I imagine it may be quite annoying when people refer to you as being ‘in bloom’ when you are heavily pregnant. Especially with rioting hormones, stretch marks, haemorrhoids, possible prolapsing, hot flushes, aching back and protruding uterus. But the wife, then girlfriend, appeared to ‘bloom’ constantly. So bloomingly content was she that the hospital and midwives asked her to take part in a BBC documentary as: ‘It would be so reassuring for expectant mothers to see someone as calm as you, to allay their fears.’ – she declined the offer.
A few months before ‘The Boy’ was born, we were leisurely travelling around South-East Asia and we found ourselves in Kuala Lumpur Zoo. My degree in: Ecology and Animal Behaviour – honest – you can’t make a degree like that up. “Animal Studies”, as a girlfriend back then called it, and punctuated it with laughter every single time! Said degree, gave me the urge, along with reading James Herriot and Gerald Durrell books in my youth – the later offered me a job in his own Zoo for very little money, which I declined to become a Teacher!
The day of the Zoo was a scorcher, not ‘scorcheo’ by Malayan meteorological standards, but bloody hot by British ones. The azure was cloudless and the thermometer was nudging well into the eighties. The Wife to be (a shotgun was being cleaned back in England), was now just over seven months pregnant, stopped to rest on a bench at the bottom of a medium sized hillock (not a mountain). The path beside her led up about a hundred steps to the Asian Elephant enclosure, concealed from view until you reached the very top. Slightly bored and fully inquisitive, I trundled up the hillock to the top where I espied the most exquisite Asian Elephants that I have ever spied – ever. I’ve seen elephants before, not just in London and Chester Zoo, but also in the wild, and these were by far, A number one, top of the pile, etc, etc. There were six of them and one a juvenile, just past the ‘ahhrr’ stage for most. Animated I set off back down the hill, and not just with the critical eye of a man with a degree in ‘animal studiation’, these were magnificent healthy animals, these were the Ms Worlds of Elephants. I bounced down the hill and enthusiastically decreed.
“You must come and see these elephants. They are the most beautiful elephants I have ever seen.”
“They’re just elephants. I’ve seen loads of elephants before.” She was the yang to my ying.
“Not like these you haven’t, these are truly magnificent pachyderms.”
“They’re just elephants like all the other elephants we’ve seen.” She was doing a good job disguising her enthusiasm.
“But they’re not; these are by far the most beautiful elephants I have ever beholden.”
“I’m not climbing those steps to look at elephants.”
“But you have to.”
“Why do I?”
“Because if you don’t you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
“No I won’t.”
“You will, these are incredible.”
“What’s incredible about them?”
“I could explain it, but you need to see them with your own eyes.”
“I don’t want to climb all those bloody steps to see some elephants.”
“You will regret it if you don’t. I’ll be telling people about the amazing Elephants at KL Zoo and you won’t be able to corroborate my claim.”
“Seriously, they’re that good. You must see them.”
“I know I will be disappointed.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Don’t dream it, be it.”
So reluctantly she trundled up the steps. I think she was actually labouring more than was completely necessary! We eventually reached the large enclosure and I turned to her expectantly.
“Well, what do you think? They’re beautiful aren’t they?”
Her brow furrowed half with inquisition, half with anger, the two expressions then fought for dominance. “For fuck sake, fucking elephants, they’re just fucking elephants, like all the rest of the fucking elephants we’ve seen… Fucking hell.” Then she about turned, and laboured back down the elevation.
They really were and still are the most beautiful elephants I have ever seen. I left her sat in the shade next to the exquisite birds of Paradise, or, ‘birds with long tails’ as she described her juxtapositioning. I wandered off and sat next to a sad looking White Handed Gibbon, in the squalid penitentiary of a cage and feed him peanuts. I think he was mirroring me? He would corroborate my claims about the beautiful elephants if he was given half a chance. Towards the end of the supply of peanuts that I thought he needed the most, he shot his hand out and grabbed my wrist. Two primates locked gazes upon the other, one was thinking, “You could snap my wrist like a twig.” It was difficult to know what the other was thinking, but it would be tinged with desperation and sadness that was for sure. “Get off my fucking hand, NOW.” Espoused the allegedly more intelligent of the two, and the Gibbon took the peanut from my hand and ate it. I gave him a guilty look, but was uncertain how to apologise not only for my actions, but also for those that had imprisoned him here. The paradox being that by being here he would live a longer sentence than he would in the wild! I knew this was displaced anger, tinged with yet more guilt by association to my fellow Homo sapiens. I went back to the expectant mother of my child, thankful that normally she just bloomed.
Just over one year later…
Holidaying with The Boy in Crete. I implored the then still Girlfriend, not yet The Wife, (Shotguns had been placed back in their racks), to walk across fifty metres of rocky terrain to see the most beautiful electric blue creature you could ever wish to acquaint. I had kept the clandestine reveal a mystery as to increase the delight, on spying the slithering distended Moray eel, a fair distance from its burrow she exalted: “Is that it, a fucking Eel, a fucking Eel, you make me traverse sharp rocks in heels to see a fucking Eel?” – She’s consistent with her love of animals! It does beg the question (not then for safety reasons): What did she expect to find in a rock pool? – Needless to say, and something I worked out via the exemplar of Elephant and Eel – She likes mountains! She does not share my love of flora and fauna. Because of this we all went, by this stage The Girl has arrived, on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu… but that is another story involving mountains and flatulent ruminating Llamas, as three members of the family look at one member and pretend to enthuse as well!
There may be a moral, or is it Moray?, to this story.
50 Mistakes of a Fledgling Fiction Writer is now out. If you have read it or the blogs, if you would be so kind to write me a review, or just give it some stars on Goodreads or Amazon, I will ‘love you long time’ with my soul–my body is promised to medical Science!