Welcome once more to my World of Zoos, I am Stuart Hall, and I knew your mother quite well in the 1970s. Due to the so called credit crunch I am loathed to report that I haven’t been jetted off to far flung lands, rich in biodiversity and exotic cocktails. I do like a cocktail. But I digress. NO! So I shall be visiting a zoo in our very own Londinium Town: Tottenham Hotspur. The kind folk at FistedAway offered me money for the omnibus, and I declined; I do not, and shall not, use public transport (though I confess, I do like the sound of an ‘oyster card‘. Delicious!). This is not because I am adverse to you, the public – o, heavens no! I love you all like an absent Uncle who is somehow still your favourite – but it is style, dear boy, style that concerns me. Wouldn’t you rather step crisply from a gleaming automobile than stumble from a motorised Charabanc? I would, so I pocketed the cash and fired up the Jaguar S.
Anyway, “THE ANIMALS STUART!”, I hear you cry it with whiskey soaked passion, like Alex Ferguson arguing with the passage of time itself. “NO! you listen to me, that was never 5 minutes. This, THIS is five minutes………
WAN AN’ A HAFF…
But I am a disciple of time – a lover of clocks, the slipping sands and the endless beat – so I shall not waste any more of yours, lets take a look inside. The path ahead leads to a gate; a gate beyond which a veritable bounty of farmyard life sprawls.
Next to the pond stands a solitary Bull; Huddlestone (he was given this name after the zoo ran a competition in the local primary schools) slowly turns his head to greet me, swings his tail lazily and goes back to chewing the cud. This marvellous beast has four, count them, FOUR! stomachs. The first of these is known as the ruman, where large amounts of food are stored and softened. Huddlestone then regurgitates his food (latterly a combination of carbohydrate shakes, pasta and grass since Keeper Redknapp’s dubious plans to turn him into a prize Bullock) before chewing it again. This perhaps explains why the diet and conditioning work hasn’t brought about the desired effects.
In an adjacent field, my attention is drawn to two distressed horses. The mane of one is unkempt and tied loosely with cord so it at least does not effect his vision, yet can flap the occasional lank lock to keep the flies off him. He stands and moves towards me. Who is this fellow then? A quick look at the information panel reveals he is, of course Woodgate. A prize horse in his day, courted by royalty in Spain. He moves like a ballerina in honey, but then drops, whinnying loudly as he does. His stable mate, a stallion of some repute known as King, gallops over to check upon his stricken stablemate. King has a powerful form, but I am afraid he has forgotten in his haste something vital. HE HAS NO KNEES! All too vital in a horse, I am afraid. He too crashes into the hard earth beneath him. The zoos vet comes running, and administers an emergency course of prescription bolts to the heads of both. Yet, Keeper Redknapp still touts them both for the Equestrian World Cup.
As enjoyable as my day has been so far I am feeling once more the desire to taste the exotic. But although an unnamed manager gave me the address of a rather delightful bordello, my professionalism is such that I will attempt to satisfy this urge legally, within the confines of this very zoo. Fortunate then that we have arrived at the next exhibit. Through the dense vegetation, beyond the robust fence struts a killer: the Komodo Dragon Palacios, muscular and stocky with a venomous bite. He does not kill his pray swiftly. He stalks them for as long as it takes. He will often get in early doors, taking a quick bite before niggling, snapping and harassing them until eventually the poison injected with the first attack bears fruit. Or flesh, for this is what he prefers, and, moreover, it would be entirely pointless stalking a piece of fruit. They are seldom nomadic; useful as after spending any time at this zoo his resale value will soon be trifling.
I feel better for that. I can feel the blood coursing through my veins once again, and my face has turned a healthy shade of ruddy once more. There is only one thing left to do now and that is visit what the Victorians might have called “a living curiosity”. A tall building to the left gives hints of the delights in store. You, and Channel Five documentary teams, may call him a freak. But really, who is the real monster: is it him…or you?
It’s him. Obviously. Look at him.
Inside is a creature alien to our fuzzy European eyes. I give you the Giraffe, Crouch. There is an unnatural grace about his movement and I believe I quote Shakespeare when I say “He has quick feet for a big Giraffe”. Indeed this was once a Giraffe known for dancing. But no more. Can I, Stuart Hall, resplendent in pantaloons, riding boots and naked from the waist up, coax anything from him? He looks at me with an expression that seems to say “It’s not about dancing. It is about being a Giraffe and eating leaves. I’m not doing that stuff any more. It’s an important time for eating leaves now”. I rebutton my shirt, scowling.
That dear companions is all we have time for. I know, I know, dry your tears and come into my arms. Physical contact reassures me. Now kiss me on both cheeks. NEVER THE LIPS! There, feel all better now? I thought as much. I must now go and cool my buttocks on the leather seats of my motor car. Toodles!