Now it’s interesting that you bring up the subject of “giraffes” because – and stop me if I’ve told you this before – I had the pleasure of being a close friend of celebrated giraffe explorer Gerald Affable back in the early 20s. Of course, many people claimed to know him back then. Well, without TV and with radio broadcasts in their awful infancy it simply meant you had to get out and about and mingle to avoid the onset of The Deadly Fugue sweeping Europe. That caught my cousin, you know. Sat in a chair and stared into the space on the cabinet set aside for the television set when it was invented. Couldn’t snap her out of it. Sold her into white slavery as a “fixer-upper” and bought some Rennie Mackintosh lamps. I wonder what happened to them. They’d be worth a fortune now.
Anyway, Gerald Affable; one of the surviving intelligent animals bred by the Kaiser but which failed to accept their brainwashing and refused to attack our boys in Northern France towards the end of the Great War in case you don’t remember. Really, what do they teach kids in school these days? Oh, but he drew the crowds in Paris after his successful exploration into deepest Chad in 1919 to find the fabled and geographically-challenged Goat-headed Goat of Upper Volta. There wasn’t a place Gerald couldn’t get into – well, allowing for the obvious height restrictions for a full-grown giraffe – but the constant limelight eventually bothered him and he took to drinking to blank out the hangers-on and well-wishers and ne’er-do-wells and will-o-the-wisps and such. Which is where I fit in. We shared a taste for absinthe and a sense of humour that baffled many Parisians throughout the various arrondissements and, blind drunkenly, lived off his fame for a good few years. The old Moulin Rouge was a favourite haunt. High ceilings and some semblance of privacy in the booths at the back plus, of course, dancing girls and copious amounts of alcohol. Perfect. Until his demise naturally. We really thought the chandelier would take the weight.
Ah, I must digress. Now not long after this I fell in love. It wasn’t the first or last time I’d fallen in love but it was the first and last time it had been with a human constructed by the insane Dr Gelatin out of New Zealand. Well, “human” may be too strong a word for her. Her head was very nearly right – if you stopped counting her eyes after two and ignored the obvious seashells – but most of the other parts were simply the best that the quite, quite mad and quite, quite destitute doctor could procure by whatever means. Her legs, for instance, were spaghetti. Not spaghetti you’ve immersed in water, ha ha. No, that wouldn’t have the strength to support her barrel body.
In my memory I have called her Geraldine out of respect for my departed drinking companion but her real name never came up in conversation. We shared a whirlwind romance. I liked that she was easy and a real goer and had orifices you could adjust with a wrench but we also talked about the world at large. But for the terrible calamity and misunderstanding that occurred we may have had a future together. Sadly, I snapped one of her legs in a fit of rage after she presented me with a bill for her services and I ran off crying, not stopping until the border guards in Austria stopped me. I look back with the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom of maturity and realise she was merely trying to raise money for her creator, perhaps to fund a brother or sister. Can I really say I wouldn’t have done the same thing? Can anyone? I wonder what happened to her every now and then too. I picture her crawling to the bedside table and breaking off the leg, whittling it into a replacement for her own shattered limb. I hope she lived long and well and found someone to love and the fire I set as I left didn’t take too quickly for her to escape through the window.
And speaking of whittling, did you know I also used to hang around with Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine and the disposable dog? This was considerably later, of course; during World War 2 in fact.
Despite Hitler’s best attempts to thwart them, cocktail parties were still nightly events in London’s surviving buildings. Everybody who was everybody would attend and do the rounds, raising morale, toasting the successes of our lads battling the krauts, and indulging in ritualistic orgies and ceremonies designed to raise Abyssinian Gods to battle the Nordic ones favoured by the enemy. The Pope’s idea, allegedly. I usually turned up for the free booze and because Frank liked having an uglier friend so his chances of pulling some totty would improve. I did advise him to lose the beard of bees but he had these ideas about what women wanted and it was hard to talk him out of something when he set his mind to it. He did achieve minor fame when word of his amazing jets spread, though. Parties would often be interspersed with American dignitaries or star-struck young ladies approaching me and asking if that man over there – the one with the buzzing chin – was Whittle. I would often reply that yes, he was, but that was because he was far away and close up he appeared bigger. It amused me but nobody seemed to get it. I think that’s why I eventually turned traitor and joined the Gestapo.
Which brings me back to giraffes. Goebbels and Himmler wanted to resurrect Wilhelm’s failed animal warfare units using the latest Reich technology – especially in light of Hitler’s refusal to commit the Me-262s to battle and the accidental destruction of the factories producing die Evildeckchairen, the top secret weapons built to thwart expected landings by American amphibious assault vehicles on the European shores – and, knowing about my past, thought my involvement would aid the German war machine and its goals no end. If I’m honest then I probably couldn’t have helped as much as they anticipated. The three years of study at the Guyana School Of Zootronics on my C.V. was a lie and the diploma in Advanced Mind Conditioning from the Sorbonne was an obvious fake constructed by sticking words spelt using rice onto a bacolite tray. Despite this, I remembered Gerald’s last words to me: whatever you choose to do with your life in the future, don’t help the fiendish Nazis to build brigades of animals with which they can fend off attacks by armed forces friendly – or at least tolerant – towards the nation of France, my spiritual home, and, oh, I think there’s a candle sticking in my urrrghhh. At the time it hadn’t made any sense but the memory and sudden understanding governed my response and I sabotaged Special Operation Junglejuice. I used a grenade and then walked to Geneva to wait out the end of hostilities.
From 1946 onwards things started to get a little weird.