Category Archives: Animals

Man v Snail

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Uber-Schneck

“Mummy, in a race between a snail and Usain Bolt, who do you think would win?”

“The snail.”

“What?”

“Usain Bolt would be rubbish at sliming along really slowly. The snail would win for sure.”

Perplexed silence follows this. I take pity.

“This is a sliming-slowly-up-the-doorframe race, right?”

“NO! A RUNNING race.”

“Oh! Well of COURSE Usain Bolt would win a running race. It’s just, he’d be rubbish at sliming up a doorframe. He wouldn’t be able to hold on.”

I *was* going to blog about Older and Younger Sons’ amazing experience of singing with the Winchester Cathedral choristers at the weekend. But then Younger Son asked this question, and I felt that it had to be addressed.

Uber-Mensch

His question was based on the unthinking assumption of Usain Bolt’s uber-menschness. He’s only six, so fair enough. But we’re grown-ups, and we should be able to consider it quite differently. Why not assume that the SNAIL was the uber-mensch (uber-shneck, whatever) here? Snails are geniuses. These blobby little squidgers with their pulsing horns and hard curly houses do the most staggering things with the slimy smallness that they possess. They have evolved and thrived magnificently: just ask all the hostas and sedums down the millennia that they have dispatched. And they can hang upside down on ceilings. AND they’ve bothered to design stupendously pretty shells. In the event of global disaster, I’d back the snail’s chances over Lightning and his gold Nikes every time. Slugs not so much, but that’s personal. (It is just me, or have slugs got very expensive on Amazon recently?)

Now, that question you’ve been asking yourself. What was it again? Try it from a different angle. You may reach a surprising answer, though not necessarily encompassing molluscs.

Mellow Yellow

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Thank you all for your fantastic response to last week’s post. Views rocketed into three figures. Yes! And it was all down to you! I am, however, a little worried about how to follow such success. So I thought I’d talk about the colour yellow today.

Yellow. I miss it. This grey-pearl-sky business is all very well, but we still need a jab of buttery loveliness every now and again. Here are some yellow things to tide us over.

 My fried egg necklace, as previously mentioned on this blog. I would have salted, peppered and eaten it long ago were it not for the rhinestones, which tend to stick in the teeth. It bamboozles people who are loath to ask: “Is that a fried egg?”

In case I am offended and reply along the lines of: “Why on EARTH would I wear a fried egg as a necklace?”

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  The only two yellow books that I have produced to date. Scarlet Silver: The Impossible Island is about a pirate with excellent hair and an even better wardrobe than mine, while Naughty Fairies: Sweet Cheat is about fairies and toffee, roughly in that order.

I haven’t included The Lemony Adventures of Mr Lemon here because I haven’t written it and, sadly for all concerned, probably never will. I can hear you all weeping through the screen.

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My yellow shoes. Even evil cat dictator Crumble has fallen for their lemon-curdy loveliness. Look at the state of her. DRUNK, I tell you. She’s a disgrace to cats the world over.

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And finally the sun. Aaah. Remember the sun? It used to be so cute! And then it turned into a teenager and has been sulking for months in its big cloud room covered in posters of rock bands called things like Arctic Death Winter, refusing to join in any family occasions and hardly ever washing its armpits.

Which makes me a bit annoyed.

The Ribbons of Wrongness

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Vengeance is mine.

These imbeciles in their jubilee red, white and blue. Pageants, fireworks, madness. Literally. Madness. And all this for a lady who keeps dogs. Have I taught them nothing? Yet still they fawn and celebrate, dance and daub their faces like fools. They tie ribbons around my neck.

Ribbons.

They are but kibbles in my jaws. I shall chew them like mouse toffee. Suck the marrow from their bones like salmon gobstoppers.

I shall arise and go now, to claw their favoured standard lamp, to shake my tail and drop tapeworms upon their draining board. Defecate upon their shingle driveway. I shall laugh in the face of their dismay.

The ribbons lie eviscerated beneath the kitchen table. Oh, for the chance to erase the memory of my humiliation with equal savagery.

Let us speak no more of this.

Hot Smokin’ Rubber

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Crumble’s life is very simple. She sleeps, she eats, she scratches anyone idiotic enough to stroke her in That Certain Way (this has never accurately been gauged), she sleeps again. Most of the above is done in a manner best described as baleful.

Now picture Crumble, her malevolence towards humankind miraculously suspended. This evening she has found a rubber band, and hell of a different kind has broken loose.

KILL. KILL the rubber band. MASSACRE the rubber band. The rubber band is MY ENEMY and I shall MURDER—crikey, my bum stinks. I must stop a while and give it a seeing-to. My tongue is somewhat prickly tonight. Now. Where was I. AHA! That EVIL RUBBER BAND has returned to TAUNT me. Resist! Resist! Whoo, that was one hot funky salsa move, back legs going like Ola Jordan on a good day, the rubber band is DYING, it cannot possibly survive the onslaught! I have conquered! *evil cat laugh*

I shall now stare timelessly into space. The rubber band will assume that I have forgotten it. How wrong it is. How very– Any food in this place? What kind of a hotel is this anyway? What are you staring at? My life is littered with the carcasses of fools.

Koala Crazy

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Koalas are surprisingly difficult to write about. They are extremely cute, notably in the ear department, and their noses will forever remind me of the smooth black plastic on the face of a toy koala, rather disturbingly made from real fur, which I once owned. But they aren’t under threat, they sleep 75% of the time and they barely make a noise. We have some old film of my grandfather holding a koala, presumably in Australia, but the thing I tend to remember about that footage is me thinking: “WOW! His nose was MASSIVE! He just turned sideways and nearly took the photographer’s eye out! Mine’s a total peewit compared to that!”

Koalas do fight, however, as proved in the video below.

 

After watching this in the name of research, I felt decidedly peculiar. As Taya put it in Wild #4: Koala Crazy: “It was like discovering your favourite teddy bear had just sprouted fangs.” (Incidentally, a koala is not a bear. Bet you didn’t know that.)

Seriously? A koala can actually cause injury, beyond making your heart explode with fluffiness? The answer, my friends, is YES. Not much, admittedly – we’re not talking Grizzly Great White standards here – but they are more dangerous than you think. And therein hung a plot line for my book. That, an idiotic rap star, a confused kangaroo and a very small crocodile. (Read the book. I promise it makes sense.)

However, this threat from a koala’s teeth and claws has recently paled into insignificance before an entirely different koala fact. I did refer to chlamydia in the book, it being the main problem koalas face, though I confess that it was just in passing. Little did I know the mileage that was to come. Thanks to a splendid bit of pop reportage, all the most interesting things about koalas have now koalesced (see what I did there?) into One Stupendous Fact For Which People Will Forever Remember Koalas (And Maybe One Direction): 

Their wee is poisonous.

I hope Harry Styles and the rest of the 1D boys didn’t contract chlamydia when that koala widdled on them. Chlamydia is a very nasty and practically invisible disease which can make you infertile. But I thank them for hurtling the sweet, unassuming koala to the top of the Interesting Animals list. When I get a reprint, I’ll suggest a credit.

Unappeeling

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I fully intended my next blog to be about my lovely Tuesday with the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Festival: the adorable children of Ash and Frimley Green; Gillian my brilliant assistant; the boy who farted in the middle of my Animal Antics slide show; the child who asked, after my frankly hilarious presentation on The Clumsy Monkey: “Do you write any funny books?” But those delights will have to wait, as I have yet to be sent the photos by the kind teachers filming the occasions.

In the meantime, I invite you to enter the strange world of last night’s Peel Raffle Evening. Yes! A peel was being raffled! As if the evening out in a strange new place, free wine and grapes weren’t enough!

Imagine my disappointment as, instead of a bun fight over a nice zesty piece of mandarin, I was asked to put my name into a hat and wait in ghastly suspense to be told whether I’d won the right to have my face painted with acid and the surface of my 41-year-old skin burned away to reveal more 41-year-old skin underneath.

Now I’m down with the world of cosmetic surgery. I watched and enjoyed Footballers’ Wives. I once stood in the gateway of Dunstanburgh Castle while a force 8 gale blew my features into unrecognisable shapes. But being asked to partake was a whole new thing. I put my name in the hat (it was free, and although the wine was Chardonnay it only seemed polite) and prayed as I’ve never prayed before.

Oh, thank all the little Shetland ponies that gambol through the tussocky hills of Lerwick: the honour went to someone else. Now the writer in me could relax, stand on its hind legs and bay with joy at the magnificence of this material. The face of the salon owner looked like a waxed apple on the shelf at Waitrose. Her billowy orange chiffon assistant was as charming and expressionless as a freshly laid egg. The most beautiful woman there had no boobs, flat shoes and short grey hair. I learned that we over-exercise our faces in unforgivable ways. I discovered that if your muscles find themselves unable to frown, you actually can’t feel sad. I envisioned tiny skin gardeners pushing huge derma-rollers up and down crepey cleavages to create the kind of surface to make a spin-bowler weep. I rolled in unmentionable cheek-fillers like a happy dog. And I am refreshed, invigorated and utterly thrilled to think that I will never do any of these things to myself.

Animal Antics

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I love a good animal fact, as you may have deduced by my previous interest in herring and their bottoms. Did you know for example that some monkeys burp at their friends for fun? Or that seals can sleep underwater? I discovered these when researching my ANIMAL ANTICS series for Stripes. The life of a children’s author is not all jokes, jokes, jokes you know.

Today I dusted off my colouring pens, stuck my tongue out of the side of my mouth to aid concentration, and test-drove my first Pongo mask in anticipation of two events at Ash and Frimley Green libraries next week, part of the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Festival. As polar bears have transparent fur – another magnificent animal fact with which to wow your friends – I felt Pongo wouldn’t object to going multi-coloured. The effect is tremendous. Thank you VERY MUCH to Tom and the designers at Stripes. As Sunny the Singing Sheep (she’s a bleatboxing lamb, actually) would say:

To-om, drumma-drumma-drumma drum / Oh To-om, drumma-drumma drum drum / You is well drumma-drumma-drumma drum / Da bo-omb drumma-drumma drum drum

Morris The Clumsy Monkey will also be joining in the fun with Pongo and Sunny on Tuesday. The effect of thirty little Pongo / Morris / Sunnys is going to be unbelievably cute. Check out this last event for Pepper the Potty Penguin. ADORABLE!