I was prompted to share this by a comment that came up on FB the other day and I thought it might amuse. If you haven’t read How To Steal An Elephant then this post may come as a surprise to you.
I’ll make a cup of coffee if you want to go back and read it ….
So – I was an animal nut even as a child. I had no fear and knew that I was much safer with most creatures than with most human beings. We understand that in her “little” days Ailsa was a sickly and sad child who only came to life in Regent’s Park Zoo. All the keepers knew me and I’m sure some of them felt their hearts sink when they saw me skipping towards them in my sensible brown sandals.
One day I got lost. Is that true? Perhaps I didn’t. Mummy had a lot on her mind and maybe I just slipped away, knowing it wasn’t time for Rusty to come out for her walk and wandered off on my own, as solitary children are wont to do. Remember what I said about “Health and Safety” being one’s own responsibility when I was four years old? To the point that there was a “viper enclosure” where the poisonous snakes were in a rock garden in a pit with a low wall around it and the only protection the public had were warnings “Danger! Poisonous Snakes” strategically placed around it.
I climbed in. I had no intention of doing any damage and was sensible enough to know not to try and touch them but I wanted to get up close and see their beautiful scales and beady eyes. I sat down on the ground and they ignored me. I knew to just keep still and watch and the snakes didn’t seem to mind at all. Perhaps I was a spirit walker even then.
A keeper leaned down and spoke to me. Looking back, I realise he was doing that “talking gently to a lunatic” voice with which I am now familiar. He asked me what I was doing and with the blatant innocence of the very young, I told him that I was just looking, hadn’t done anything wrong and the snakes didn’t mind. I didn’t count just being there as “wrong”.
He helped me out and wasn’t cross with me – I suppose when you know a child tries to steal elephants, finding her in amongst the snakes comes as no surprise.