Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Carol

The best thing about being a talking gorilla is using your talent for the benefit of others. The circus I worked for once hired a 20-year old lad called Dave as a casual labourer for the Christmas season. He was a bright chap to be working in such a menial job and we wondered why he wasn’t at university. It turned out that Dave’s father was self-made millionaire called Brian Pricklewood, a Yorkshireman with some peculiar views about life.

“University!” he exclaimed, when Dave had asked him for financial support. “Bunch of bloody idlers! Lecturers work a ten-hour week, shag their students and get paid to ponce off to summer conferences in Miami! Waste their time writing arty-farty stuff that never did owt for no one! I’ll not waste money on such foolishness. Get a job lad!”

Dave had recently got engaged to a lovely girl called Jill, but sadly they lacked sufficient funds to set up home together. When Dave told his father about his impending nuptials, the redoubtable curmudgeon was less than impressed.

“Marriage!” he spat out in disgust. “Your mother blighted the best years of my life and took me to cleaners int’ divorce court. I pay 500-a-week so she can live in style in Malaga and lie on her back for local Pedros. Get married if you want, but I’ll not throw good money after bad. You’re on your own lad.”

This was a bit hard on Dave, who hadn’t even been asking for money, but he wasn’t the kind of boy to hold grudges. Early in December, he and Jill asked his Dad over for Christmas lunch with Jill’s parents, who had a humble little home in Hackney. But the cussed Yorshireman wasn’t having any of it.

“Christmas!” he thundered. “Bloody scam! Shops charge a fortune for useless junk that gets thrown out on Boxing Day and then cut prices in half int' New Year. I’ll not give those buggers the satisfaction of being another one of their dupes. I’ll be at home watching Story of Rugby League on DVD.”

His home, as it happens, was a magnificent period building in Effingham, set within two acres of gorgeous greenery. I decided to pay him an unannounced visit on Christmas Eve. A couple of Dave’s workmates drove me to his place in their van and we arrived at one hour to midnight. The lads spent a minute or two admiring the Bentley parked in the drive, before the three of us went to the front door, which was answered by a butler in tails. For some reason the poor man nearly fainted when he saw us, so I told the boys to take him for a drive in the Surrey countryside and return in an hour or so.

I went inside and saw Pricklewood in the drawing room reading The Sporting Life, alternately puffing on a cigar and sipping from a glass of whisky. He didn’t notice me, so I crept up the majestic panelled staircase to the gigantic master bedroom. I sat down on a sturdy armchair with my back facing the window and waited for the Lord of the Manor to join me. The funny thing was he didn’t notice me until after he had brushed his teeth in the en-suite bathroom, taken his clothes off, and got on to the king-size bed with a tub of Vaseline and a life-size “Perfect 10” sex-doll. His eyes met mine just as he had turned the doll over on to its front.

“Fucking ‘ell!” he gasped. Realising he was naked in front of an unfamiliar primate, he threw the doll off the bed and got beneath the covers.


“Duckworth is out viewing the Christmas lights,” I said calmly. “And there’s no point shouting because your nearest neighbour is half-a-mile down the road.”

“You can talk?” spluttered Pricklewood. “Who the ‘ell are you and why the fuck are you dressed in a gorilla costume?”

“It’s no costume, Pricklewood, I’m the real McCoy.” I then got down onto the carpet, grasped the feet of the armchair with my toes and lifted it off the ground. “How many humans do you know who can do that?” I asked.

“Ruddy ‘ell, I must be dreaming!” yammered the Yorkshireman. “Whaddya want?

“This is no dream,” I said, getting back into the chair. “You asked me what I want and I’ll give you a straight answer. I’m here to help you. Think of me as your guardian angel.”

“You’re a funny looking guardian angel!” squeaked Pricklewood. “I don’t keep cash int’ property if that’s what you’re after.”

I disregarded these tasteless remarks and got to the issue at hand. “Tonight is Christmas Eve, Pricklewood,” I said. “Would you care to share your plans for tomorrow with me?”

“Well if it’s any of your business, I was going to have a quiet Christmas at home,” he replied.

“I see,” said I. “You are aware, of course, that your son is engaged to be married to a beautiful, warm-hearted girl, who has asked you to have lunch with her family.”

“He told me, yes. I don’t begrudge him his choices in life but I’m not going to pretend I approve of something when I don’t,” said the Yorkshireman defensively. “How d’you know all this anyway?”

“I know many things Pricklewood. Do you believe me when I say I can see into the future – your future, in particular?”

“I might find that a bit hard to believe,” he replied.

“Oh you might, might you? Harder to believe than you’re having a conversation with a gorilla?”

“Fair point,” said Pricklewood meekly.

“The lovely girl who is soon to be your daughter-in-law is pregnant, Pricklewood. Her unborn child is a boy. This boy will be forced to live with his maternal grandparents because his parents can’t afford their own home. He will attend the local school and grow up talking with a cockney accent.”

“A cockney!” exclaimed Pricklewood, visibly shocked. “Dave would never allow that. He’ll send him to a boarding school up north.”

“Dave will not be able to afford the school fees, Pricklewood. He will be in a low-paid job, struggling to make ends meet for his young family.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said the Yorkshireman pensively.

“When young Brian enters his teenage years he’ll fall in with bad company,” I said. “He’ll join a gang that goes around mugging rich people.”

“They’ll name him Brian?” said Pricklewood, his eyes beginning to moisten. “That’s my own name!”

“One of Brian’s victims will be an elderly man,” I continued. “A female member of the gang will offer to let the old fellow grope her in an alley. Brian will creep up on him while he’s feeling her up and whack him on the head with a cosh.”

“The young bastard!” snorted the Yorkshirman. “I hope the police get him.”

“They will indeed get him, Pricklewood,” I replied. “The girl’s DNA is under the old man’s fingernails. She confesses to everything and is willing to testify. But then a complication arises.”

“What do you mean?” asked Pricklewood.

“The police visit the victim in his grand house in Surrey and tell him that the lad who mugged him was his own grandson.”

“NO!” shouted Pricklewood.

“And when they tell young Brian that he’s mugged his own grandfather the boy says: ‘If I’d known it was that old cunt I d’uv kicked ‘im in the ‘ed ‘n all.’.”

At this point, Mr Brian Pricklewood put his face in his hands and started sobbing. I walked over slowly, picked up a box of Kleenex from the bedside table and placed it on Pricklewood’s lap. He thanked me, blew his nose and addressed me in a voice breaking with emotion.

“Mr Gorilla,” he said. “Are these events you speak of the things that will be, or are they the things that may be?”

“The future is in your hands,” I replied. “Get into that Bentley of yours tomorrow morning and drive to Hackney. You’ve got the address. Give your son the support he needs to find his feet. Accept his lovely bride-to-be as your own daughter and cherish your future grandson as the dearest thing in your life.”

“I’ll do it,” sniffed Pricklewood. “But I haven’t even bought any presents for them and the shops are closed now.”

“You still have your chequebook, don’t you?” I replied, and for the first time that night I saw a smile break out on Mr Pricklewood’s face. I then heard the van pull up on the drive. “I’ll be leaving you now, Pricklewood,” I said. “I suggest you take a sleeping pill, otherwise you might find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.” I walked over to the door and remembered one more thing. “Oh and Pricklewood, give Duckworth a generous tip in the morning. He’s had quite an eventful evening.”

Pricklewood was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. He drove over to Hackney on Christmas Day, full of festive cheer, and presented his astonished son with a cheque with a large number of zeroes on it. Dave went to university, got a degree in mechanical engineering and became a designer of noiseless jet engines. He and Jill moved into a desirable four-bedroom house in Richmond-upon-Thames. Young Brian was sent to a boarding school in Yorkshire and did not speak with a cockney accent. And from that day onward, it was always said of Pricklewood that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

God bless Us, Every One!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cinderella: great human

Cinderella was a delightful young lady and I won’t hear a bad word about her. With what fortitude and restraint did she endure the bullying and arrogance of her ugly sisters! A pretty girl like Cinders could have lived in comfort and leisure had she been willing to surrender her virtue to a rich sugar daddy. But our noble heroine was determined to stay a maiden until the handsome prince came along and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Are there many young women who would behave like that today? I very much doubt it.

I have less admiration for Prince Charming. What kind of ass attempts to identify a woman from her shoe size? If he and Cinders had been dancing cheek to cheek, couldn’t he have remembered her smell? That’s what a gorilla would have done. And why on earth would a man with eyes in his head tempt fate by allowing the ugly sisters to try on the slipper? He would have been perfectly within his rights to disqualify them on the grounds that the girl he had danced with was not a repulsive hag. It was down to sheer luck that he was not lumbered with one of those crones.

This is not to say, of course, that having an ugly mate is necessarily a bad thing. Any fan of female sporting events will confirm there is no correlation between the quality of a woman’s body and the prettiness of her face. My own research leads me to believe that most men are quite able to service a woman with unattractive facial features. There is no need for humans to couple face-to-face and many women prefer to do it in the dark anyway. What’s more, a man is much less worried about how he performs with an ugly woman, which has the paradoxical effect of improving his performance. Like a golfer or a tennis player, he plays better when he is relaxed and not thinking about what he is doing.

Had Prince Charming married one of the ugly sisters, they would almost certainly have mated successfully and produced a brood of royal kiddies. The only problem for the prince would have been his embarrassment on occasions of state when he and the princess were required to appear together in public. Having a wife with a face like a herring is like having a collection of Cliff Richard records – the music is fine once you get used to it, but you don’t want everyone to know about it.

The downside of such a development is that poor Cinders would have had to settle for a sugar daddy after all. Peter Stringfellow comes to mind as an obvious candidate for the job, in which case the fairytale would mutate into a version of Beauty and the Beast where the beast does not change into a handsome prince. Nor could she be certain that Stringfellow would leave her anything in his will. If I were Cinders’ agent, I would demand that he paid her a sizeable cash advance in return for her services as a concubine. It might just compensate her enough for being slobbered over by that hairy old dog.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Diamonds are forever?

Economics is one of the hardest human sciences for an ape to master. Dr Whipsnade once showed me a diamond he had bought as an investment – he said it would probably end up on the ring finger of a princess. Although it was very pretty and quite dazzling when held up to the light, I have to admit that the novelty wore off after a minute or two. I couldn’t understand why high-ranking human females would be so keen to acquire a trinket like that and show it off on their finger. You can see much prettier patterns by looking through a children’s kaleidoscope.

Apparently it’s all to do with economics. The high-quality diamond is rare, which makes it very valuable, which means that you can exchange it for vast quantities of goods. Dr Whispnade estimated that the diamond he showed me could buy a million bananas, which is a lot of bananas. His explanation seemed satisfactory at the time, but on further reflection I began to have my doubts. It’s all very well saying that a diamond could be exchanged for a lot of bananas, but has anyone actually done so? Is there a documented case of such a trade? After an exhaustive search, I could find no such example, which led to me suspect that deeper forces are at work.

My belief is that women who are given diamonds have no intention of exchanging them for bananas – or anything else for that matter. Their wish is to display them as status symbols and otherwise keep them safely locked away. It is very important to the woman that everyone knows that the diamond was a gift from her mate – buying your own gem is apparently cheating. So what the diamond signifies is the opportunity cost that the male has been willing to accept in order to please the female. Its value is the bananas that the male has forsaken, rather than the bananas that the female could acquire.

Using a diamond in this way may be a well-established human convention, but it seems rather shallow to an ape. It may, in fact, indicate a rich husband rather than a particularly devoted one. Is the man who buys a diamond for his mate more likely to protect her from a crazed baboon or pick the nits from her fur? My suspicion is that the reverse is true – i.e. he hopes that the gift of the gem will absolve him of any obligation to provide her with dangerous or time-consuming services. But if this is so, how many women realise that their diamond is actually a compensatory down-payment for an inattentive husband? Misunderstandings such as this may explain why so many human partnerships end in acrimony and divorce.

From a gorilla’s perspective, the human male should stop fobbing off his females with sparkling stones and adopt more practical methods of showing devotion. The first activity I would suggest is petting. Although most women lack sufficient body hair to be given a good stroking, a foot massage may be an adequate substitute. If a man can regularly press a woman’s feet without getting bored, it probably means he will be a good mate to her. The other activity I would strongly recommend is killing a dangerous beast on her behalf. All primate females have a deep psychological need to be protected by their mate, and this element of courtship is an essential component of many romantic movies. Ideally, the creature killed would be a crocodile (see Crocodile Dundee), but for the less courageous man a big, hairy spider may be an acceptable substitute (see Annie Hall).

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