Monday, 13 October 2008

Wildlife park turns boy (6) into Sarah Palin

So on Sunday we went on a family outing (those words so are redolent of hissed car based arguments, vomit, lost audio-visual equipment, forgotten picnics, map reading recriminations, aren't they?) to the wildlife park. Nothing like a happy day of petting small monkeys and admiring hippos to rouse small boys to rabid blood lust, apparently.

Firstly the place was teeming with escaped capybaras. We were sitting drinking horrible coffee as the children tried to push each other off wooden structures when the first capybara wandered by. For those not brought up on the zoo tales of Johnny Morris, the capybara is the world's largest rodent. Esoteric fact fans will enjoy this gem courtesy of the Belette Rouge: apparently in the sixteenth century, the Catholic church declared that the capybara was a fish and could therefore be eaten during Lent.



The capybara looked around the playground, thoroughly unimpressed. Then it hopped over a surprisingly high fence, swam across a pond and went over to a small island to tease the flamingos. Shortly thereafter a small herd of them wandered over with a studied casualness, like a gang of self conscious adolescents.

"That's a lot of free range capybaras. Capybari?"

"Should we say something?"

And thus, I found myself having a conversation I never thought I would have. French phrase books are totally lacking in the vocabulary for these situations I find.

Excusez moi, Monsieur?

Excuse me?



Vos capybaras se sont evadés. Ils se promenent partout.

Your capybaras have escaped. They are wandering around everywhere.



Alors, c'est normal, que les capybaras soient en liberté comme ça?

So the capybaras are supposed to be wandering around free range?

Non. Mais ça arrive souvent. Ce sont d'excellents grimpeurs.

No, but it happens quite often. They are very good climbers.

Suitably reassured, Fingers and I went off to find the giant tortoises, leaving the CFO and Lashes lazing in a field of conkers. The giant tortoises were awesome, and several of them were rutting with great concentration and lots of noise. Paris Girl, you will doubtless be delighted to hear that I thought instantly of you. Others among them were fighting, so close to us we could touch their shells to cheer them on. On our return, having crossed paths with what appeared to be dozens of small capybaras frolicking around a hot dog stand, the CFO's eyes appeared to have shrunken to the size of pin pricks. This is rarely a good sign - when his eyes shrink dramatically I know I am in for a bollocking, though in fact this was not the case in this instance.

"It was great!" I said happily. "They were having sex and fighting and I touched a leg AND Fingers got pecked by a large blue pheasanty thing but he didn't mind. What did you get up to?"

"Lashes chased butterflies" said the CFO wearily "With sticks."

Visions of visiting my eldest son in Broadmoor flashed in front of my eyes. We need to talk about Lashes.

"Lashes! It's horrible to try and kill things!"

"I didn't manage to get any"

"Even so!"

We continued this conversation in the car, when the sight of a group of hunters awoke his boyish blood lust again.

"I want to hunt things"

"Yeah, hunt them to look at them. But not with guns, right?"

"Yes. With guns. And to kill them."

"But Lashes! I thought you wanted to save animals, not kill them?"

"I have to eat!"

"Hunters don't usually shoot cows, or sheep, or pigs, or chickens you know. They shoot stuff you don't like eating."

"But what about moths?"

"We don't eat moths and they would be very hard to shoot, I should imagine. Oh! You mean, why do I kill them when I say we mustn't kill animals?"


"Well ... they eat my clothes. Which isn't very nice. And hide in the cupboards waiting to jump out at me. And I can't find any other way to get rid of them. But you're right. It's bad, I shouldn't kill them. I just don't know what else to do".

Fingers, silent up until this point, had obviously been thinking deeply on the subject: "We could strangle them!"

"You what? Strangle MOTHS? You do know how small they are?"

"Not with our HANDS" he said scornfully. "With string!"

Moth crime - apparently hereditary.


Potty Mummy said...

He's clearly thought this one out... Does he have any tips for mice? Involving very small hangman's nooses (noose? nooses'? What is the plural for noose?) for example?

Waffle said...

Surely the plural must be neeses? It should be.

La Belette Rouge said...

I love your posting the two pictures: Capybara and fish. When you see them side by side you can certainly understand why the Catholic church made the decision they did.

I loved how the CFO said, "he chased butterflies with a stick." Okay, I don't really know how he said it. But, in my reading it was totally flat and loaded with meaning. Hilarious. It starts with butterflies and ends with moth strangulation. ROFLOL!!!!!!

fourstar said...

Splendid conversation with French zookeeper. Amazing how often the answer is "Oui, c'est normale." in France, especially on the frequent occasions that the prevailing circumstances appear to be utterly ludicrous.

Talking of which, you'll be needing Simpson's Individual Emperor Stringettes for those moths:

The Now String

I bet there's audio somewhere...

Waffle said...

Belette - Exactly. It's as if you were there. Totally deadpan but with heavy eyebrow action.

Fourstar - my god! The perfect solution to my moth strangling conundrums. Mais oui, c'est normale.

Anonymous said...

Christ, I really. Really. Really. Want a pet capybara. This isn't a new desire either - when I was younger we had a computer game called Amazon Trail (the follow up to the ever popular Oregon Trail), and you could hunt capybar(as)(ai) for food. I never did. I just wanted to cuddle one.

Please, next time you're at the wildlife park, pick one up for me?

PS Love your writing, you totally crack me up, and now that I know you respond to comments, I shall be doing it more often whether you want it or not. KTHXBYE!

Waffle said...

Ooh Pochyemu, I read about this Oregon trail thing (was it in Sloan Crosley's essays? I think it was). It sounded quite hysterical.
I can totally get you a capybara. I could just whisper your address in its ear and it would swim to you. Do comment. I crave validation.

Anonymous said...

I love the word "grimpeurs". It doesn't sound like it should mean climbers, it sounds like it should mean something completely different. I'm just not sure what!

Anonymous said...

Please let my capybara know I will wait for him at Ascot station.

I shall call him Franklin and he will live in my garden. We will walk to Starbucks together in the mornings; I will have a skinny Chai and he'll have a double espresso, straight up.

NB. I've found it online!:
This is the old OLD skool version, but god is it bringing back the memories!

Iota said...

The capybara will never be happy. It has too ridiculous a name. It's like being called Algernon, or Ermentrude. It scars you for life. Pity the capybara.

Do you think the Catholic church maybe thought it was called a catfish-piranha? Understandable linguistic mistake.

Mr Farty said...

Ah, yes, we have capybaras at Deep Sea World. Or is it Embra Zoo?

After any moth-shooting expedition, it's useful to patch up the holes with Pollyfilla. Also useful for unwary parrots.

katyboo1 said...

I shall alert my children immediately to the challenge of strangling a moth with string. It will keep them fit and healthy and undoubtedly lead to no moth deaths whatsoever.

Perhaps you could write it up as a pilot for t.v. and make your fortune. Z list celebrities, some dental floss and a room full of moths.

Persephone said...

Perhaps you could write it up as a pilot for t.v. and make your fortune. Z list celebrities, some dental floss and a room full of moths.

I'm not a fan of reality television, but I'd definitely watch this. Too bad Paris Hilton isn't "z list"; I'd love to see her trying to angle herself for the camera while strangling moths. (Is this wrong of me?)

Nikki said...

Bwahaahaha! I laughed aloud at the thought of strangling moths with string... and you should be grateful they've restricted their violent urges to the animal kingdom. My 2yo was singing the "I hurt Daddy!" song this evening, accompanied by sharp thwacks to his skull. I am living in fear of the "I hurt MOMMY!" song... send help!

Fat Controller said...

"Vos capybaras se sont evadés. Ils se promenent partout."

This is definitely not a work safe post. I was sitting in the back-office having hysterics and stamping my foot as I read this. The staff and customers out front must have wondered what I was on.

Waffle said...

Anon - I know what you mean. I think grimpeurs sound like old ladies' stockings.

Pochyemu - I am guessing that link is not very work friendly so will inspect later. I am sure the capybara would make an excellent pet, even when wired on its double espresso. You have a nice high fence, right?

Iota - does this also apply to the okapi?

Mr F - I must say it was a damned impressive swimmer. And possibly more fun to pet than those flat fish they usually have at aquariums.

Katyboo - do you ever think you might have missed your vocation? Get your CV to Endemol, stat.

Persephone - No. It is very right of you.

Nikki - Oh yes. Lashes has a toothbrush that plays 'we will rock you' but he insists it is "we will whack you" and acts accordingly.

Fat Controller said...

On reflection, it seems to me that the eating of enormous rodents for Lent would be more like a penance. Is this the origin of the Easter Bunny? Should it really be the Easter Capybara?

Waffle said...

FC - I would very much like my chocolate delivered by capybara. We should campaign for it.

justme said...

I have seen those strange creatures in London zoo. They wander around in the 'moat' type thing that seperates the elephants from us. Or did. I think they may have moved the elephants now. So, now that I know they are actually fish, that makes sense.......hmmmm!
For some reason this post reminded me of the story of the zoo keeper who did not know the plurel of mongoose, and on finding himself in need of two of same, sent an order that said, 'Please send me a mongoose. Please send me another one with it' I like.

Red Shoes said...

Please, please, please add me to the chocolate capybara delivery list! What could possibly be better that that?

Also, "With string!"? Hahahahaha. Is so funny. So very very.

The Accidental Author said...

Jaywalker, I can totally see the similarities between the capybara and a fish. Have you not heard of the fur-bearing trout? Another stonking victory for the papacy. VLiF

Waffle said...

Justme - that made me giggle a lot. I wonder if it is true?

Red Shoes - but do you want a chocolate capybara delivered, or do you want your chocolate delivered by a capybara?

VLiF - Ah, yes. The papacy. Did you not love the Pope's intervention on the global financial apocalypse which went something like "serves you right for using condoms". I may have paraphrased ever so slightly.

The Accidental Author said...

Jaywalker - the Pope's grip on reality is truly awesome. If only I'd known about the condoms...... :) VLiF

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