How we made Peppa Pig

‘After its success, we’d go to meetings with lots of ideas for other shows – but they just wanted 3,000 more episodes of Peppa Pig’

Animation is a slow, laborious process. I’m way too impatient for it. I want a lunch and a life. So, after studying animation at Middlesex University, I became a producer instead. However, two guys I met there – Mark Baker and Neville Astley – stuck at it. By 2000, things had become very hand-to-mouth for them: they’d make an animated film, pitch another, then make it. So we decided to do something together and Peppa was one of our ideas.

Continue reading...

A field guide to spotting a good shag | Brief letters

Shags versus mullets | Black dresses at the Baftas | Childhood books | Missing the moon? | Pensioners making a difference

Your “Mullets we have loved” (In pictures, 17 February) was highly flawed. Half of these “mullets” were actually shags (Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joan Jett).
Camilla Jackson
Bedworth, Warwickshire

• Your front page stated: “All three wore black dresses after a call for the awards to focus on industry rather than clothes” (Taking a stand at the Baftas, 19 February). However, on page 11, there were three columns commenting on what the actors were wearing. I am confused.
Mike Harrison

Continue reading...

Cancer, Clare and me: actor Greg Wise on the death of his sister

A year after the death of his beloved sister, Wise talks about caring for Clare in her last days, and the blog, now a book, they wrote together

It is more than a year since Clare Wise, sister of the actor Greg Wise, died of cancer. She lived just down the street from the West Hampstead house her brother shares with his wife, Emma Thompson, and their daughter, Gaia. As Greg opens his front door and leads the way into his kitchen, one can see, within minutes, why he was such an indispensable carer to his sister during the last weeks of her life. Today, he has organised elevenses with good coffee and patisserie. As an actor, he is routinely cast as a reprobate (Mountbatten in The Crown a debatable exception). In life, he could not be nicer if he tried. And that’s precisely it: he does not appear to ...

How I beat anorexia by savouring the lavish meals of literature

Laura Freeman had the eating disorder since her teens, but the enticing food conjured by Charles Dickens and Laurie Lee set her free

Laura Freeman was first diagnosed with anorexia aged 14. A decade later she had begun to rebuild her life but still struggled with her attitude to food, eating small portions of the same thing for months on end. “At 24, I’d got to the point where I was recovered enough that I could eat, but only in a very formulaic way,” she says. “I had a pretty boring diet. It was more about getting through each day.”

Then one day she read a passage in Siegfried Sassoon’s 1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man describing “a breakfast of boiled eggs eaten in winter”. It changed everything.

Continue reading...

What can we learn from Marie Stopes’s 1918 book Married Love?

A century on, its overheated language can seem quaint, but the book was a pioneering attempt to tackle a problem that is still unsolved

“More than ever today are happy homes needed,” declared crafty Marie Carmichael Stopes in the very first sentence of her sex manual Married Love, which turns 100 this year. Happy homes, her logic held, were the consequence of happy marriages and thus “the only secure basis for a present-day state”. So a book geared to teaching married couples how to have great sex (and thus a great marriage) was a service to the country.

Stopes’s was a clever argument and it worked, if not for the betterment of society, then certainly for her publisher. Married Love was a huge hit in Britain, selling out six printings within a few weeks of publication, as eager couples gobbled up its contents. The Americans were less keen on better ...

Afterglow (A Dog Memoir) by Eileen Myles review – anthropomorphism meets Joyce

This dog’s-eye view of its owner, the world and the canine afterlife is told with great literary flair

You may think, at least if you are not a dog lover, that the dog memoir is for a niche, non-literary readership. But some of the best memoirs I have read have been about dogs: JR Ackerley’s indispensable We Think the World of You soothed my broken heart as a teenager after a beloved dog had died, and Paul Bailey’s A Dog’s Life is a splendid memoir about the collie cross that took over his and his partner’s life. Even Virginia Woolf wrote a book about a dog: Flush (which is also a semi-fictional biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning although, admittedly, not one of her best). But Eileen Myles’s Afterglow belongs in a strange category of its own – it is unlike anything I have read and is a work of Joycean ...

Reni Eddo-Lodge recommends books to change the conversation

The journalist and author suggests books to challenge your thinking on work, food, beauty and sex

In the media bunfight about the legitimacy of trans people’s lives, Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness is a must read. It drags the conversation out of the gutter, instilling empathy but also forcing those of us who support trans rights to reconsider exactly how we are doing so.

For a long time, my support stopped at “trans women are women”. It seemed that anything was better than the vitriol heaped on them by the press. But reading Mock’s first memoir helped me understand that I was practising a kind of gender colour-blindness. I’ve never had to fight for my gender to be recognised, neither have I faced harassment for trying to do so. And while both cis and trans women are subject to vicious sexual violence because of our gender, I realised that there ...