The Increasingly Freaky Story of a Chocolate Zoo

This morning the Major asked me to create him a book about a chocolate zoo, which is the sort of commission I can get stuck into.

The contents of the book that we eventually produced together probably relates more truth about our relationship than anything that I could write down.

Once I’d been given the brief, I conceived the story as a cautionary tale about the folly of attempting to build a zoo out of chocolate. We never got that far.

The first step was to make the book itself, a botched job of binding with a hole-punch and string. Then the cover. Partly through wanting to live up to the exacting standards of the Major and party through a lack of creativity the book was titled “A Chocolate Zoo”.

Most of our art projects happen in the same way. I become too ensconced in my own activity and the Major and Minor become bored and drift away. I decided to sketch a gorilla eating a Mars Bar on the cover but I fucked up the arm and improvised a meerkat instead. The Major took control and began working on a flamingo instead.

a chocolate zoo



He then asked me to write some words down. I still hadn’t formulated a plot but I sensed an opportunity for us to collaborate on some writing. I tried to teach him using the classic ‘up-and-down-and-round-and-flick’ from the seminal Word and Pictures programme. The Major chose to disregard this, preferring a more freestyle method with the letters above each other in Japanese style. Again we aborted partway through so instead of two exquisitely crafted ‘flamingo’ on top of each other we had some that resembled more ‘flamin’ Koq’.

flaming koq

The Major now seized the pen and began etching out the remainder of “A Chocolate Zoo”. First of all something called a ‘bird-goat’ which I’m pretty sure once visited me during a night terror. Then a ‘bird-Dalmatian’, appended to which I thought was a well-rendered tail with a tasselly bit at the end. The Major set me straight and it turns out it was the bird-Dalmatian’s penis and the tassel was a robust sprinkle of piss (not his words).

bird goat

Things got weirder after that. A surrealist image of his little brother and then a picture of me and him together, which I considered was a fitting end to the book, a symbol of the camaraderie we’d shown in putting it together.

Until he explained that he’d imagined us with our willies out, weeing on the ground. I stress that this was not created from an actual memory. Like much of the Major’s material I find this violently amusing but vaguely disturbing also. The serious point here is at what point does a parent step in with this sort of stuff? I know that lavatorial humour is part of the lifeblood of a small boy (and some larger ones as well) but also don’t want the Major be that child at school. And again ‘the cross that bridge when we come to it’ that underlies so much of my parenting philosophy kicks in again. Besides, he’d been very generous in his depiction of me.


The upshot of all this is that of course that the Major and I have got a publishing deal for ‘A Chocolate Zoo’ so soon it will be available in all good bookshops. And some really fucking weird ones as well.

Any good?

Godstone Farm: Getting More Than You Bargained For

I grew up surrounded by farmland which was mildly idyllic, although now I associate farms and farmers with a chronic intolerance of trespassers, putting stray kittens in bins and being simultaneously rich and miserable. This has not been passed onto the Major because pretty much ever since he’s been able to point at something and squawk he’s been fascinated by farms. When I say farm I mean livestock and not arable. He’s not well into barley for instance.

We are fortunate as we live near one called Godstone Farm where you are invited to watch, feed and interact with the animals. It’s the very place if you’ve always yearned to interact with a terrapin.

Godstone Farm is gigantic and the best thing about it is that it feels like a farm would be if it had been designed by a child. So along with all your industry-standard farm animals there’s an entire section inhabited by dinosaurs. I should clarify that the dinosaurs are synthetic. One of them does growl as you walk past, although it is standing suspiciously close to a speaker system. There are also two vast Saharan sand pits, a barn housing only slides and an entire silo full of jelly beans. Okay, there are no jelly beans. Or a silo.

There are some things you should know about Godstone if you are thinking of a visit. Firstly due to a strategic oversight the goats have been installed next to the entrance. I doubt that their cleansing routine is any less enthusiastic than its neighbours but the odour they emit is worse than the vague smell of manure everywhere else. It hits you in the nose and the eyes and mouth as soon as you’ve negotiated the ticket office. But just get your head down, walk on and soon there will be sweet-smelling turkeys.

If you’re a big fan of cows you may be disappointed. There are two token cows here. But there are pigs everywhere. The reason for this is evident. In my experience pigs are friskiest of all the farm beasts. My family and I once witnessed this at close quarters when two of them went for it big-style recently. While other parents ushered their children away, my wife and I stood transfixed as the couple embarked on a brutal but impressive routine during which the man-pig sniffed his mate from behind, bit her in the udders and then mounted her in the most punishing way imaginable. The results of this kind of action are all over the farm and they are genuinely adorable.

Godstone Farm has a solid selection of poultry. I continue to be impressed by the ducks here. They can walk, swim and fly but don’t make a massive fuss about it, getting all up in your grill like the geese sometimes do. There are also more leftfield animals, by which I mean not traditionally farm animals as opposed to animals standing in a field in the left. Chipmunks, tarantulas, ferrets, and a gecko called Erica.

So for us, and our growing family of farm-obsessives Godstone Farm is a godsend. And we will continue to visit until our boys become interested in something else. Like barley for instance.

Any good?