Wednesday, April 04, 2001

The A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern
is for Zoo
David Attenborough: [in patented stage whisper] I am standing at the entrance to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern Zoo. Let us pay our four pounds entrance fee and go inside to take a look at the animals. We'll have to be very careful - some of these creatures could misinterpret it if taken suddenly from behind. Come with me on a journey around the zoo...

On the right you can see the watering hole. Herds of parched animals clamour here, trying to push through for a refreshing drink. Many of these beasts have developed a camel-like ability to drink huge amounts, storing it up in their vast pot-bellies. The warders on the other side of the trough tend to their needs as fast as they can, but never fast enough for these impatient hordes.

Ah, now here is a splendid sight. The brilliantly-plumed, bespectacled, pink-legged Dame Edna bird of paradise [purplehairus sequinanus]. Note her strange courting dance and her unforgettable mating call: "turnitdown itsmyshow". Note too, how all the other creatures carefully observe her every move, echoing her cry: "parTICKularly! parTICKularly!".

Down here near the front we see the minkered hedgehog [boyes minkerii] and a rare tattooed Knapp's gayzelle [tattlad africensis].

You see this white-tiled room? Here you'll find pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas. Or, more usually, earthworms, wrinkled sea-slugs and assorted tiddlers.

Up in the booth you can see the striped anteater [shaggus almightius].

Continuing round, we come to my favourite animals in the zoo: the push-me-pull-you [andy'n'alexiis campastits], the hairy-backed shag [dorianus langridgii] - watch out for his deadly bite, Moore's starfish, Guy's lemming, which regularly falls to its death off high cliffs, and Ruffy's bulldog (once its gets its teeth into someone, it doesn't let go). Over there, somewhat camouflaged, you can just about see Martin's lynx [iansie dotcommus]. Look away, there's Barker's beaver [richardii awol] and Hooper's hoopoo [phill tonganus].

But it is time for us to leave the zoo. We cannot show the feeding frenzy that ensues once the creatures wolf down their vitamin pills. So we bid a fond farewell to Vauxhall. Perhaps we will see you there next Sunday.

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