Beard of Britain

I’ve been busy making preparations for Richard Branson’s visit to the Congo. He’ll obviously get red carpet treatment at the airport with handshakes from local dignitaries and smooches from their wives. I hope he remembers to squeeze their buns when they embrace him (a local custom) – a peck on the cheek should do for the wives. I’ve arranged an elephant fanfare by bribing the local herd with a sack of chick peas from the safari camp. Fingers crossed that the 10-trumpet salute won’t be emitted from their backsides, leading to embarrassing pictures of the guest of honour screwing up his nose.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that Sir Richard is coming to our part of the world to hand over five baby gorillas. The soft-hearted plutocrat bought them from a zoo to save them from a life of arse-scratching in front of countless gawking humans. Having been asked to find new homes for the little apelings, I decided to place them with respectable families in Gabon. Frankly, the female gorillas in our locality aren’t as maternal as they used to be – a lot of them hire female chimps as nannies so they can enjoy hectic social lives with weekend trips to the nut orchards and gibbon ranches.

Richard and I go back a long way. We met after he saw me perform in the circus many moons ago. I don’t want you to think he got special treatment. No Sir, he had to queue up and wait his turn like the rest of my fans. As most of them were women he was actually in his element, flashing his famous grin and flirting like a gigolo. He even signed a few autographs himself, the cheeky blighter! When we finally got to exchange words he was amazingly affable and polite, so I invited him to my trailer for a glass of mango juice. (He obviously knew it wasn’t a gay thing – very few gorillas are interested in man-love).

So we met a little later and he told me of his plans to start a new airline. As his business interests were then limited to music and contraceptives, I found this mildly intriguing. He explained that Virgin Atlantic would be a new passenger-friendly carrier with innovative on-flight services and customer-participation in all facets of the journey. He said that he’d travel on the planes himself so he could experience things from the punter’s point of view and listen to their gripes. I must admit being hugely impressed by this attitude. You couldn’t have imagined Lord Wankface of British Airways slumming it with the cabin livestock and walking down the aisle for a slash.

“Richard,” I said, “it sounds like a brilliant idea, but I wouldn’t overdo the customer-participation aspect. People don’t really want to make important decisions when they’re 30,000 feet above sea level. Let the passengers choose what film to watch and leave the flying and the navigation to the pilot. Don’t forget that you’re Virgin by nature as well as by name.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah GB, you’re right,” he agreed. “You’ve got to delegate duties in an aeroplane, it’s not like piloting a hot-air balloon.”

It was odd that he mentioned balloons, but I chose to let it pass.

Now I’m aware that a lot of people deride Richard as a show-off and self-publicist, needlessly mocking his beard for good measure. That’s because they haven’t the faintest idea of what it’s like to be an over-achiever. Imagine having fulfilled all your dreams before the age of 40 – more money than the Sultan of Brunei; more beautiful bedmates than you can remember under hypnosis; a face as recognisable as Paris Hilton’s and almost as pretty. Success on that scale would destroy your sense of mission. That’s why Richard continually has to prove himself by taking on new challenges, like preventing irreversible climate change and persuading Mugabe to throw in the towel. He may not succeed, but who else would be tackling these pressing problems if he ignored them?

Respect the man who aims high, for the man who aims low is sniffing chicken-shit. (Colonel Sanders).

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