Friday, December 28, 2007

Dick Whittington's pussy

I click my tongue in disapproval on learning that London has a mayor. I’m sure the office never existed back in my circus days. I’ve watched enough westerns to know that the mayor is invariably a cowardly hypocrite who can barely be trusted not to forge his own signature – the sort of scheming scoundrel who sends the lone sheriff to fight outlaws while secretly selling whiskey and rifles to the Comanche. Appointing a mayor is an invitation to corruption, skulduggery and fingers in every pie.

The current mayor of London seems little better than these characters from Dodge City. I had the misfortune to hear him on the wireless, droning away in his nasal voice about how he was tackling the city’s problems. Someone should tell this smug little twerp that London’s problems existed long before he popped out of his mother’s egg pod, and will survive long after his mortal remains have turned to dust. Nothing short of a change in latitude will solve them. The man who believes he has miraculous powers is a short step away from donning a cape and demanding sacrificial virgins.

It wasn’t always like this. The story of Dick Whittington, thrice mayor of London, is fed to English babies with their mother’s milk. The crucial difference, of course, is that Honest Dick was not the mayor, but the Lord Mayor. Being ennobled meant that very little work was required of him, which greatly limited his capacity for doing mischief. His only duties were to wear a funny hat and accept the cheers of the multitude as he travelled to the Guildhall in his golden carriage. There’s nothing like being powerless to win the affection of the English masses. The popularity of the Queen of England rests largely on her irrelevance.

Now Dick Whittington would never have made it to the top without the aid of a highly resourceful and unswervingly loyal cat. In those days, the feline population knew the meaning of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. As well liquidating pesky rodents, the ambitious cat performed odd jobs for its master and softened up his lady friends by curling up on their laps. Before the advent of the sports car, the most effective pussy-magnet was the pussy. When young Dick came to London with his worldly possessions tied up in a bundle, it was his future cat-servant who spotted his potential and showed him the ropes. After a spell together in the merchant navy, they quickly penetrated the inner circle of Lady Veronica Cadwallader, who bought Dick a seat in the Worshipful Company of Fannymakers.

Sadly, the cats of today no longer have the skills required to advance the career prospects of their owners. Dr Whipsnade allows a tomcat called Casper to reside in his mansion, who thanks to the doctor’s liberal disposition has been permitted to retain his gonads. There was a time when Casper allowed me to feed him insects by hand. Nowadays he turns up his nose at such offerings, his palate having grown accustomed to gourmet cat food containing salmon, pheasant or venison. When I invite him to approach me, he yawns lazily and sprawls along the carpet, expecting me to go and stroke his belly. He obviously thinks life is pretty good, toasting himself beside the fireplace and shagging the neighbourhood kitties when he can be bothered to get off his arse. His nemesis can’t be far away though. He has the complacent air of the pride male whose domain is about to be invaded by a pair of young lions who’ll make mincemeat of him. He’ll be yawning out of the other side of his face when that happens.

But enough of London's pampered felines. Tomorrow I return to the Congo, where men are men and apes are apes. And cats are vicious devils who'll rip out your liver if you give them half a chance.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

A garden refuge

I arrive at Dr Whipnade’s residence for a short vacation, if that is the correct term for chilling one’s rump in the cold clammy air of a London winter. As I look out of my bedroom window, I spy a gentleman with a swarthy, stubbly face, toasting sausages over a small bonfire at the foot of the garden. As befits a philanthropist of note, the doctor has opened the gilded doors of his tool shed to a deserving vagrant for the Christmas season. Before you scoff, please note that the shed is a spacious depository with brick walls, a concrete floor and a roof of durable rubber. The interior contains a wash basin with hot and cold taps, a latex mattress and a gleaming array of the latest Black & Decker implements. Look to your own lives before judging the generosity of others.

I pay the man a courtesy visit next day and he is most civil, putting his kettle on the fire and plucking a couple of teabags from his overcoat pocket. It turns out that he is an unemployed Welsh actor called Trevor bin Laden. This is actually the stage name he has adopted to catch the attention of casting directors. His real name is Trevor Bumphries-Maddocks, which for all I know may be the Welsh form of ‘bin Laden’. His recent acting roles have been middle-eastern characters who yell an Arabic phrase before blowing themselves up or cutting someone’s throat. I ask him about his current accommodation problems.

“I recently had lodgings with an elderly widow who let me do chores instead of paying rent,” he explains. “We got on well until she saw me practising some lines on her cat. Would you believe she called the fuzz!? Thought I was a terrorist trying to involve her pet in a suicide plot against the shuttle service to her local bingo hall. I spent six hours in a police cell while they took my room apart from top to bottom. She wouldn’t have me back even after they’d assured her that her suspicions were groundless. I must be the first bloke in history who got thrown onto the streets for conspiring with a cat.”

“A shocking miscarriage of justice,” I remark. “Have you not thought of broadening your acting portfolio?”

“I think of very little else, Mr Bananas,” he replies. “It’s not that I mind playing jihadist assassins. The Welsh and Arabian tongues have many points of similarity and I once worked in an abattoir, so I’m pretty handy with a knife. But there’s not much emotional depth required to howl with rage before perpetrating an outrage, is there? You could find half-a-dozen capable of that in most of the pubs in Bridgend on a Saturday night. What I need is a good, solid character role of the sort Tony Hopkins used to play before he became a big star.”

“Like The Hunchback of Notre Dame?” I suggest.

“No fear, boyo!” he exclaims. “I’ve had enough problems with back pain to be stooping around with a medicine ball glued to my shoulder blades. I was thinking of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in Victory at Entebbe. I’d have the critics cooing from the rafters if they saw me in a part like that.”

“I can’t see you landing that one in spite of your experience in playing Levantines,” I caution. “You don’t even have a ballpark resemblance to Mr Rabin.”

“Well, I was only using him an as example,” replies Trevor. “To be honest, anything with lines spoken in a conversational tone of voice would interest me, irrespective of my preference for work with sound artistic and orthopaedic credentials.”

I nod in comprehension and wish the frustrated thespian a Merry Christmas before returning to the mansion.

It must be Trevor’s lucky day, for that very evening I learn that Dr Whipsnade has invited an up-and-coming theatre producer to dinner. This budding impresario informs us that he is looking for an actor to play an unusual character part in a Christmas stage production. Without hesitation, I enthusiastically propose Trevor for the role. Alas, we cannot invite him into the house because he is away practising improvisational street dialogue with the ladies outside Kings Cross station. But I cite his acting credits, which greatly impress our guest.

Next morning, I knock on the door of the tool shed. After a minute of muttering and groaning, a bleary-eyed Welshman appears before me, wearing long johns and sucking a lozenge. He invites me to sit down on a sack of weed killer while he washes his face in the basin. His ablutions complete, he sits down on the mattress and apologises for his state of dishevelment. I waste no time in announcing the stage role he has been offered.

“A pantomime horse!” gasps Trevor in astonishment. “Are you taking the mickey, Bananas? I’m an actor who went to drama school, not a silly bugger who prances around in animal suits. I took for you for a better ape than to kick a man when he’s down!”

“It is no ordinary horse, Sir!” I protest. “It has more lines than most of the humans and funny ones to boot! I have seen the script!”

Impressed by my sincerity, Trevor questions me about the production and is gradually persuaded that the equine role would be a useful form of occupational therapy before his next gig as a wild-eyed fanatic.

“Maybe I’ll give it a go this one time,” he says, stroking his chin.


As I type these words, I see Mr Trevor bin Laden leaving Dr Whipsnade’s tool shed for the last time, with suitcase in hand. He will make his way to the train station, from where he will travel to bed-and-breakfast accommodation paid for by the Howling Breeze Stage Company. I must go and bid him farewell. I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s been cast as the horse’s rear end.

The Japing Ape wishes his readers a Merry Christmas and will post again one week from today.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Brides of Santa

I’m glad to hear that the authorities are finally cracking down on sharp practice in the Santa Claus industry. Men who wear false whiskers should never be encouraged, in my view. When I was in the circus, we once gave a middle-aged clown Santa privileges during the festive season. Unfortunately, the impudent fellow supposed that putting on the costume and beard gave him the right to pester female staff whenever he had the urge to feel a pert bottom on his lap. The knife-thrower’s assistant got more than her fair share of his attention and asked me to swap trailers with her on Christmas Eve. I readily agreed, keeping the door unlocked to allow the blighter to pursue whatever villainous scheme he had in mind.

I awoke in the dead of night to the sound of rummaging at the foot of the bed. The deluded nitwit had grasped my left foot and was about to subject it to some sort of oral perversion! Unluckily for him, the dextrous toes of a gorilla are capable of faster and more decisive action than the slobbering tongue of a man. Without issuing a warning, I grabbed his nose and gave it a vicious tweak. He stumbled out of the trailer moaning, obviously in no condition to deliver further presents that night. He subsequently tried to hide his injury under the false nose of his clown’s costume. I hushed up the incident to preserve what little dignity he retained.

Next Christmas, I was approached by an all-female delegation begging me to play the part of the nocturnal nomad from the North Pole.

“You’re the only Santa we’d trust to fill our stockings!” they chirped.

I wasn’t going to fall for their flattery. There is a fine line between a performing gorilla and a big hairy arse in a Noddy costume. I excused myself with the following words:

“I am touched by your offer, ladies, but I fear that I am rather too bulky to slide down your slender chimneys.”

The women swallowed their disappointment and hit upon the revolutionary idea of appointing a female Santa. The girl they chose worked in the make-up section and insisted on wearing a red miniskirt rather than the traditional pixie britches. She did a fair job until she was caught in flagrante with her boyfriend under the trampoline, still wearing her costume. People then started calling her ‘Saint Knickerless’ behind her back, and it was all downhill from there.

It goes without saying that there’s a lot more to Christmas than getting presents from a pot-bellied codger dressed like a garden gnome. In my considered opinion, Mr Claus is a usurper who has unjustly upstaged the true luminaries of the occasion, who are the nuns. As brides of Christ, they are, figuratively speaking, wives of the birthday boy. And after spending the whole year living on bread, soup and prayers, they ought to have pride of place in the Christmas celebrations, wearing festive clothes and dancing with the best-looking blokes.

If the Pope had a little more imagination, he would give the nuns special dispensation to have sex with the man of their choice on Christmas Day. No man should be allowed to refuse them on pain of excommunication (other than the Pope himself, who is primus non bonkus). On this special day of the year, making love to a nun should be a holy sacrament rather than fornication most vile.

It would be interesting to see who the holy sisters would choose to be their lovers. A lot of them wouldn’t bother, of course. After years of non-use, the female parts are prone to seize up like an engine that’s short of oil. My feeling is that those who are still interested would surprise us with their selections, eschewing the predictable Brad Pitt or George Clooney types. Call me a fanciful ape, but I reckon that Sister Bridget would be fatally drawn to a brooding saturnine fellow like Christopher Lee in his Dracula days. The temptation to dabble in the dark side is greatest for those who have known only light.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tarzan and Jane

An English couple at the safari guesthouse recently performed a Tarzan-and-Jane sketch. I reproduce it below with stage directions:

Enter Jane, wearing furry bikini and examining coconut in her hand.

Jane (shouting): Oh Tarzan! Would you help me break open this coconut?

Enter Tarzan, wearing trademark loincloth and expression of Class A meathead. Takes coconut from Jane and taps it gingerly against his forehead.

Tarzan: Hum! This hard coconut! Tarzan go and find rock!

Jane (contemptuously): Oh give it to me!

Snatches coconut from Tarzan and smashes it against his skull, causing it to break into roughly equivalent hemispheres. Tarzan staggers about in a daze.

Tarzan (muttering): Humphwurumph.

Jane rubs some coconut oil on her tummy and looks at Tarzan coyly.

Jane (in hoochie mama voice): Does Tarzan want to rub oil on Jane’s boobies?

Tarzan opens eyes wide, turns to face audience and then looks at Jane.

Tarzan: Not tonight Jane. Tarzan got headache!

The couple took their bow amid raucous laughter and cheers. After leaving briefly to change into more formal dress, they returned to bask in the praise of their fellow guests. For some reason they were particularly interested in what I had to say, and awaited my appraisal of their performance as if I were the Ape from Del Monte.

“Quite splendid!” I enthused. “If Johnny Weissmuller were here today his pecs would be throbbing with envy. And his co-star who played Jane would be rushing off to get her boobs enlarged. You have put a teaspoon of chilli powder into a dish growing bland with age!”

They beamed with delight and asked me for my autograph, which I was happy to provide.

We gorillas have no particular animus towards Tarzan, although it was rather presumptuous to call him “Lord of the Apes”. There are no titles in the jungle and a solo man is in no position to lord it over anyone, no matter how much beefcake he is carrying. Other than that, the story is pretty flattering to us. A human infant of noble birth is adopted by a mysterious band of apes and suckled by a surrogate ape mother. They bring him up to be a model jungle citizen who always tells the truth and repels dastardly interlopers with vigorous and well-aimed flying kicks. The only point against him is that he never really lets his hair down and boogies like an ape. Perhaps his tribe were devout Presbyterians or something. But basically he is a good egg.

Jane is obviously thrown into the story to complete the fantasy for the human male. Her presence implies that you can live like a real jungle ape, swinging wildly through the trees, while cohabiting with a hoity-toity mistress. It does seem a little far-fetched though. A woman like Jane might well have consented to a roll in the undergrowth with Tarzan, but I can’t imagine her willingly moving into the tree house with him. Yet before we pour scorn on the fable, let us recall that it inspired a little girl called Jane Goodall to respond to the lure of the jungle. As my well-informed readers will know, she went on to become a celebrated chronicler of chimpanzee society and the best-looking white woman in Africa.

While the Tarzan books have their place in popular fiction, the Tarzan films are something else. When I saw my first Tarzan movie, I hooted with laughter on hearing the ape-man’s famous ululating cry. You see, it actually means something in baboon language. A rough translation is:

“Look! Look at my erection! Look at my erection!”

What makes it doubly funny is that no baboon with an erection would ever dream of voicing such an exhortation. He wouldn’t be so damned silly. Rather than alerting his rivals to his condition, he would sneak off to find an unguarded female in season – or failing that, an unweaned baby wart hog. The wonderful thing is that the European Union has now ruled that the famous chant cannot be registered as a trademark, allowing Tarzan impersonators to yell it to their heart’s content. For long may they continue to do so!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

The nose have it

A French woman at the safari camp reveals that she is sexually attracted to men with big noses.

“You mean like Gérard Depardieu?” I ask

“Pah!” she exclaims. “His nose is like the tulip bulb. I want the long sharp nose of Mr Geoffrey Rush!”

“A decent actor,” I admit, “but not a big hit with the ladies, as far as I know.”

“For sure he is a hit with this lady!” insists the woman. “And he always acts to such naughty roles – the Marquis de Sade, the Pirate of the Caribbean. He can rush me to his cabin if ever he wants!”

She squeals and pinches my arm, delighted with her own wit.

“Excellent pun, to be sure,” I remark. “Yet what is it about big noses that appeals to you? The prospect of a good nuzzle perhaps? Or does their sniffing potential tickle your fancy?

“Sniffing and nuzzling is good,” she answers, “but more important is what the big nose suggests about the man.”

She chuckles, giving me a knowing look.

“Indeed?” I reply. “And what might that be?”

This straightforward question prompts the woman to laugh hysterically for a good minute-and-a-half. Heaven knows what she finds so hilarious. The French are famous for their odd sense of humour, of course. A lot of them find Jerry Lewis funny.

“My dear Mr Bananas!” she sighs at length, drying her eyes. “You are big, strong and hairy, but you have hardly any nose! So, alas, I could never be yours.”

“I am sorry to be unworthy of you,” I reply loftily. “I shall endeavour to bear my disappointment lightly.”

I leave her to entertain the other guests with her nasal ruminations.

Maybe what she liked about big-nosed men was their implied personality. A woman might easily develop a fascination for such a fellow after watching him ferreting around, probing beneath the veils of multi-layered mystery. Lieutenant Columbo acquired a huge female following simply by asking awkward questions, even though he dressed like a tramp and was a patsy to his wife. The nosey man might also be more adventurous in bed, delving with his torchlight into regions that less inquisitive lovers would shun. And let’s not forget that many women are fond of cats, who are renowned for their curiosity.

Snooping in the wrong circumstances can be a terribly destructive thing, though. The Nosey Parker has ruined the career of many a promising politician. Does anyone remember Gary Hart, the American senator from somewhere-or-the-other? He was billed as the next John Kennedy, even though he didn’t have a particularly large nose. The same could not be said of Barry Manilow, the shrew-faced songwriter and neighbour of Mr Hart. When he learnt that the senator was taking time off the campaign trail to relax on his yacht, he turned up at the harbour with a box full of signed albums. The assorted dolly birds and party girls on the vessel inevitably broke cover and screamed, as they are wont to do in the presence of famous crooners. The press quickly got wind of the commotion and Mr Hart’s presidential bid exploded in a shower of crotchless panties and push-up bras.

I don’t begrudge Manilow his success and give him his due as a composer of sentimental ballads. I’m sure he has no shortage of female admirers who have fallen head-over-heels in love with his phenomenal snout. But he should curb his inquisitive instincts when they are likely to change the course of American politics.

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