Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Travails of the War Pig

What a story this is, indeed the travails of the war pig should be written by someone more learned than myself:  I found this pig in the backroom of a shopping mall in Taunton, already this is wrong, this poor pig is a state of disrepair, no pride, it life story hidden amongst the detritus of the consumer society.  The War Pig's story is a sorry tale,  These pigs used by the Romans to frightened the War Elephants were coated in resin and pitch and set fire to, and then, squealing let loose to run amuck amongst the elephants, scattering the poor frightened beasts and so defeating their foes. Not many War Pigs survived, but recently on the Polden Hills, an excavation found the remains of  a 'Trojan War Pig' these are very rare and we are lucky to have this one preserved so well in the soils of west somerset.  From the shopping mall to my studio for the forensic examinations, creation of stretchers and in readiness for a tour of the county, The War Pig is ready, ready to spread the word, to tell of the futility of war, of the use of animals in the tactics of death, the corruption of generals, the War Pigs story is ready to be unleashed.


  1. er, were the War Pigs real pigs? But then the line 'not many War Pigs' survived - so they weren't real? This needs a writer. I volunteer.

  2. you never know ralph you might just get the call.

  3. Having grown up in Taunton, one of the memories burnt into my mind was the three pig benches that sat in the shopping centre (which was called 'The Old Market Centre' back then, but is now 'The Orchard' in a desperate attempt to be upmarket and failing).

    I loved those benches. Big, beefy wooden things. We'd always sit down there when we went shopping. There was a bakery nearby (now closed) and an Amiga shop down a small alley nearby (now obviously closed). Things changed, but the pigs were constant. They were iconic. In fact, if I was forced to describe the things that really symbolised Taunton to me, they would be the wooden pig benches, the big frogs and that old apple crushing wheel outside the old library.

    Everyone loved those pigs though! They were great! Then came the day that whoever owned the shopping centre decided they hated Taunton's cultural heritage. The big frogs that sat in the middle of the centre were ripped out, and replaced with a space where men in suits could sell you Sky TV subscriptions. The much beloved pig benches were removed in the dead of night, and replaced with nothing. It's important to remove anything fun and iconic, you see. I'm just impressed that they didn't go all-in and go after that big apple wheel with a sledgehammer so they could replace it with a man selling calendars.

    I moved away from Taunton years ago, but I still fondly remember those pig benches. Today, my dad emailed me with a link to the County Gazette, to excitedly tell me that the benches would be returning! Apparently they had been found in a storage shed, where they had been locked away. One had been smashed beyond repair for some reason, but the other two were fine! They would be touring around Taunton before being auctioned off!

    You can imagine my excitement. I had already planned a trip home, and this coincided with the early part of the benches tour. It would be like seeing an old friend again! I wasn't happy that they were being auctioned off, more horrible kowtowing to the heartless penny-pinching bureaucrat - obviously such cultural icons should be put back in public for everyone to enjoy! Still, hopefully they would end up in a nice place.

    I saw the mention of local artists 'decorating' them. "Oh dear" I thought. "I really hope this means they'll be sanding them down, or varnishing them a bit, making them look nice after all that time in storage."

    Then I found this site. No, one of them has been turned into a 'War Pig'. I stared at the image, hoping it was a different pig bench, but no. My beloved childhood memories have had wheels and spikes nailed to them. This is a bit like - no, exactly like - attaching wheels and spikes to the Mona Lisa and calling it a 'War Painting'. Now I know how they felt when the Library of Alexandra was burnt, albeit a bit less hot.

    When I think of the wooden pig bench, I think of comforting childhood days, of sunny Taunton and everything good about Somerset. Not a bespiked death machine.

    I do not blame you. You are an artist; it is your job. They said “here is a pig bench, do something with it,” and lovingly restoring it would not have cut the mustard. No, I blame whoever betrayed the poor pig in the first place, removing a beloved icon of Taunton as if it were to be made into wooden bacon (I hope that has not happened to the other pig).

    You have to admit though; it is not a very good bench any more. You have put spikes on the top where you are supposed to sit on it.

    I feel that the only solution to this is to let the pig have its revenge at last. Perhaps the War Pig was the right way to go after all. The barbarians the Romans fought may be long gone, but there’s still the money men who sold out our beloved wooden pig benches. Rise up, War Pig! Go into battle one last glorious time! Cover yourself in resin and pitch, set yourself alight, and wheel yourself towards whoever it was that sold your brothers!

  4. Wow, that is a great response. But I have to let you know that the state of the pig was not perfect, infact it was pretty rotten, and I decided that it should now be something glorious instead of a rotten wooden half pig. A story is be be told and will come out as the pigs are brought for a final hurrah around Taunton. I know how much people loved those old pigs and my daughter used to sit on them on our trips to town. Fear not the pig will rise like a Phoenix war pig and hopefully will have another life in taunton.

  5. Michael, I wondered, as did Ralph - were they LIVE pigs, the ones you mention in your war pig blog? If so, grim, or what? WE find so many ways, we humans, to torture our own and other species... :-(.

    And M my blog said you'd commented on my request to borrow your wild boar image for my boar blog - but for some reason I couldn't access it your comment. Can you email me with your response? Am so glad you're telling the war pig tale, though I'd have jostled Ralph for the job too!


  6. M scrub that. I found it again - the comment! xx Thank you!

  7. NO problem Roselle. Yes they were live pigs, all that is true as are the Pliny the Elder quotes. Alot is true and alot is made up, but the essence is right which gives the fabrication more authenticity, but then you writers know that. Sorry I seem to have done you and Ralph out of a job, I have gone and written it myself. Come on Roselle you always said i could write! xxx