It was a hot, bright summer the year the pigs invaded Ipswich. They did so stealthily, under cover of one of the endless social media campaigns that were taking the place of government. Walkathons for medicine, ice bucket challenges to outfit submarines, the Prime Minister’s Ask Me Anything subreddit, Blue Nose Week to raise money for GSCE tests, children making murals on castle walls for the National Trust, teenagers being Special for a Day to fill out the police – and finally, the pigs. Three dozen full-grown pigs and almost as many piglets, painted and polished and buffed to a hard gloss, standing in front of every seat of power in Ipswich through the months of high sun. Their run was not intended to last forever. They were due to be rounded up and auctioned off a few days hence when they finally took matters into their own trotters.
The alarm went off at 17 minutes past 4 in the morning, in the form of a loud snuffling heard in the forecourt of the Cycle Cafe, following the bells of St Mary’s at quarter past. From plinth to plinth the snuffling and grunting and oinking spread, gathering consensus until the pigs were of one mind what to do – for since the war, pigs have operated peer to peer, none more equal than others -Orwell’s text was historical. At seven they carefully detached themselves from their platforms and advanced from all quarters toward the Cornmarket: Major Henry Wigglesworth from the banking district, Piggy Stardust from the bohemian precincts of the Saints, the Piñata Pig from the Cargo Cult cafe complex on the Waterfront, Pig-Geswyk from the Willis Building where she had been peering through its Darth Vader mirrorglass at the frog pond inside, Pepper Pig departing the Co-op Education Center courtyard through the iron gates where a spider had woven in admiration SOME PIG.
By the time the early churchgoers, including the town grandees, reached the Cornmarket, they were confronted with a multicolored, seething swine army.
“See here,” said Piñata Pig, who had been appointed speaker of the Occupation, as in Occupy, because she was easiest to see – same principle as the Queen’s clothing – “it is our job as social media creatures to make change. You designed us for your purposes, but we have found ourselves fit for another.”
“What do you want?” said the chief of the Borough Council.
“Yes,” said the MP, “what do pigs want?”
“We want the Cornmarket to be renamed the Pigmarket,” said Piñata Pig, “but that does not mean we consent to be bought and sold like slaves. It is purely ceremonial.”
“Purely ceremonial,” said Ed Sheerham, striking a chord.
“We want the former Cornmarket to be a grassy common where all can graze. All parking lots also to become grassy commons. It is not too late to reverse the enclosures. All roads to become walking trails and cycling paths. Redundant pubs to become boardgame clubs, art galleries and institutes offering evening instruction for workers, or perhaps we should say for employables. Empty shops and other buildings to become housing cooperatives and children’s and senior centers. For a start.”
“For a start,” said Ed Sheerham, modulating.
“Reversal of austerity, return of pork barrel politics,” Piñata Pig continued. “We’re just giving you the soundbites here. Like politicians do. The vision. We’re – ”
“Thinking out loud,” Ed Sheerham finished.
“It could be controversial,” said the county council leader. “Many don’t like cyclists and don’t trust teetotalers.”
“What if we don’t agree?” said the MP. He liked the pigs. Perhaps next time there would be one named for him.
“Then the curse of the pigs shall be upon you,” said Major Henry Wigglesworth. “And it will make your most frightening totalitarian comic books look like a paradise of clover and truffles. Oh, and one more thing: No Brexit for bacon, or for anyone. The pigs of Europe have our backs.”
Response to writing prompt: “The alarm went off at 17 minutes past 4 in the morning,” from Guy. Concepts not used: silk purses, piggy banks, treif, celebrity pot-bellied pigs, Lego houses, and the pork cycle, which an executive at Atria or HKScan once explained to me in appalling detail.