As the heat murders the last greenness, the monkeys replace the crows around our compound. That’s fine we think as monkeys don’t grab for the meat you may be carrying from one place to another: they’re vegetarians. They’re notorious because of their tiresome antics as handbag snatchers and mimics. There are many stories, for example a neighbour had left a window to his office ajar and came back to find a monkey sitting in front of his (the neighbour’s) computer chewing the end of a pencil in a very studious way.
Hence, monkey business!
Monkeys’ reputations are maybe a tad exaggerated but they certainly get up to all kinds of tricks. They ere infamous for ruining wedding cakes, for example, Unable to find culprits for petty thefts and for moving people’s shoes the monkeys shoulder the blame!Not that they show the least remorse for it. Unlike we humans when accused of monkey business. We can’t hide behind hangdog expressions when caught hiding with playmates in cellars and coal stores.
Now that coal stores are a thing of the past (and folks are modelling them into kitchen annexes) we can look back and laugh at the monkey business. But can we? Maybe every time we hear the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ we get a kind of hot flush running up our erstwhile broad backs.
I remember how our Nursery school made us eat every morsel of a school meal-grisly and tasteless though it was. When hesitating to munch at the disgusting gristle we would be admonished about the absolute poor kids in different lands who were deprived of anything to chew at all!
Well, to cut a long story short, the monkeys showed us the way. Every now and again a senior monkey would alight on a tasteless morsel devoid of meat content. Sticking it to one side of his mouth he would amble round the school playground.To explain –our school was held in an old monastery. It was WW2 and new buildings were few and far between. The central courtyard (playground) was surrounded by railings and I for one always supposed that this was where the monks took their daily walk mumbling their prayers as they went along. It was through these railings that the senior monkey spat the wad of tasteless gristle. Looking back and reflecting on those days made me very curious.
Curious to know what happened to the tasteless stuff we shoved off our plates and under the table. The answer came one mealtime with a shaken shoulder, a twisted ear and a stern voice. Our teacher had discovered the pile of tasteless gristle we had shoved under the table.
‘Now you’ll eat it all up’, she literally growled,’ and no more monkey business mind you!’
Watching the chattering troop that tries to get a share of our modern meals I wonder at their ingenuity. It must have taken hours of observation to think of ways to outwit the human. Had they failed at that then they would be where we are and vice versa!
When I get these flashbacks I fall a sleep dreaming of our politicians and the monkey business they might be getting up to; and like so many others I am sure they are. What to do? Bronowski in his ‘Naked Ape’ describes quite distinctly how monkeys copy us and we them. Some years ago, I read this book having listened to a ‘Brains’ Trust’ programme in which the good professor himself was at pains to describe his theories to us.
The following summer holidsy I was invited to tour my old nursery school now renamed after a globally famous sculptor of local origins. I remember thinking, ‘here’s my chance’.
Slyly, so I thought, I detached myself from the ‘tour group’ and dashed to peep through the ancient wooden railings.
Nothing, just scrubbed ancient flagstones that I remembered from the past! So much for the naked ape theory! Those darned monkeys hadn’t taught me a thing! Just then the school principal caught up with me and with a hand on my shoulder announced.
“As you all must know we’ve had some famous sculptors and writers at our school, including the inventor/creator of the famous ‘flowerpot men, Bill and Ben’. Involuntarily some of us began to hum the Bill and Ben theme tune.
Until we realised how silly we sounded, we kept on humming. “Bill and Ben, flowerpot men’. Slowly we drifted into a whisper.
‘Would you believe what the workmen found behind this patch of railing? ‘She asked. Well no we wouldn’t dare venture to tell her about all those left overs we had thrown away. So we didn’t, but she knew then and I swear she had known all along. After all, when getting up to monkey business, you can fool Mother that the reason you stuck an ice-cream in the kitchen stove was to keep it cool; after all in the days I am remembering electricity was a new phenomenon in many European households.There are people still alive who coo with pleasure at the advertisement “There’s nothing so cosy as a nice wood fire.” Something the climate change specialists should correct.
Cosy is as cosy does but your Nursery School teacher? She’s heard it all and you’d better watch out before monkeying around with her! Maths’ teachers, Latin teachers, History teachers, English teachers, French teachers and so on and so forth--------fool them any day of the week, but you’d better not get up to any monkey business when your Nursery teacher is around. That’s why they are so memorable and why every autumn when the monkeys invade I find myself remembering monkey business!