And this little pig went scratch, scratch, scratch.
Today, my steadfast yeomen, I will take you on a journey on the magic carpet of my own, unique brand of logic. Please note that at no time during this excursion do my hands leave the ends of my arms.
My first proper job in computers was a Computer Operator at a meat processing plant. To use some management double speak, it was a steep learning curve, not only about computers, but about the food industry – and pigs.
The plant only processed pigs. The little porkers arrived at one end all happy and innocent, Even behind double glazed windows you would hear their content grunting as they were unloaded from the lorries. (Note 1)
When I lived in Norfolk as a nipper, we had a pig unit behind our house. Maybe that’s why I’ve a small soft spot for pigs. (Note 2) They are very misunderstood. When people say they are “sweating like a pig”, they aren’t. Pigs don’t have sweat glands. Pigs roll in mud because they are susceptible to sunburn and the use mud as a sunscreen – not because they have some love of muck. Generally, they are quite clean creatures.
Winston Churchill, that wonderful source of a quote for every occasion, once said "Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." Pigs have good reason to. The physiology of the pig is strangely similar to our own. This means they are prone to the same diseases – especially nasty rashes. (Note 3)
Without pigs, we would not have had King Lear.
Good Yeoman, I am tempted to pause here and set you homework to work out that fantastic synaptic leap. I won’t though. For those of you who delight in finding obscure connections, may not want to read on until you have worked it out. I salute those of you who do.
I fear that I may burst the bubble of hero worship that often hangs around Shakespeare. You see, rather like me, the great writer was not averse to ’borrowing’ the odd idea. (Note 4) For King Lear, he borrowed (whether directly or indirectly) from the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who as well as creating the Arthurian legends (yes, he of the knights of the round table and all that), told the tale / legend of King Leir.
According to tradition and Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Leir inherited his crown from his father, King Bladud.
As a young prince, Bladud was struck down with leprosy. Such was custom of treating lepers, he was forced into exile and found work as a swineherd at Swainswick near Bath. One day, he noticed some of his pigs had been wallowing in a thick, black, warm mud and that those pigs didn’t suffer the skin diseases of the other pigs. Bladud tried the mud bath himself and was cured of his leprosy, which allowed him to return home and claim his crown!
Leir became king when Bladud overdid the dried frog pills, built himself some wings and set out to see if he could fly. It turned out he could merely plummet.
There you are dutiful yeomen, you now know why without pigs, Shakespeare would not have been able to write King Lear.
From 14th June, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.
NOTE 1: It would not be very considerate to those of you about to tuck into a pork pie or sausages to continue their journey and further. Besides, this was thirty years ago and a lot has changed. I shall provide you with one amazing fact. Over 3000 pigs a week went through the plant. Virtually all of the pig was used. The leftovers (normally the tips of their trotters) didn’t fill a skip a week. A generation or so before even these wouldn’t have been wasted. This thriftiness in the industry generated the title of this piece. Click to return
NOTE 2 : It was also where I discovered the electric fence. This isn’t the high voltage type, but an orange wire strung between insulated posts. It carries a pulse of electrical charge that gives a small shock if you touch it and provide a root to earth. At a very early age I learned that peeing on an electric fence is not a good idea. Click to return
NOTE 3: Those of a nervous disposition would be best not to read this note. If you are a touch queasy or easily shocked, I wouldn’t bother either. You see, one of the computer jobs I ran was the printing of the pig rejection letters. These detailed why the plant wouldn’t accept a pig for slaughter. It wasn’t uncommon for pigs to be rejected because they carried human STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), For pig units near urban areas, night time visits from… errm… gentlemen with specialist sexual tastes was a real problem. I’m not sure if it still is, I’d like to think not. OK, so you didn’t need to know that. Sorry. Click to return
NOTE 4: Sadly, William Shakespeare and I only share the trait of being prepared to borrow an idea and embellish it a tad. We do not share the label of great writer. I live in hope that one day… Click to return