Clarice Takes a Curtain Call
A Brainy Bird Tall Tale (no.4)
Text by Ross Hunter, illustrated by Catherine Hunter
“Gals, this European weather is getting to me,” boomed Clarice down the phone line to her friends. At the other end, Clara, Celia and cousin Emma Emu were sure they could hear through the window as well, despite being half a town away. “The weather is grotty, ‘bleagh’, and ‘dreech’, as they say in Scotland, meaning it was foggy and raining. What are we going to do? Even our gorgeous ostrich feathers won’t outshine a peacock in this greyness.”
The gals put their thinking caps on. Emma put a woolly cap on. “How about the cinema?” Said Celia, the sensible one, at last. “A bit of escapism is good for the soul.”
There was to be a lot more escapism, but the Gals did not know that yet.
“Capital plan, Celia,” boomed the phone in response. What’s on?”
“Who cares!” squawked Clara and Emma together, ”anything to be in the warm and dry!” Only Cyd, Emma Emu’s python friend disagreed. She rather likes nice damp spots, good for catching, snatching and snaffling newts and toads, but kept quiet.
A swift, long-legged canter later, our five friends are filing into the cinema. They sat a few rows from the front, and dead central, so the shadows of their tall heads could be seen on screen. Ostriches’ ears are small enough not to be worried by angry mutterings from the unsighted behind. They were warm, comfy and ready to relax. But just as the lush crimson velvet curtains were parting, so the birds’ view was parted by two giraffes sitting in front of them. Can you think of an animal with a higher held head than an ostrich, except a giraffe? I can’t. With his Barnet Fair on top (Cockerel rhyming slang, as you know) that’s a lot of silver screen screened off.
harrumphed loudly, to no effect. Two futile coughs later, and she opts to tap the offending African on his really rather fine and well tanned shoulder blade. Ready for a row, Clarice was stunned when the elegant Savanna-dweller turned round and flashed a wide, wide smile with his white, white Hampstead Heath. (More Cockerel, as you know).
“May I help you?” his voice rolled deeply and smoothly across to Clarice’s ears, which had already flushed deeper crimson than the curtain. “I am so sorry if we are in the way, these are the only seats left. May we treat you to a slap-up salad afterwards?” His smile seemed, to Clarice, to light the whole hall. “Meet my brother Asser, and I am Gerald,” crooned he, every inch, or rather, metre, the gentleman giraffe.
“Err, no, excuse me, nothing at all,” stammered a staggered Savanna-bred Clarice, who was suddenly as wellchuffed as she had been dis- a moment ago. “I am happy to stare at your shoulders all afternoon.” She was not even sure if she had said that or thought it.
The film flashed by, as Clarice’s beady eyes stayed staring at Gerald’s elegant extended neck. If you want to know what the film was like, ask Emma or Cyd, as none of the giraffe-obsessed ostriches can remember a single scene. Equally, the impromptu dining party passed in a trance. Clarice could not swallow a lettuce leaf. Or speak – now that IS news!
Our new best friends were instantly an item. Soon, their high altitude silhouettes were to be seen all over town, enjoying the sights and views, as they blocked everyone else’s. But the weather got no better. The loving couple pined more and more for the golden dry grasses of home and the beat of the heat of Africa. In due course, Gerald and Clarice plotted their wedding and permanent honeymoon under the southern sun.After a great hen party, Celia and Clara were bridesmaids of course, and cousin Emma was Bird of honour, and Cyd added a living touch to Clarice’s posey in church. It was a lovely wedding, though oddly most guests commented that the roof of the church seemed lower than they remembered. How they squeezed into the less than generous tin tube of the plane I will leave you to imagine.
As we wave farewell to the feathered friends, I hope you have enjoyed their stories. If you are ever out on the wide, dry, grassy plains of Africa and see them (I am sure you will hear Clarice from a generous distance), do pass on greetings from our northern home. I am sure you agree, town is a bit quieter and less exciting without them. Do you have any interesting animal friends? I would love to read their stories! Over to you...