Thursday, 9 May 2013

Not a concrete jungle...

Precocious, there's a word...

It means: Having developed certain abilities or proclivities at an earlier age than usual.

Or, as you or I would probably describe it... A smartarse, with proclivities - Which I guess is like a pervy smartarse, probably.

And that single sentence brings us nicely around to my youth, according to my Dear Old Mother (Whilst she was still alive) I had precocious leanings and would often spout and do things that only children can get away with.

There are a couple of stories, well more incidents really, that she used to tell, about the early 70's when I was but a mere bairn of three or four years.  They may have been embellished over time as these things often are.


There was this one time, and we were on a bus on the way to the shops. We were probably going to buy me a nice new pair of short trousers, as was the style at the time.  At one of the many stops, a nun got onto the bus.  Now, I had never seen a real, live, nun - Not even in stories, we weren't that kind of family.  I tugged on my Mother's sleeve and said,


Now, of course my Mother had seen the nun get on and knew that I would probably have something to say, but she just quietly replied,

'In a minute.'

Now this confused me, because it seemed that the only thing that she was actually busy doing was staring hard out of the window at something, so I tugged harder and repeated louder,


'In. A. Minute.'

I think that she figured she could string this out until the nun disembarked.  Unlucky...

'Mum! There's a...'

'I know!'

This was said through gritted teeth, using the tone of voice usually reserved for times when I had said, or was about to say, something I shouldn't.  So I guess I must have taken a second to review what I was about to say, decided that there was nothing wrong with it and blurted out:

'But Mum! a penguin just got on the Bus!'

Everyone within earshot thought it was extremely funny, even the Benedictine lady herself, who had presumably heard it all before.

However, we still got off at the next stop, and walked the rest of the way into town.


Another day, it wasn't the same day, ((c) Elwood Blues 1980) but it was still the early 70's. We all, as a family, went for a day-trip to the  Bellevue Zoo in Manchester (Now a housing estate I think) and had a fine old time with the animals and suchlike.

I probably need to explain that I had a reputation for wandering off and as such was required to hold my parent's hands when we in public.  I had been holding both parents hands at this particular time, so when I let go of them both at the same time, they just assumed that I was still holding onto the other one.

Zoos are great places for young kids, they don't see the cold look of desperation in all the animals eyes, or the bare patches of skin where the animal has started yanking out it's own fur as one of the first signs of a nervous disorder.

*PLEASE NOTE: Most modern Zoos are brilliant, they do great work for animal conservation and are the only way 99% of the kids that visit them will ever get to see even a small proportion of the animals that they have... But this was the 70's and Zoos in general, and Bellevue in particular at the time were little more than sideshows*

So I wandered around this wonderland for a while until I came upon what was, and still is, one of my favourite animals, A Black Rhino... Whose name happened to be Barry.  I stood gazing at him for some time and he moved forward, right up to the bars.

About this time, my parents had realised that I was lost and were frantically looking for me, a very worried looking keeper came up to them and said, in a quivery voice'

'Have you lost a little boy? about four years old?'

My parents nodded and he led them to the rhino enclosure, by which time things had 'escalated'

Onlookers would later explain how I ducked under the fence, went up to Barry and started stroking his nose.  A crowd gathered which seemed to either worry or anger my new leathery friend and he moved to back away from the bars.  So, not wanting him to go, I had raised both of my hands and clasped them around his horn.

My parents arrived to see me clasping a worried looking rhino's horn, on tiptoes.  My Mother's first instinct was to run over and grab me, but the keeper advised her that if the rhino was startled, he would throw his head back and some of me might go through the bars in the manner of a comedy potato through a tennis racket.

It took a good few minutes to coax me away from my hanging spot on Barry's hairy Horn with promises of ice-cream and crisps.  But the moment that I let go and the assembled crowd cheered, Barry threw his head back (as the keeper had predicted) and retreated to the back of his enclosure.

They bought some reins after that... For me that is... Not for Barry.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Only in Manchester would you call a rhino 'Barry'.