A follow up with Grant
Last year I discovered the existence of a proud, noble animal by the name of Grant. A chimpanzee based at Whipsnade Zoo North of London.
You can read about the first correspondance here
As I plan to head to the UK on May 8th. I decided I would get in touch with Perry who is Grant’s human liason, to see if I could come and meet him and of course Grant. Perry is one of the nicest people to deal with ever, maybe Mike Tod from Air New Zealand could take a leaf from his book.
Greetings from the southern colonies! You might not remember me but my name is Reuben and I wrote to you a few times last year in regard to Whipsnade Zoo’s hero in residence: Grant the chimpanzee. In case you don’t know what the hell I am talking about, I was basically asking for a few facts about his life and details about his behaviour in general. I’m sure if you search through your emails they will jog your memory.
I also sent you through a list of my favourite human names for animals, which almost reads like a virtual Noah’s Ark of ‘humanimals’.
Any of this sounding familiar?
You probably didn’t realise, but I am currently in Wellington - our nation’s capital -on business and man oh man have I had a good time so far. What a whirlwind trip, I have barely thought about work once. Let alone done any. Unless you count walking around Wellington and having a blast with each footstep I take, as work, which I personally don’t. If you have never been to Wellington, I strongly recommend it.
It is known as quite windy and also as a bit of a ‘dub swamp’ due to the amount of boring, slow pseudo-reggae that seems to come out of this region, but other than that it is probably one of my favourite cities. Everything is within walking distance, including great bars and cafes and also Te Papa. Te Papa is a great museum that has a big dead Blue Whale’s skeleton in the foyer. It is very impressive, as are most of the exhibits and weapons in there.
The Wellington Zoo is also pretty good. I don’t know if it would compare to Whipsnade, but it is pretty good. Actually, I haven’t been there since I was five and also I have never been to Whipsnade so I really am the worst person to try and compare them. I don’t even know if they have chimpanzees there. But people speak of both zoos fondly. In a perfect world I would have done my research about this before writing to you.
If they DID have chimps at Wellington zoo, wouldn’t it be great for Grant, Phil, Nicki, Elvis and the gang to do some kind of international chimp ‘student exchange’ program? Where all of Whipsnade’s chimps spent a season in Wellington, and all of Wellington’s chimps spent a season in Whipsnade. Talk about an adventure.
Grant would basically be like a celebrity if he came down to New Zealand. While I am trying to complete this book I was telling you about, I also write an internet blog where I have talked about Grant numerous times and basically anyone who reads it has always said that they have really enjoyed the writing about Grant.
Are there such things as animal exchanges between zoos? You would know better than me.
Speaking of exchanges, when I was about 20 years old my group of friends and I started an exchange program called ‘Swap The Ginger’. Although it never got off the ground, the concept was pretty sound IMHO (in my humble opinion), and there is scope to try and rekindle the idea in the future.
As most groups of friends that you come across will usually have one red headed friend, or ‘ginger’, in the group, we thought it would be a bit of fun to start up a nationwide network of Ginger sharing. In a nutshell, on the first of the month your Ginger would get shipped off to another group of friends somewhere else in the country to take the place of their usual Ginger. The new Ginger would then take over the old Ginger’s life, group of friends and belongings. At the end of the month, the cycle would continue and all the Gingers would move again, basically creating an ongoing monthly cycle where each group of friends would receive a new Ginger to hang around with. Your group of friends could decide at the start how long you would like to opt into the program for until you get your old Ginger back. I think a year is a pretty good amount of time. That way you get to experience 12 new Gingers (1 per month), and if your Ginger is being annoying (which ours was, hence why we decided to invent the concept), it is a decent length of time for a break from him/her.
I guess it is in the nature of Gingers to be the life of the party or even quite an oddball, and usually they are quite gregarious, so the concept should work.
Maybe at the end of each calendar year people could cast votes to see who was the best Ginger in the country and there could be a ceremony called The Supreme Ginger Awards, or something along those lines?
Anyway, I have gotten a little away from the topic I was originally writing about.
I am getting in contact as on May 8th I will be returning to the United Kingdom AKA Ol’ Blighty. I will be there for a couple of weeks before heading back to Berlin and I thought it would be really great if there was any chance I could come up to Whipsnade to look at the zoo and of course meet Grant the chimpanzee. And any of the other chimps if they are around.
Wouldn’t it be a cruel twist of fate if the international chimp ‘student exchange’ program was already up and running by then and I had missed meeting Grant by only a matter of days. Me up at Whipsnade standing around looking at a bunch of chimps from Wellington, while my New Zealand friends, allies and enemies had access to head along to Wellington Zoo and see Grant any time they felt like it.
The joke would well and truly be on me then.
Aside from that, I think I would like to head up to Whipsnade around May 15th, give or take a day or two. Will you be around? It would be nice to meet in person, unless you are too afraid of meeting me because you think I am a nutcase.
I thought it would be great also to take a couple of photos with Grant and I for my book. Some normal ones, but also some fun ones. Maybe with me dressed up as Vanilla Ice and him as MC Hammer? Or me as Larry and him as Balky from the program Perfect Strangers? Or even as Statler and Waldorf, the two old hecklers from the Muppet Show who sat in the balcony seats at the Muppets theatre. God they used to give Fozzie Bear a hard time about his jokes. What was the point???
If you think this will be too much of a hassle OR if you think Grant might not react well to dressing up, I would understand. But if you DO think it’s a good idea, I should be able to provide the costumes. Unless you have anything handy up there at Whipsnade.
Either way, it would be just a great day out. I would probably bring up my friend Rex who was the person who told me about Grant in the first place. He is a great guy and is well know for inventing the saying ‘Same Diff’.
Heard of it?
It is one of New Zealand’s most beloved sayings and basically means ‘same difference’. As in, there is no difference.
Reuben: ‘Hey, shall we take your car or my car up to Whipsnade Zoo tomorrow?’
Rex: ‘Same diff.’
Reuben: ‘Ok, let’s just take mine as it has a full tank of gas.’
Rex: ‘Mine is too, so… same diff.’
It actually sounds better in practise than it looks written down. I don’t know if I provided the best example, but I don’t have all day to sit around trying to think of a better one.
You’ll never guess what, I just had a knock on my hotel room door and it was a woman saying ‘Room Service?’
I answered the door in my undies and said ‘No thanks. But can you come back in one or two hours??’
She agreed. Then I thought about how many people she has seen in their undies over the years, and the other strange sights she must have come across having worked in hotels. In fact, someone answering the door in their undies is probably the norm for her. She didn’t even flinch.
Wouldn’t it be a laugh if I played a prank for when she returns?
I could go out now and purchase a straightjacket, a facemask, and then come back and put them on and strap myself to an upright trolley in the corner of the room. I would look just like Hannibal Lector from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in the scene where he is being transported between prisons!
She would probably initially get a fright if she came back to the room to see me set up in the corner like that, but I’m sure we would laugh about it later. And no doubt it would make her day a little more interesting.
Especially if I said ‘Hello Clarice’ as she entered the room.
Do you think it’s a bit extreme? Actually, why am I asking you. She will probably have been and gone by the time you get this.
Maybe I could tone down the prank a little bit. Do something simple like dressing up as the Emperor from Return Of The Jedi or something.
Anyway Perry, hope this finds you well and that Grant, Phil, Elvis and the other chimps are all in good health.
Hope to see you in the next few weeks, unless I am banned from Whipsnade or something similar.
Reuben (chimp enthusiast/ budding novelist)
PS Please note that in that initial list of ‘humanimals’ I didn’t include one of my new favourites who could join up with the gang:
A horse called Ian. What do you think? Ian would almost work as a first name for any animal and make it sound great. A turtle called Ian, a cow called Ian, or even a polar bear called Ian. The choices are basically endless.
PPS If Rex and I came up to the Zoo are there any days where there is a two-for-one deal on for entry or anything like that? We will both be pretty flexible I imagine.