Thursday, October 6, 2011

Charlie makes some friends in a very surprising place

It was a damp and cloudy day in Yorkshire. Charlie was feeling a bit homesick. He remembered the blue skies and sunshine back in Uganda. He gave a deep sigh.

'What's the matter, Charlie?' asked Miho.

'Everything's grey in Yorkshire,' said Charlie. 'The sky's grey, the clouds are grey and even the puddles are grey. It's not even proper rain like we get in Uganda, just drizzle.'

'Never mind,' said Miho. 'We can still go out and enjoy ourselves.'

'Why don't we go to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park?' said Granny. 'It's not far away.'

'Humph!' said Charlie. 'Wildlife, in Yorkshire! I bet there won't be stripey zebras and golden lions like in Uganda. There'll just be grey sheep and grey birds.'

'Well, let's go and see,' said Granny. 'Perhaps you won't feel quite so grumpy when we get there, Charlie.'

So they all piled into Granny's car: Miho and Daddy and Great Granny Margaret and Granny - and Charlie, of course.

When they got to the park it was still raining.  Charlie and Miho looked out over lots of fields.

'I told you,' said Charlie. 'It's grey, grey everywhere. Look, even the animals are grey.'

'I think we all need a good walk,' said Great Granny Margaret. 'Let's see how many animals we can see. I bet you they're not all grey!'

So they all set off walking. First they came to a wood with tall trees.

'I wonder what animals are here,' said Miho.

Just then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something moving.

'Look Charlie!' exclaimed Miho. 'There's an animal coming down the tree!'

Not one animal, but one, two three animals, all with very long tails!

'I can see them,' said Charlie. 'Hello,' he said to the animals.' What sort of creatures are you? Are you squirrels?'

'Squirrels? Oh my goodness no, we're lemurs,' said the creature. 'I'm one of your cousins, even though you don't seem to recognise me.'

'What are lemurs?' asked Miho.

'We're a kind of monkey. My name is Lennox.  Lennox the Lemur.'

'Glad to make your acquaintance, said Charlie. ' My name is Charlie. I've never met a lemur, even if you are my cousin. Where do you live? I live in Uganda.'

'No wonder we've never met then,' said the lemur. 'We used to live in Madagascar before we moved here. Now I live in a house in the middle of the woods in Yorkshire. It's quite nice, for a new build, but it isn't quite the same as a huge old tropical tree, though the climbing frame and rope walk are quite nice.'

'Where's Madagascar?' asked Miho.

'It's an island in the sea off the coast of Africa,' said Charlie. 'Well, I'm very pleased to meet you. It's nice to meet a fellow African in the middle of chilly England.'

'And look Charlie,' said Granny. 'The lemurs aren't grey at all.  Some of them are brown and some of them are black and white.'

'So they are,' said Charlie.

I think it's time to say goodbye,' said Daddy. 'We've lots of other animals to see.'

'Goodbye Lennox,' said Miho.

'Goodbye Lennox,' said Daddy.

'Goodby Lennox,' said Granny.

'Goodbye Lennox,' said Great Granny Margaret.

And 'Goodbye Lennox,' said Charlie. 'See you in Africa one day.'

'Goodbye Charlie,' said Lennox. 'Don't forget we're cousins!'

And off they all went.

Soon they came to a big field.

'What are those big animals?' asked Miho. 'They're just like cows but they've got enormous horns.'

'I know what they are,' said Charlie excitedly. 'They're Ankole cattle, just like in Uganda.'

'Excuse me Madam,' said Charlie politely. 'Am I right in thinking you are Ankole cattle?'

'Yes we are, young sir,' said the nearest cow. 'We've come all the way from western Uganda. By the looks of it, so have you.'

'Yes I have,' said Charlie. 'May I introduce myself? I'm Charlie.  I'm a chimpanzee.'

'I can see that,' said the cow. 'I can recognise a chimpanzee when I see one. My name's Cristabel. Pretty grey round here, isn't it, and damp? Grass isn't as good as back home. Not enough sun and not enough rain, just this feeble drizzle.  Ugh...!'

'Good to meet you, Cristabel,' said Charlie. 'When I get back to Uganda I'll send you a postcard.'

'Some grass would be better,' said Cristabel. 'But a postcard will do.  A very kind thought, young chimp.'

' I wonder what we'll see next,' shouted Charlie happily, as he lolloped along the path.

'Look!' cried Miho. 'I can see another animal. It's a very funny one.'

'I beg your pardon,' said the animal. 'Who do you think you're talking about? Funny indeed! I'm a wallaby, and proud of it. Wilfred the Wallaby at your service.'

'I hope we didn't offend you,' said Charlie. 'But we've never seen an animal like you. Do you come from Uganda?'

'Uganda? Where's Uganda?  I've never heard of a place called Uganda.'

'It's in Africa,' explained Charlie.

'Never heard of Africa,' said Wilfred. 'I come from Australia. I didn't know there was anywhere else in the world, but there you are. I come to Yorkshire, which I'd never heard of either, and now there are countries popping up all over the place. What is the world coming to!'

'Actually, Uganda's a country and Africa's a continent,' explained Daddy.

'Whatever,' said Wilfred, sounding bored.

'I thought you were a kangaroo,' said Granny.

'A kangaroo?' exclaimed Wilfred. 'Dearie me, kangaroos are my cousins but we wallabies come from the more genteel side of the family. Kangaroos are a bit common.'

'You've got a very untidy house,' said Great Granny Margaret.

'I'm not really into housework,' said Wilfred. 'I prefer jumping around. Anyway, I don't think you should make personal remarks.'

'I prefer jumping around too,' said Charlie.

'Well, we'll have to be on our way,' said Miho. 'Animals to see, things to do. Goodbye Wilfred.'

'Goodbye, people,' said Wilfred, 'and that hairy thing.'

'I'm not a hairy thing, I'm a chimpanzee,' said Charlie, 'but goodbye all the same.'

And off they went.

'I wonder what we'll see next,' said Miho.

'Look, look!' shouted Charlie. 'It's a camel. Hello, sir. I think you must come from Africa.'

'Actually, I'm a Bactrian camel,' said the camel. 'I'm much rarer than those ordinary Arabian camels, the ones which live in Africa. They only have one hump, but look, I have two humps. I'm particularly special and I'm really quite rare.'

'What's your name and where do you come from?' asked Miho.

'I come from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and my name is Bertrand. May I be introduced?'

'I'm Miho, and this is Charlie - he's a chimpanzee from Uganda. And this is my Daddy, and this is my Granny and this is my Great Granny Margaret. Where's Mongolia?'

'Mongolia is in China,' said Bertrand. 'Mongolia is nothing like Yorkshire, more's the pity, though I quite like the grass. Better than all that sand, which is all we have in the Gobi desert.'

'Grass? You call this grass? I'll show you grass,' muttered Charlie.

'Nice to meet you,' said Miho. 'But we must be on our way. Goodbye, Bertrand.'

'You might want to meet the impala while you're here,' said Bertrand. 'They'll be glad to meet someone else from Uganda. Goodbye, my little lass. Nice to have met you.' And Bertrand turned away to munch a bit more grass.

'What are impala?' asked Miho.

'They're antelopes,' said Charlie. 'They've got curly antlers.  Hello,' he called. 'I'm visiting from Uganda!'

The impala just jumped away.

'They're very nervous creatures,' said Charlie. 'They're afraid we're lions.'

'Do I look like a lion?' said Miho, laughing.

'Hello and goodbye,' shouted Charlie to the impalas' backs.

'I wonder what else we can see,' said Daddy.

'What next?' asked Charlie. 'Hmm, something else from Uganda, if I'm not mistaken.'

'Those are funny birds,' said Miho. 'They've got very long legs.'

'Excuse me,' said one of the birds. 'Long legs are very elegant. And don't you admire our beautiful pink feathers?'

'Yes, you are very elegant, but what are you?'

'I'm a flamingo. My name's Olive. I come from the Kyambura reserve in Uganda,' said the bird.

'We must be neighbours!' shouted Charlie. 'I come from the Kyambura Gorge just next door.'

'Oh dear, it's one of those noisy chimps, I see,' muttered Olive to her companions.

'I'm not noisy,' said Charlie. 'I'm just friendly.'

'There, there dear.' said Olive. 'I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. When you go back to Uganda, remember me to the cormorants and herons and all the other birds on the crater lake.'

'I will,' said Charlie. 'And I'll even send you a postcard.'

'Look, some grey birds,' said Charlie. 'What are they? I bet they come from Yorkshire.'

'Actually, they're guinea fowl,' said Granny, 'and they come from Uganda.'

'Oh I remember seeing them all over Uganda,' said Charlie. 'Uganda does have grey animals and birds after all, not just Yorkshire. Hello, guinea fowl!  Any messages for your relatives in Uganda?

'Good grain in Yorkshire,' said the guinea fowl. 'But the grass is nothing to write home about. Not long enough to hide in.'

'We all agree with that,' said Charlie. 'Now, what next?'

'Let's have another look around,' said Daddy. 'What are those over there?'

'They're zebras!'shouted Miho.

'So they are,' said Granny.

'Hurray!' shouted Charlie, as he rushed over to see them.

'Hello zebras!' shouted Miho.

'Hello zebras!' shouted Charlie.

'Hello zebras!' shouted Daddy.

'Hello zebras!' shouted Granny and Great Granny Margaret at the same time.

'We do have names, you know,' said the nearest zebra. 'My name is Zachariah.'

'And my name is Charlie.  I bet you come from Uganda.'

'Indeed we do. I have lots of friends and relations in Uganda. May I also introduce my friend, Oscar the Ostrich?' said Zachariah.

'Hello, Oscar,' said Charlie and Miho. 'Do you come from Uganda too?'

'No, I come from Tanzania,' said Oscar. 'Just next door to Uganda. Nice to meet you.'

Are you going back to Uganda soon?' asked Zachariah.

'Yes, at the end of the week,' said Charlie.

'Then send my friends a message, please,' said Zachariah. 'Tell them that my holiday is turning out to be a bit longer than I expected. The grass is pretty rubbish here, but at least they keep the lions well away from us, so we don't have to worry.'

'Lions?' asked Miho.

'Lions?' asked Charlie, with a bit of a shiver.

'Lions?' asked Daddy.

'Lions?' asked Granny and Great Granny Margaret at the same time.

'You'll find them in the next field,' said Zachariah. 'Over-rated if you ask me, but everyone flocks to see them.  Can't see what's so special about lions myself. They just eat animals. Why they can't eat grass like everyone else, I don't know.'

But no one was listening as Miho and Charlie and Daddy and Granny and Great Granny Margaret had all rushed off to see the lions.

'I'm not so sure about this,' said Charlie, keeping well away.

'It's all right, Charlie,' said Miho. 'There's a fence.'

'Humph,' said Charlie. 'What's so interesting about them anyway. They're not doing anything, just sitting around.'

'Who's that rude little chimpanzee?' growled the lion.

'I'm Charlie.'

'And I'm Leo.  If you had any sense you would know that lions don't eat chimpanzees. Chimps live in forests and lions live on the grasslands. And we couldn't be bothered to climb all those trees anyway, boring - though we can climb,' Leo hastened to add. 'Lions can do most things. That's why people say that we're the kings of the jungle. Not sure why they do, as we don't even live in the jungle. Still, the important point is that we are the best at everything.'

'He's got rather a big head,' muttered Charlie.'What do you eat?' he asked out loud.

'Zebras and impalas are my favourites, but for some reason they put them behind fences in this park, and give me readymade meals instead.  If only I could get at them! Grrr...'

Charlie jumped backwards.

'What are you doing here anyway?' he asked. 'I thought you lived in Uganda like me. Are you on your holidays?'

'I wish...' said Leo. 'We've been rescued. We lived in a horrible small cage before, so this is much better, though it is rather cold.'

'Well, nice to have met you,' said Charlie.

Granny said, 'It'll soon be time to go, so we'd better get a move on. What else is there to see?'

'Well, there are the meerkats,' said Great Granny Margaret. 'They come from Uganda.'

But the meerkats were too busy playing to say hello.

Then Miho and Charlie caught sight of some animals through the fence.

'What are they?' asked Miho.

'They're goats,' said Great Granny Margaret.

'Do goats come from Uganda?' asked Miho.

'There are goats in Uganda,' said Great Granny Margaret, 'but I think these are Yorkshire goats. There are goats in lots of countries. Look, you can go inside the fence and meet them.'

So Miho and Charlie went into the field to meet the goats.

'We're allowed to pat them,' said Great Granny Margaret, 'as long as we wash our hands with special soap afterwards.'


The goats loved being patted by Miho. They let her run alongside them when they went to the other end of the field. There were brown goats, and black and white goats, and even some grey goats.

But soon it was time to go back for tea.

'What animals did you like best?' asked Granny.

'I liked the animals which came from Uganda, the zebras and the Ankole cattle. I even liked the lions, though I wouldn't want to get too close to them,' said Charlie. 'I'm going to write them all postcards when I get home.'

'I liked the goats,' said Miho, 'because they let me pat them.'

They all waved to the goats and went out of the gate.

'Goodbye goats,' said Miho.

'Goodbye Miho,' said the goats. 'See you again another time.'