Wednesday 6 May 2009
Animals I Have Considered Stealing: Number One - The People Sheep
NAME: The People Sheep
HOME: South Norfolk, UK
BRIEF CV: When you think of the word “sheep”, what you don’t normally think of are phrases such as “born raconteur”, “erudite zest for life” and “Alain de Botton”. But The People Sheep is like no other sheep before him – not even that weird one that Gene Wilder takes to bed with him in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Too Afraid To Ask. He lives at the zoo about six miles from my house, in an enclosure between a pen housing some uniquely spoilt pygmy goats and a pot-bellied pig that, from what I can work out from my extensive research, has been asleep in exactly the same position since June, 2003. In contrast to these neighbours, with their world-owes-us-a-living demeanours, The People Sheep stares out at his visitors with eager, bright intelligence, his hooves up on the fence as they pass. But do they pay attention? Do they feel the electric rays of his good nature? No; of course they don’t. They are too busy looking forward to visiting some meerkats, about forty yards away.
I put to those visitors this question: What’s so great about meerkats? What do they really give the world, apart from the art of sitting their on their hindlegs, looking sour, as if having smelled a distant, foul odour that they pretend offends them, but they secretly quite like? If that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat, don’t need to go all the way to a zoo – you can just stay in and watch reruns of Fiona Phillips presenting GMTV. Does a meerkat radiate such professorial wit and charm that, when you leave him, you are convinced that he was wearing glasses, chewing on a pipe, and quoting from the early casuals of SJ Perelman? No. I realise that one way of looking it is “Who wants to see a sheep in a zoo?”. But I prefer to take a different standpoint: the standpoint of, “If a sheep has made it into a zoo, that sheep must be a unique specimen – a veritable hero among sheep.”
PROS: Great dinner parties. Effortlessly neat lawn. Winning, showboating comeback for those frequent “But sheep don’t actually really do anything, do they?” debates.
CONS: I actually quite like mowing the lawn.