Hands up who remembers Johnny Morris! Did you put your hand up? I hope not. It would be a bit scary if you had, to be honest. I mean, I can't see you, can I? And you can't see me either. Which is why I can sit here naked with my head covered in Post-It notes and happily type away and dream about daisies without a care in the world. See, to write these things, it isn't easy. One has to prepare. One has to get in character. Nicolo Machiavelli, on writing 'The Prince' actually dressed up like a prince to write it. Which is probably why it is such errant rubbish, but that is besides the point1. I need to prepare too. I need a big pizza, a bucket of coffee, and a head covered in Post-It notes. That's because of my standard working methodology. Whenever I have an idea, I write it on a Post-It note and stick it on my head. After a while, I can't see anymore and I stumble about walking into the furniture. That's when I know I am ready. Then I remove all my clothes, sit down and type. Claire Raynor does the same, apparently2.
So, anyway, Johnny Morris - genius, statesman, all-round snooker champion and the man who used to pretend animals could talk. Oh yes he did. He had a whole television programme devoted to it. It was called 'Animal Magic' and it fooled millions of youngsters all over England. Not only that, it convinced us3 that animals were in fact really dull. A typical 'conversation' would be something like this:
There's these two zebras, and one turns to the other and says, in a melancholy voice, which is naturally perfect for a zebra:
'Looks like it might rain again'
and the other zebra thinks about this and says:
'Mmmm could do, I suppose.'
and then, after a pause, it starts to rain.
And the second zebra says:
'Well, you were right..'
And on and on it goes. I mean, wheres the passion? Where's the politics? What does a zebra really think about rain, the weather, climate systems, the artificial environment of the zoo, existentialism, Britney Spears, Battenburg cake - these things? That's what I want to know. I watched and watched and hoped for some enlightenment, something, anything... but no, all I got was a load of penguins going down a slide and shouting 'Wayheeeyyyy!!'
So, if an animal really could talk, what would it say? Well, Francine 'Penny' Patterson, a psychologist, has an answer to that one. She spent years raising a gorilla called 'KoKo' and taught it sign langauge. So now, effectively, KoKo can talk. I know this because I saw it on Discovery Channel. I only watched it really because it was the first program on Discovery Channel in months that wasn't about sharks or Steve Irwin.
'Tonight, on Discovery Channel, Steve Irwin pokes a shark with a stick and then runs away.'
I used to watch these in the hope that maybe the shark, or in many cases, the crocodile, would be ready for him this time. But after a while4 it got boring. So when I heard
Tonight, on Discovery Channel, a talking Gorilla...
I put down my custard and paid attention. And it is brilliant watching a gorilla talk. It kind of goes like this:
Penny: 'Hello KoKo how are you today?'
KoKo: 'Hello Jenny. Koko Happy. Happy see Jenny. Jenny nice. Koko like.'
Penny: 'Oh, that's very sweet, KoKo, would you like a banana?'
KoKo: 'Yes. Me like banana. Banana make KoKo happy.'
Penny: 'Well, here you are then.'
KoKo: 'Mmm nice banana. Yum yum. KoKo happy. Like Banana.'
OK, so its not rocket science. That would be more like
'KoKo sad. Can't find partical accelerator tube. No rocket today'
But still, it is very heartwarming to see how nice and patient a talking gorilla is. If that were me, and Penny had asked me if I would like a banana, I would be like:
'Of course I want a f******** banana. I'm a f******** Gorilla.'
But anyway, time for a thought experiment.
It is rarely amusing to imagine anything involving Cliff Richard, but this time I make an exception. Lets say, Cliff5, wandering about the vast and marbled corridors of his ninety seven acre mansion, humming away to himself, suddenly wonders:
'Hey, like - what if, daddy-oh, a Gorilla could talk?'
So he looks up the TV guide and sees the discovery program and thinks:
'Hey, like - what if, daddy-oh, I could meet this Gorilla?'
So he phones up Penny and, despite her protestations, pleading and furious threats, invites himself over to meet KoKo. He leaves a note for God:
'Dear God. I've popped out to talk to a Gorilla, help yourself to the stuff in the fridge. There's a half open can of Fosters in there if you want it.'
He jumps into his Mercedes, drives to the airport and hops on to a private plane to KoKo's place.
Penny: 'KoKo, look, I'm sorry about this, but we have a new friend with us today. He's a singer. But don't worry, he's got loads of cash, and if we play our cards right, he'll keep is in fresh bananas for weeks'
KoKo: 'Koko scared.'
Sir Cliff: 'Hey, don't be frightened, groovy talking gorilla thing. I make Christmas special for all the little children all over the world'
KoKo: 'Koko scared. F***** 6 off.'
Cliff: 'Hey, I missed that, little godless hairy one. What is she saying to me, Jenny?'
Penny: 'Errrmm... I think she's saying what a big fan she is of yours, and how she loves all your music, especially "Wired for Sound"'
Cliff: 'Great! Lets have a sing song... 'Congratulations'...'
Koko: 'F***** off. Koko miserable. Koko want be over there. Far away.'
Cliff: 'Hey! You like it? You want an autograph? Lets swop. Why don't you sign this copy of 'Misteltoe and Wine' for me then?'
Koko: 'Why don't you f***** off?'
Penny: *signs secretly* 'Look, KoKo, if you sign it, he might go away..'
KoKo: 'Penny owes KoKo. One thousand five hundred and ninety seven bananas.'
*Signs Cliff's record*
Cliff: 'Hee hee... Penny, she might be able to talk but she can't write her name properly yet. Look! There's only one K in it and it starts with a W...'
Next week, Steve Irwin roller skates very close to an irritable crocodile.