Well I expect you’ve all heard about the new “Gorilla Kingdom” that’s opened in London Zoo. A few weeks ago I got a call from David Field, the zoo’s earnest director, imploring me to visit the place and give it my seal of approval.
“Mr Bananas, you’d be our guest of honour!” he enthused. “We’re telling everyone our gorillas will be happier in their new surroundings, but why should they believe us without your endorsement?”
“Very well, Field,” I replied. “I’ll be along shortly after it opens, but don’t tart up the place just for my visit. I know a Potemkin village when I see one and I’ll be chatting to the gorillas to make sure everything’s on the level.”
So I flew into London last weekend, and after a good night’s rest at Dr Whipsnade’s, strolled gently down to Regent’s Park. A park attendant escorted me to the gorilla enclosure and I interviewed the residents, one male and two females. They seemed satisfied with their new lodgings but expressed concerns about the watching humans. I reassured them that the encircling moat would prevent any of the hairless throng from harassing them. The moat is no barrier to a gorilla, of course, and I proved as much by leaping over it to leave the enclosure. I could scarcely believe the panic this provoked among the human onlookers.
“Help! Help! A gorilla’s escaped!” they cried. I’m sorry to say it was the men who ran the fastest and the farthest – no thought of women and children to the lifeboats for them. The children, indeed, seemed quite amused by the whole escapade, while the women took cover behind the fixtures and eyed me apprehensively. One or two winked, but I ignored them. The situation calmed down when I climbed on top of a tree stump and sat there impassively. As the humans warily returned, I gave them a stern lecture on the importance of maintaining one’s composure and setting a good example for the infants, rather than raising a hullabaloo whenever a gorilla jumps over a moat.
I returned to Field’s office without further incident and he immediately quizzed me about the report I would be making. “Did you see all the trees and plants we put in?” he asked excitedly. “Isn’t it just like a real gorilla habitat?”
“The quarters were satisfactory, Field, but the behaviour of the humans was not,” I replied. “Too many of them were wearing tea shirts with vulgar innuendos on them. You may think this doesn’t matter to gorillas who cannot read, but I assure you they notice the indecent smirks. In addition, many of the humans were sucking lozenges as they watched. This is unacceptable. Sucking while making eye-contact is extremely bad manners in gorilla society.”
Field promised that he would attend to these matters.
I decided to spend the rest of my time visiting the other animals. When I got to the Asian lions, I was surprised and delighted to bump into no less a personage than Daphne Wayne-Bough, looking radiant in her haute couture pink jacket and skirt. She was in London to inspect one of her properties and was in a congenial mood after getting a favourable valuation. We took tea together in a nearby café, and in a fit of good humour she told me a great deal about her extraordinary life. Far more than I’m going to reveal here, but I’ll give you a flavour by divulging some remarks I made in reply to her anecdotes:
“To be honest, ma’am, I’ve never understood why ladies are attracted to these uncouth biker types.”
“He didn’t! I hope you struck him on the nose with your handbag!”
“A small price to pay, milady. Those photos could have caused untold aggravation if they fell into the wrong hands.”
After we’d finished, not only did Lady Daphne insist on paying the bill, but she extravagantly over-tipped the young Corsican waiter who had been exchanging words with her in French. He then hailed a taxi, opened the door for her, and she handed him a note before the taxi sped away. It all happened so quickly that I wondered if I’d been daydreaming.
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