Friday, April 28, 2006

What do women want?

Having lived among humans for many years, I can confidently state that I prefer the society of women. Not because I fancy them, of course, although the ones who don’t shave their legs might confuse a randy gorilla on a dark night. What’s interesting about the human female is her susceptibility to language: a well-chosen phrase can have a profound effect on her mood. Female gorillas are splendid creatures in many ways, but they are utterly lacking in this kind of subtlety. To get in their good books, you’ve just got to feed them, groom them and protect them. Telling a female gorilla what beautiful dark eyes she has – or complimenting her on her new hairstyle – won’t inspire anything more than an impatient sucking of the teeth.

This is where the human male often comes unstuck. His natural instinct is to give a woman what a female gorilla wants and leave it at that. The problem is that most women need to be in the right frame of mind before they are ready to play the part of Mrs Gorilla. And getting them into a suitable mental state requires patience, attentiveness and the ability to express an apt sentiment at the correct moment. It follows that men who have these skills are highly prized – and often adored – by the gentler sex. The most famous historical example is probably Casanova, but unfortunately we have no record of what the great Chevalier actually said to his paramours. The man whose technique I admire the most is Butch Cassidy, as played by the smooth-talking Paul Newman.

Back in my circus days, I once saw a slender young woman sobbing alone outside the big tent. She had been watching the show with her boyfriend, but had refused to leave with him after they had quarrelled. Taking pity on the chit, I offered to take her for a ride on the bicycle I had used in my act. This idea made her chuckle, and a few minutes later we were wheeling around the circus tent, she perched on the handlebars like Etta, me peddling away like Butch. She giggled with pleasure as the breeze blew through her tousled hair, and shrieked with excitement as we banked around the tighter bends. No one was singing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, but the mood of the occasion was very much in keeping with the original soundtrack.

She was flushed with delight when we had finished our little jaunt, all traces of her earlier tears having vanished entirely. I then escorted her to the bus stop. On our way there she asked me an unusual question:

“If I were a gorilla, would you want me to be your mate?”

I could have said that she’d be welcome to join my harem, but I sensed this wouldn’t quite capture the spirit of the moment. A dose of the old Butch Cassidy charm was clearly in order.

“When we were riding together on my bicycle you were my mate,” I replied. “That’s as good as being married in the Congo.”

I am pleased to say that this remark went down well. In fact, she took a leaf out of Etta’s book by giving me a hug. As far as hugs go, I’d have to say it was nowhere near as tight or as warm as the embraces I have since received from female gorillas. Yet I savoured the very softness of it, which made me feel like a giant fur coat wrapping itself around a helpless faun.

Just then, a young man drove up to us on a motorbike. He got off his machine and removed his helmet, to reveal a rather bovine countenance. He was a big, strapping fellow – and he also happened to be the boyfriend of the young woman who had just been cuddling me.

“What d’yer think you’re doing?” he snarled in what I later learned was a “Brummie” accent.

I responded to this remark with the same light-hearted quip that Butch Cassidy had used to defuse a similar situation.

“Stealing your woman,” I said nonchalantly.

Unfortunately, he did not reply “Take her, take her” in the manner of the Sundance Kid. Apparently they don’t watch westerns in Birmingham. Instead he emitted a war cry, which sounded rather like “Gerrafuggoff!”, and charged like a bull. His girlfriend tried to obstruct him, beseeching him to be reasonable, but he shook her off and launched himself straight at my midriff. I got down on all fours before he arrived and lifted him off the ground as he stumbled over my shoulder. I then did my best to subdue him as he struggled in my grasp, while his girlfriend swore lustily at the pair of us.

“For God's sake, man, I was joking!” I bellowed. “You can’t be jealous of a gorilla!”

These remarks seemed to calm him, so I let him down. His girlfriend then rushed into his arms and caressed him passionately, obviously greatly moved by his reckless courage on her behalf. After she had explained that I had only been helping her when she was alone, he offered me a sheepish apology and thanked me for looking after “me wench”. The couple made their goodbyes and screeched off together on the motorbike. I went back to my trailer and pondered over these events while relaxing in my armchair.

“Well, Bananas,” I sighed to myself wistfully, “you do all the hard work in comforting the girl and she still rides off with her biker boyfriend!” I shook my head and clicked my tongue – and then laughed myself silly.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Healing the accursed

I’m glad to say that the circus I worked for never went in for fortune tellers. The modern circus is for athletes and comedians, not crafty soothsayers who bamboozle the gullible with tarot cards and other such nonsense. We once had a problem with one of these characters, an old gypsy woman who lived a short distance from our venue. It all started when a clown fell ill after an encounter with this woman. The doctor said there was nothing physically wrong with him and suggested the cause might be psychological. When I went to see the clown, he moaned that he was doomed because the old woman had put a curse on him. I told him not to talk rot and snap out of it, but he persisted in his morbid superstition. As the fellow played an important part in my act, getting huge laughs when I dragged him along the ground, I resolved to visit the old woman in the hope of working out a reasonable solution.

When I knocked on her door, she peered out of the window and eyed me warily. At length, she opened the door after inserting her false teeth.

“So the talkin’ gorilla comes to pay ol’ Ma Hibberd a visit!” she cackled. “I seen stranger things than thee, my hairy one. Whatcha want?”

“I have a bone to pick with you, Madam,” I replied. “I speak for the interests of the circus in which I am employed.”

“Circus!” she snorted. “Yer call all that prancin’ about with bare-legged hussies a circus? I been in many a real one in my day, so I knows the difference. Yer better come in then.”

She invited me to sit down at a small circular table and seated herself opposite me. I got straight to the point.

“One of our clowns claims that you put a curse on him. As the doctor has discovered no physical ailment, it appears that the clown’s belief in your malevolent powers is the cause of his symptoms. I should therefore be obliged if you would inform him that his fears are groundless.”

“Oh yer should, should yer?” she huffed. “That clownin’ ninny makes faces at me when he passes by t’other day. Makes funna ol’ Ma Hibberd, he does, when she’s attendin’ to her daily duties. So I gives ‘im the evil eye and says I’m puttin’ a hex on ‘im. There’s no turnin’ back now.”

I stroked my chin and took stock of the situation. It appeared that the old woman was as certain of her supernatural powers as the clown and, moreover, had a legitimate grievance that required redress. These facts would clearly have to be accommodated in any resolution of the dispute.

“Would you be prepared to remove the curse if the clown apologised for his earlier misconduct?” I asked.

“If he comes round wit’ cap in hand, I removes the curse. Not straight away, mind, but after two full moons come and go.”

“Our performing season will be over by then,” I said. “Couldn’t you be lenient just this once?”

“Two moons and that’s my last word,” she insisted.

I went back to the circus and considered the options. Don Corleone would no doubt have found a way to reason with this woman, but I rejected the idea of cutting off a horse’s head and putting it under her bed sheets. Horses are arrogant creatures at the best of times, but chopping off their heads to aggravate a third party would be involving them unfairly someone else’s quarrel. Nor was I absolutely certain that the old woman would find waking up with such an artefact in her bed sufficiently intimidating.

I made some inquiries and came up with a more promising idea. To save us the bother of travelling into town, the local supermarket delivered supplies to us every day. As luck would have it, the very same delivery van dropped off groceries at the Hibberd residence. This happened once a week, after the van had visited the circus. The opportunity for doping her food was obvious, but what kind of substance should be used? I took Smacker Ramrod (the circus vet) into my confidence, and he suggested a harmless compound that caused the urine to turn blue.

On the next day that the delivery van was due to visit the old woman, Smacker and I took charge of unloading the goods ordered by the circus. I quickly identified the box of groceries destined for Madam Hibberd and removed a packet of sugar from it. Smacker then replaced it with a similar packet containing sugar heavily laced with the aforementioned substance.

We waited a few days to allow time for the drug to take effect. Smacker then drove me to the old woman’s caravan in his car. I knocked on her door, while the vet remained seated in the vehicle.

“Whatcha want now?” asked Mother Hibberd sourly. “I been poorly of late, so yer not comin’ inside.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “What’s the trouble then? Arthritis? Varicose veins? Blue urine?”

“Yer bloomin’ hairy wizard!” she screamed in fury. “Puts a hex on Ma Hibberd does he? Yer better takes it off or I hex thee back tenfold!”

“Tut, tut,” I said calmly. “Your magic has no power over me, my good lady. If you want me to lift the curse, you must allow Doctor Ramrod, seated in yonder vehicle, to drive you to the circus. When you arrive, you will inform the clown that he is no longer bewitched. While you are gone, I shall perform the necessary exorcism to break the blue-urine spell. In a few days time your water should return to its natural colour, whatever that may be.”

She grumbled furiously and swore under her breath, but did as she was told. I accompanied her to the car, where Smacker gave me a bag containing the exorcism kit. Its only item, of course, was a packet of uncontaminated sugar. While they were gone, I emptied her sugar tin and refilled it from this packet. On their return, I told the old woman that her caravan had been de-hexed and returned with Smacker to the circus.

The clown was quickly restored to good health and assumed that my intervention on his behalf had involved the use of sorcery against the old woman.

“I never knew you were a master of black magic, GB,” he told me in awed appreciation.

“Not black magic, my dear fellow,” I replied. “Blue piss is my speciality.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mother Nature's son

Isn’t it a terrible feeling when someone you admire falls from grace? I had such an experience, a couple of years ago, when I read about an incident involving Paul McCartney. Apparently some lunatic had decided to starve himself in a glass box suspended over the River Thames, and Sir Paul couldn’t resist taking a peek. But when he arrived at Tower Bridge, he flew into a rage when someone tried to take his own picture.

"Fuck off!” exclaimed the balladeer. “I've come to see this stupid cunt and you are not going to take a picture of me tonight."

This isn’t the sort of language one expects from a noble knight, let alone the man who made a fortune by telling the world he was sending them all his loving. He ought to have realised that the onlookers would be far more interested in a celebrated artist than a stupid cunt in a glass box.

It’s a little known fact that Paul was greatly influenced in his life by a gorilla. After his trip to India in 1968, he spent a week alone in a mansion by Lake Victoria. It seems he had annoyed the other Beatles by calling the Maharishi “a stupid cunt” (which he was). To alleviate his melancholy, he would sit in the veranda every evening and sing soulful ballads to his strumming guitar.

As luck would have it, the alpha male of the local gorilla band was a fan of easy-listening music. When he heard Paul performing Moon River – and not making a very good job of it – he went over to the mansion and sang backing vocals, using coconut shells for percussion. Paul was so delighted that he invited the gorilla over for lunch the next day. They had an interesting discussion: Paul told the gorilla that he’d always loved animals as a boy, and the gorilla replied by saying that Rubber Soul was a major artistic leap for The Beatles, combining more nuanced lyrics with innovative instrumentation. When Paul began to chomp into his impala steak, he noticed that the gorilla was taking only vegetables.

“Don’t you eat meat, then?” inquired Paul.

“I do not, Mr McCartney,” replied the gorilla. “And I should have thought that someone who professes to love animals might try to avoid eating them.”

The shamefaced singer stopped swallowing his steak immediately. “I have thought about giving up meat,” he said apologetically. “But isn’t, like, being a vegetarian a bit queer or something?”

The gorilla put down his cutlery, rose to his feet and displayed his magnificent physique to the startled musician. “Mr McCartney!” he huffed. “I have a harem of seven females and have fathered more than twenty infants. Do I look queer to you?”

Paul was forced to concede the point and became a strict vegetarian from that day onward. Shortly after returning to England, he married a nice vegetarian girl called Linda and they had three delightful vegetarian children.

So how did things come to such a pass at Tower Bridge? I suspect that Paul has been a lost soul since the death of Linda, who was an easy-going wench, even if she did speak in an odd Liverpudlian-American accent. After marrying the woman without a foot his life seems to have got a lot more stressful. Not that I have anything against women without feet, per se. It just seems that the one he married is beautiful, intelligent, talented and extraordinarily catty. He’s gone from Laid-Back Linda to Hen-Pecking Heather, which is more than enough to make a man lose his marbles.

Maybe what Paul really needs is a sabbatical away from the trouble-and-strife. I have asked Dr Whipsnade to invite him over to the Congo to renew his acquaintance with the gorilla nation. I reckon that a few months spent chewing green shoots and chasing baboons is just what he needs to recharge the batteries. It certainly worked a treat for Daryl Hannah, who’s been a new woman since some friendly gorillas attended to her skin parasites.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How to vet a doctor

The circus I worked for employed both a doctor and a vet, and I could choose to visit either one. I generally preferred the vet, who was an amiable eccentric called Hugo “Smacker” Ramrod, so named because of his predilection for whacking horses on the rump after treating them. Smacker was a cheerful young fellow who hummed stirring tunes, such as Men of Harlech, while treating his patients. He had no qualms about sticking his fist up an animal’s rear end, which seemed to happen quite often in the line of duty. He knew better than to try any of those tricks on me, of course. I usually went to him for dental treatment, and he was always very careful to tell me what he was doing before he did it. We had a good relationship based on mutual respect and a certain amount of fear (on his part).

The doctors employed by the circus never lasted very long in the post. Being a physician to “artistes” is a high-pressure job and few are up to the challenge. I soon lost count of the number of these characters that came and went, and have a good recollection of only one of them: a Dr Felix Boobenstrausser from Dortmund. The circus hired him after an incident that occurred when we were performing in his home town.

What happened was this: A large female guest, watching the show from the ringside, fainted when one of the clowns accidentally fell on her during his act. Boobenstrausser, who was also in the audience, took immediate command of the situation and revived the woman with some smelling salts in his possession. He then convinced her that she had suffered no lasting damage, and should not blame the clown for a harmless prank which had brought everyone much pleasure. After the show, we gratefully offered him the vacant position of circus doctor, which he accepted on the spot.

When we returned to England, our suspicions were aroused by his unorthodox treatment of the knife-thrower’s assistant, a striking young woman named Doris. After she came to him with a severe migraine, he promptly took out his stethoscope to listen to her heartbeat.

“Hmm, it seems you have some kind of problem in ze chestal area,” he diagnosed. “Remove ze upper garments, if you please.”

He then proceeded to give Doris what he called a “chest massage”, to which she consented in her desperation to have her malady cured. After returning to her trailer, and finding that the remedy had not been effective, Doris began to suspect that the good doctor had actually been treating himself rather than his patient. The news of the illicit groping quickly filtered out after she had spoken to her friends, and we decided to check Boobenstrausser’s credentials by getting our copy of his German degree certificate translated. The next day we got the following fax message from the German consulate:

We are pleased to inform you that Dr Felix Boobenstrausser’s degree certificate is entirely genuine. He holds a doctorate in Astrophysics from the University of Dortmund.

The job of dismissing Boobenstrausser was given to Smacker Ramrod, so the impostor would get his marching orders from the nearest thing we had to a real physician. Smacker went straight into his trailer and said:

“The game’s up, Boobenstrausser! We know you’re not a man of medicine, so just pack up your things and clear off by tomorrow morning.”

To Smacker’s astonishment, the cosmological quack took this statement as an invitation to begin an impassioned tirade:

“Unt who are you to say vot is a man of medicine, you shtoopid animal-inspector? You who have only examined ze hindquarters of donkeys and cows! You zink some dumpkoff in medical school can teach me anyzing? I who have studied ze formation of galaxies unt ze lifecycle of stars! I am fully self-taught in ze mechanics unt dynamics of ze human body. I am aware of ze exact location of every bone, every fibre….”

He went on like this for a minute or so until Smacker left the trailer and came to see me with a crestfallen look on his face. We quickly hatched a plan to rid the circus of the turbulent Teuton. The initial phase began when I jumped onto the roof of his trailer and hopped around a bit to create a disturbance below. An irate Felix Boobenstrausser soon emerged from inside and beheld me with a mixture of surprise and indignation.

“So! Zey send an ape to do a man’s job!” he shouted. “Come down at vunce you cheeky beast, I have no fear……”

But he spoke no more, for he felt a sting in his backside. Cursing loudly, he pulled an object from his rump and fell drowsily to his knees as he began to examine it. His head hit the ground a few seconds later, for the tranquiliser dart had contained enough sedative to put a full-grown lion to sleep. After congratulating Smacker on his good shooting, I removed the dart from Boobenstrausser’s hand and poured half the contents of a whiskey bottle onto his face and neck. We then carried him to a waiting taxi with instructions to drive him to the nearest police station.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pubic Instinct

I hear that Miss Sharon Stone has been reworking the old formula that made her the queen of soft porn. Good luck to her. Watching Miss Stone pretending to have an orgasm is probably the closest that many men will get to satisfying a woman. And even a gorilla can admire those wonderful noises she makes when simulating sex. I doubt that many human females sound as good when they’re actually feeling the earth move.

I once met Miss Stone at a party given by the circus after a show in Los Angeles. She was eager to meet me in person after watching me perform in the ring.

“How ya doin’ big guy?” she inquired merrily. “I just loved your act with the clowns!”

“Thank you, Miss Stone,” I replied. “I hear that you too are a practitioner of the performing arts.”

“Jeez you sound so smart!” she remarked. “I’ve got the lead part in a movie called Basic Instinct and shooting starts next week. Got any acting tips you’d like to pass on?”

I suspected that her inquiry was not entirely serious, but as I happened to have pertinent views on how thespians should approach their craft, I decided to make the most of her invitation.

“Try to improvise and react like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront,” I suggested. “That’s the kind of performance that will bring you critical acclaim.”

“Screw critical acclaim!” she exclaimed, twisting her finger into my chest. “I just wanna give guys a hard-on!”

“I see,” I replied. “Does the film have scenes that would facilitate this worthy objective?”

“Oh, there’s loads of nudity,” she declared breezily. “But the sex is all pretend, it’s not hard-core.”

“In that case, you should exploit the opportunities for seductive teasing,” I advised. “I notice, for example, that you are blessed with smooth, unblemished skin. This will serve you well. But suppose you were to briefly – but deliberately – expose an area of your body with a covering of hair. A glimpse of such furry secrets might drive a man insane with lust.……and even impress a gorilla,” I added.

“I like the way you think!” she purred, drawing her fingernail over my forearm. “I’ll talk to the director about it.”

I heard no more about Miss Stone until after the premiere of Basic Instinct, when I learned that she had followed my advice to the letter. Her pubic exposure helped to make the film a huge commercial success, but at the expense of winning her notoriety as a vulgar female flasher.

The ringmaster’s wife came to see after she had seen the movie.

“I heard that you spoke with this Sharon Stone in Los Angeles,” said Cécile . “What kind of woman did she seem to you?”

“I found her friendly and frank in her opinions,” I replied. “I would describe her as a convivial young woman, quite devoted to her profession…….”

“Devoted pah!” interrupted Cécile. “You know what she did? She sat on a chair with her legs wide open and wearing no knickers. She allowed the camera to film so everyone could see her bush. What kind of woman does such a thing?”

“Really, Cécile, she was only doing her job!” I protested. “There’s no need to be quite so judgmental.”

“Why are you so keen to be her protector?” asked Cécile. “I think maybe you have a little crush on Miss Stone, no?” she added with a mischievous grin.

“Don’t be silly!” I replied irritably. “I just don’t like people being maligned unfairly. I mean, do you really think it was her own idea to expose herself like that? It must have been dreamt up by the scriptwriter or director…. or someone.”

“Well, if this silly person were here, I would turn up my nose to him like this,” declared Cécile, who tossed her head and marched away with her petite proboscis pointing towards the pole star.

“And this from a woman whose nation invented the can-can!” I muttered grumpily as I watched her saunter off.

Friday, April 07, 2006

How to fight like a pacifist

Does anyone remember Kung Fu, the 1970s TV series starring David Carradine? The DVDs arrived at the safari camp last week and it’s inspiring stuff. It’s about a Shaolin monk touring the old American West in search of his redneck half-brother. Obnoxious yahoos accost him during his travels, and he initially responds to their provocations with a soft-spoken discourse on the value of philanthropy. He continues in this vein until they overstep the limits of tolerable conduct, when he furthers their education with a well-aimed foot in the face. The yahoos then repent of their sins and accept his message of pacifism and humility, allowing the monk to move onto the next town of cowboy-hatted hicks.

There’s a lot in that Shaolin monk that reminds me of the better sort of gorilla. Like him, we’re mild-mannered vegetarians, although we prefer the odd insect or two to the powdered ginseng he takes with his tea. We also share the same philosophy on the use of violence: start off by preaching the virtues of pacifism; but if that doesn’t work, knock some sense into the lummox by the use of overpowering force. There are few things more contemptible to a well-bred gorilla than a creature that goes looking for a fight to win the approval of the rabble or to prove he’s a mean and moody character. Perhaps the worst example of this sort of pugilism occurs in the boxing ring, where two ungainly louts try to knock each other senseless with unending blows to the head.

I’ll never forget the time when Mike Tyson arrived at the safari camp, fresh from his ear-biting exploits in the ring. The trip was supposedly for his rest and recuperation, but he didn’t look in the mood for it – the trademark tick of the head and menacing scowl were fully evident. What particularly got on his nerves were the antics of Bonzo, the camp chimpanzee, whose job was to keep the visitors entertained between their excursions. The other guests found the cavorting chimp highly amusing, but Tyson frowned and muttered, perhaps incorrectly believing that he was being mocked in some way.

Things came to a head when Tyson attempted to face down the chimpanzee and give it a piece of his mind. As Iron Mike swaggered over, Bonzo turned his back on him, squatted, and laid a perfectly-formed turd at the feet of the former heavyweight champion of the world. Momentarily stunned, Tyson soon found his voice:

“Goddam monkey took a dump right in front of my face!” he thundered. “Hey, come here mo’fucker, I’m gonna whip yo’ hairy ass!”

It is always a cardinal error for a two-legged creature to engage in unarmed combat with an animal that can move about on all fours. As Tyson lunged at Bonzo with his hands, the chimp ducked underneath him, scuttled between his legs, and jumped onto his back. The enraged human tried to shake off the chimp and prize its hairy arms from his chest, but to no avail. Humans often underestimate the strength of chimpanzees, who are far more powerful than their hairless cousins. Bonzo soon got bored of the game and relaxed his grip to make good his escape. But before he bounded away, he tore off a substantial part of Tyson’s trousers, which he retained as a souvenir. The remaining rags dropped to the boxer’s ankles and were quickly discarded.

The one-time Lord of the Ring then strode furiously to the manager’s lodge, cursing obscenely in his briefs, where he remonstrated with the staff:

“Look what dat monkey did to me, man!” he wailed. “I’m gonna sue your asses for this!”

After taking legal advice, the brawny bruiser accepted the following out-of-court settlement:

(i) the safari business would fully reimburse Mr Tyson for the loss of his trousers;

(ii) no member of the safari company would ever mention Mr Tyson’s name in connection with any incident that may or may not have occurred in the Republic of Congo, or confirm or deny any statement relating to any such incident or alleged incident.

I should add that I am not a party to this agreement.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Arise, Sir Tom!

Splendid news from England! Tom Jones, the yodelling stud, has received his long overdue knighthood. The Japing Ape’s recent lobbying must have been the coup de grace that convinced the Queen of England to summon him for the shoulder-tap. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to witness Sir Tom ride off in his suit of armour after receiving his medallion, which he will no doubt forever display on that manly chest of his. But I sent him a telegram so he knew I was there in spirit.

Although the circus I belonged to gave countless shows in England, I never once met the Queen. Our paths never quite seemed to cross – I might be performing in Guildford while she was at the races in Epsom; that sort of thing. I did once meet her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York, who rushed to meet me after a show in my final season in the circus.

“Gosh, Mr Bananas, you were so fantastic!” she gushed. “I almost wet my knickers laughing when you sat on that clown!”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” I replied. “I’m glad you enjoyed the show.”

“Oh just call me Fergie, everyone else does. I really wish my daughters could have seen you today. They’re away with their dad for the summer hols so they’ll have to wait until next year.”

“I regret that I will not be performing next year,” I said. “You see, Miss Fergie, this is my last season before returning to Africa. But do take your daughters to the show anyway, there will be many worthy acts to beguile and amuse them.”

“Oh you can’t be leaving us!” she wailed. “It’s really shocking that my relatives don’t know about you. I’m going to make sure my mother-in-law hears about what a great entertainer you are and everything you’ve done for the image of gorillas.”

I thanked Fergie for her kind words and watched her trot away with her chauffeur. I didn’t expect to hear from her again, so it came as a great a surprise when a letter arrived a week later with royal insignia on the envelope. It was from Fergie, who had been given the job of sounding me out on the award of a knighthood before departing for the Congo. Although I greatly appreciated this gracious gesture, I knew at once that I would have to decline. The problem was the likely reaction in the community I would shortly be joining.

If the simians of the Congo got to hear that a gorilla had accepted a knighthood, they would be quite merciless in their mockery. And by “mockery”, I don’t mean the good-natured ribbing that a man might get after being voted “sexiest bum” by his female co-workers. The monkeys would literally be queuing in the trees to piss on my head. The gorillas, meanwhile, would be dreaming up practical jokes to play on me, like putting a live scorpion in the coconut shell I use as a finger bowl. The parrots, of course, would be irresistibly drawn into the affair. They would gather around me at the crack of dawn, while I was still asleep, and shriek “Arise, Sir Bananas!” at the top of their voices. It would be more than an honest gorilla could bear.

The tricky question was how to reply to Fergie’s letter without seeming aloof or ungrateful. One does not want to appear too proud to accept a knighthood. I eventually settled on the explanation that accepting such a prestigious award would offend my fellow gorillas by violating our ancient customs and traditions. I thought this would play well in The Palace, given the current focus on multiculturalism.

I also suggested that an acceptable way of recognising my contribution would be for a royal spokesperson to speak out, now and again, in support of one of the causes I favoured. The mouthpiece wouldn’t have to be anyone too important – a butler or private secretary perhaps – and the cause could be something fairly uncontroversial like organic farming. Imagine my surprise when I found out that no less a personage than the Prince of Wales had been chosen to promote the Gorilla Bananas agenda! It’s a good thing they didn’t make the Queen do it! – I’m sure she has enough on her plate, what with one thing and another.

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