEWS EVERYBODY. MY WIFE IS IN LOVE WITH A DOLPHIN. A FEMALE DOLPHIN.

Mummy Pig: [furious] DADDY PIG.

[The bedroom door opens. Peppa and George enter, rubbing their eyes]

Peppa: Why are you crying, daddy? I’m scared.

George: [snort]

Daddy Pig: Children, your mother has something to tell you.

Peppa: Oh, did you tell him, Mummy? About you being a lesbinum?

[Daddy Pig’s mouth drops wide open]

Peppa: Silly daddy. Everyone knows mummy is a lesbinum. Even George worked it out. And the only word he knows is “dinosaur”.

George: Dinosaur, rawr!

[Daddy Pig silently curls into a foetal position on the floor]

Peppa: Mummy, when I grow up, can I be a lesbinum? Boys are yucky.

CREDITS

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett asks how we shape history and how much is beyond our control

In Wychwood, a great house in Oxfordshire, the wealthy build walls around themselves to keep out ugliness, poverty, political change. Or at least they try to. 

The great cutting heads of the Crossrail tunnel-boring machines were engines of the future drilling into the past. The whole railway project entailed a crawl back into history as archaeologists worked hand in hand with engineers, preserving – as far as possible – the ancient treasures they discovered along the way. One of the most striking finds, relics of which are now on display at the Museum of London Docklands, was a batch of skeletons, unearthed near Liverpool Street Station, in which the bacteria responsible for the Great Plague of 1665 were identified for the first time. Past and present are never truly separable.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s ambitious first novel ends in 1665 in the aftermath of that plague, and it, too, dances between past and present, history and modernity. Like those skeletons buried for centuries beneath Bishopsgate, it is rooted in the ground. The eponymous “peculiar ground” is Wychwood, a great house in Oxfordshire, a place where the wealthy can build walls around themselves to keep out ugliness, poverty, political change. Or at least that is what they believe they can do; it doesn’t spoil the intricacies of this novel to say that, in the end, they will not succeed.

It is a timely idea. No doubt Hughes-Hallett was working on her novel long before a certain presidential candidate announced that he would build a great wall, but this present-day undiplomatic reality can never be far from the reader’s mind, and nor will the questions of Britain’s connection to or breakage with our European neighbours. Hughes-Hallett’s last book, a biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, “the John the Baptist of fascism”, won a slew of awards when it was published four years ago and demonstrated the author’s skill in weaving together the forces of culture and politics.

Peculiar Ground does not confine itself to a single wall. Like Tom Stoppard’s classic play Arcadia, it sets up a communication between centuries in the grounds at Wychwood. In the 17th century, John Norris is a landscape-maker, transforming natural countryside into artifice on behalf of the Earl of Woldingham, who has returned home from the depredations of the English Civil War. In the 20th century a new cast of characters inhabits Wychwood, but there are powerful resonances of the past in this place, not least because those who look after the estate – foresters, gardeners, overseers – appear to be essentially the same people. It is a kind of manifestation of what has been called the Stone Tape theory, after a 1972 television play by Nigel Kneale in which places carry an ineradicable echo of their history, causing ghostly lives to manifest themselves through the years.

But the new story in Peculiar Ground broadens, heading over to Germany as it is divided between East and West in 1961, and again as that division falls away in 1989. Characters’ lives cannot be divorced from their historical context. The English breakage of the civil war echoes through Europe’s fractures during the Cold War. The novel asks how much human actors shape history and how much is beyond their control.

At times these larger questions can overwhelm the narrative. As the book progresses we dance between a succession of many voices, and there are moments when their individual stories are less compelling than the political or historical situations that surround them. But perhaps that is the point. Nell, the daughter of the land agent who manages Wychwood in the 20th century, grows up to work in prison reform and ­observes those who live in confinement. “An enclosed community is toxic,” she says. “It festers. It stagnates. The wrong people thrive there. The sort of people who actually like being walled in.”

The inhabitants of this peculiar ground cannot see what is coming. The novel’s modern chapters end before the 21st century, but the future is foreshadowed in the person of Selim Malik, who finds himself hiding out at Wychwood in 1989 after he becomes involved in the publication of an unnamed author’s notorious book. “The story you’re all so worked up about is over,” he says to a journalist writing about the supposed end of the Cold War. “The story I’m part of is the one you need to think about.”

A little heavy handed, maybe – but we know Selim is right. No doubt, however, Wychwood will endure. The landscape of this novel – its grounds and waters and walls – is magically and movingly evoked, and remains in the imagination long after the reader passes beyond its gates. 

Erica Wagner’s “Chief Engineer: the Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge” is published by Bloomsbury

Erica Wagner is a New Statesman contributing writer and a judge of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. A former literary editor of the Times, her books include Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of “Birthday Letters” and Seizure.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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