JOURNAL September 2012
es entur v d a â€™s ilson W w o Foll k at: .co.u t daily o p s log rs2.b a w t n //a http:
Original photographs of Wilson used by kind permission of TamanduaGirl: www.livingwithanteaters.com
saturday This morning I found Wilson reading a prospectus from Imperial College, London. When we sat down to coffee a little later, he told me that he'd had enough of failed get-rich-quick schemes and he was going to study to become a myrmecologist. I told W that I have no idea what that is, and he explained that it is a branch of entomology concerned with the study of ants. This sounds like a subject tailor-made for W, although I wonder how good the employment prospects are. Perhaps when he's qualified he could get a job as a CSI - he likes the TV series, and he'd look good in the uniform too. sunday I asked Wilson if he'd like any help filling in his application for the myrmecology course at Imperial College, and he said he was reconsidering going to university altogether. He explained that, as part of his research on which university to go to, he'd watched Brideshead Revisited on DVD and was worried that he might not fit in; then he'd watched Lewis and was afraid he'd be murdered by an unhinged tutor. I suggested he should go straight to the Imperial College website and see what other students said about university life.
monday Over coffee this morning I tried to explain to Wilson that "Brideshead Revisited" and the "Lewis" stories were just fiction, like the movie Moon which so upset him but which he eventually conceded was not 'real'. He held up his paw, interrupting me in mid-flow, to say that he'd re-read the prospectus and the course didn't offer what he'd expected. It was all about studying ants scientifically, sticking microchips on their heads, dyeing their food to study their socialisation and so on, not at all what he wanted to do. I asked him what he'd been hoping for from the course, and he replied, 'Obviously ant breeding, ant farming, ant cooking and ant recipe development. Restaurant management and marketing. Stuff like that.' tuesday Explaining his decision, Wilson reminded me that the famous myrmecologist William Morton Wheeler had been one of his mother, Mrs Vermilingua's, heroes. 'He developed the theory that ants aren't individuals but merely part of a superorganism. He gave a famous speech about this at Woods Hole Institute in 1911, and this has been very important to vegetarian anteaters, as it is the basis of our being able to eat ants and be vegetarians at the same time.' I nodded, encouragingly. 'I thought that I might become the new WM Wheeler and make my mum, Mrs Vermilingua, proud of me... but science is not in my veins. I'm much more interested in cooking and making huge sums of money.'
wednesday I suggested to Wilson that before he thought about going to university he might consider attending school. His face fell. 'I've seen schools in Byker Grove and Grange Hill on Gold,' he replied, 'And I didn't like the look of them.' thursday This morning I sat at the front room window with Wilson and together we watched the local children leaving for school. 'Look at their happy faces as they set off with their friends to learn stuff!' I enthused. 'That look on their faces is fear,' he replied. 'And the uniforms? This is not going to happen!' W shuffled off, grabbed the iPad and downloaded Another Brick In The Wall from iTunes. Now he's hiding in his bed and refusing to come out, in case I try to 'make' him go to school. Like I could 'make' him do anything! In the words of Alice Cooper, I guess School's Out then.
friday I've just found Wilson with my SatNav and my 2007 AA Road Atlas of Britain. When I enquired what he was up to, at first he was evasive, but after a little gentle probing he admitted that he was re-programming all my SatNav's Favourite Destinations so the routes would avoid passing any schools; he was afraid that I might suddenly stop the car and bundle him inside! When I was his age I thought I had "School Phobia", but W's is much worse. I've promised him he will never have to go to school against his will... although honestly I think the trick would be in finding a school that would accept him as a pupil! saturday The summer has not been kind to sTony. His crowning glory, his horrific and scary rictus, has become a little discoloured by the weather. Wilson has gone into meltdown with concern that his teeth might need to be extracted. I tried to calm him down, suggesting that he brush sTony's teeth with Smokers' Whitening Toothpaste, but W would have none of that. He's phoned the dentist and demanded an emergency appointment.
sunday The dentist assured Wilson that sTony's teeth were not decayed, and that the discolouration was due to moss growing in the cracks. She sold W a toothbrush and a tube of Smokers' Whitening Toothpaste. W was so relieved, saying, 'At least poor sTony won't need an injection!' I don't remember receiving this much sympathy or concern when I last visited the dentist. If I remember correctly, Wilson called me a "big baby"... monday I've been playing quite a bit of Bob Dylan in the car lately - I seem to be having a bit of a Dylan Revival. At first Wilson was very dismissive of what he described as "hippie crap", but now he's quite gotten into it. In the car now, we drive along with the windows wide open singing along to 'Black Diamond Bay', 'Buckets of Rain' or 'Ballad of a Thin Man', while pretending we're in a Buick 6 on Route 66!
tuesday Wilson is considering building a Model Village in the garden. He says it would be a great draw for people visiting his Grand Charity Garden Open Day. I remember he was very impressed by a model village we visited on holiday. In the one he's now planning, however, he says that there could be a model Industrial Estate or Factory Farm, where he could breed his ants. W's voice is going a bit croaky - I hope he's not coming down with something. wednesday Wilson's voice is down to a croak now, and I can hardly understand what he's saying. He's been trying to tell me something all morning and I think I've just made out what it is: 'You say you lost your faith but that's not where it's at, You have no faith to lose and you know it' Also, he keeps calling me "Mr Jones". Something is happening, but I don't know what it is. I think I'll have to make an appointment for W to see the vet. I hope he doesn't get referred to see the Pet Psychiatrist again, he was really expensive... but if that's what it takes, I'll bite the bullet and pay.
thursday Aha! As soon as Wilson heard me discussing the vet, he almost immediately returned to talking normally. He said that before, he had been trying to perfect his 'Bob Dylan' voice, a sort of husky, laryngitic croak such as a heavy smoker might make first thing in the morning. Even now his normal voice has miraculously returned, W has started speaking only in Dylan lyrics. I recall he did the same thing with John Lennon lyrics last year... and that was no less annoying than this. In the picture, you can see Wilson sorting through his recently-acquired Dylan albums. I already own all this stuff; I sold the vinyl years ago and bought it on iTunes. But W says the only way to listen to this is on vinyl, which he has bought quite expensively on eBay. Together with a record player. All sent Express Delivery.
friday This morning I brought my coffee in to the living room, and I found Wilson shouting the word 'NOW'. I asked, 'For what reason?' And he said, 'How?' And I said, 'What does this mean?' And he screams back, 'You're a cow. Give me some milk or else go home.' I just don't know what to think; I feel like a prisoner in a world of mystery... saturday Wilson thinks that a paparazzo may have taken some topless photos of him, and has issued an official statement...
sunday I was watching Wilson while he cooked lunch today. He was humming and singing to himself, and I caught the words, 'Come mothers and New Dads dum-de-dum-dedum/Don't criticise what you can't understand/Your dum-dum-te-dum are beyond your command/Your old road is rapidly changing/Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a paw' etc, and I thought, Hang on, that's MY generation's battle-cry. But now I'm a part of the older generation, and the future has slipped from my grasp... It's now up to youngsters like Wilson to try to make a better world than the one we've left them with. Good luck with that!
monday This morning I was woken by Wilson's singing... this time not a Dylan song, but the WW2 classic Hey Little Hen. When he'd finished, I asked him if he'd tired of Dylan's songs, and he frowned, saying, 'Of course not. Hey Little Hen is one of Dylan's early classics! It dates, I think, from the transitional period between his protest songs and going electric.' I tried to put him right, but he refused to believe me. He stomped out of the room, returning a few minutes later holding his (actually, my) iPad, which was playing a video. It really did appear to be a video of Bob Dylan singing Hey Little Hen, but closer inspection revealed it to be Burt Kwouk on the Harry Hill Show. It's an easy mistake to have made, and we continued to sing Hey Little Hen together for the rest of the morning... in our Dylan voices. Is that Mr Harry dressed as Allen Ginsberg in the background? And isn't that Stoufa the Cat's head peeking out of the wheelie bin? Future readers of this journal can see the video for themselves here, at around the 9m50s mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4h6-gDWqe8
tuesday After watching the Dr Who Christmas Special last night (well, we've both been very busy!) Wilson started to feel quite Christmassy! He asked how long it was until Christmas, and when I told him it was only about 12 weeks, he became very excited and went to bed to begin drawing up his Christmas Presents List for Father Xmas. I'm even feeling a little bit Christmassy myself... wednesday Today I found Wilson listening to the iPad in a very gloomy mood. I sat on the floor next to him and asked him what was up. He silently removed one of his ear-buds and passed it to me. A terrible, terrible cacophony emerged from the tiny bud, so I declined W's offer to put it into my ear. 'It is clean,' he said, 'I washed my ears just yesterday,' but I just didn't want to hear this racket any louder than an annoying, tinny whisper. 'What on earth is this?' I asked. 'It's Bob Dylan's 2009 Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart!' he replied, miserably. I downloaded it this morning to get me in the Xmas mood.'
'Didn't you read any reviews?' I asked. 'Only from the Music Critics,' he replied. 'They just said it was "unusual" or "iconoclastic", but they just didn't want to offend him. Now I've looked at the User reviews, and they all say it's rubbish... and it is. Mr Bob Dylan, my former hero, has Feet of Clay. The Scales have fallen from my Eyes. I am no longer a BobCat.' We sat quietly for a few moments... in silence but for a tinny, phlegmy rendition of The Little Drummer Boy emerging from the ear-bud resting on the floor... thursday Still very upset by his purchase of Bob Dylan's "Christmas In The Heart" album, Wilson told me, 'I'm going to contact iTunes to demand a refund!' When I explained that all the royalties went to homeless charities (Crisis in the UK), and that in any case he'd bought the download using my credit card, he agreed not to pursue a refund... but insisted that he would never listen to it again. Actually, W is in a pretty bad mood all round, having missed International Talk Like A Pirate Day yesterday. I suggested we might spend today talking like pirates, but he said it wouldn't be the same - if there was just the two of us doing it, we'd look like idiots. Heaven forfend that we should look like idiots! Yarrr!
friday Wilson is still very upset about Bob Dylan. I tried to explain that all of Dylan's back catalogue is just as good as it ever was. He agreed, but said that listening to "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" will never be the same in view of what he now knows; in his head, it will always have a backbeat of "Here Comes Santa Claus." Wilson then asked me about other music icons. I thought for a minute, then tentatively suggested... Leonard Cohen. W immediately asked, 'Has he ever recorded an Xmas album?' saturday Wilson has decided that, before he invests too much love and effort in another singer, he will do some research. To this end, he has downloaded Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life onto his Kindle, so he can be sure he won't get any nasty surprises or shocks if he happens to like Cohen's work. He says that until he can be certain about this, he will not even listen to a single song. I hope I did right in suggesting Cohen and not, for example, Billy Joel. Or Bowie. Neil Young or Joni Mitchell. Only time will tell...
sunday This morning I was woken from my Sunday lie-in not by the strains of Bob Dylan, but by an aria from Bizet's Carmen. A few minutes later, Wilson bustled in carrying a tray with my breakfast on it: an ant souffle. W enigmatically told me that I could in future call him 'Souffle Boy'. I have no idea what's going on. The souffle was surprisingly unhorrible, though W did have to help me finish it. I left most of the ants. Later, W confessed that he'd grown tired of waiting for me to start watching the new series of Dr Who and had watched the first episode last night, having been unable to sleep after reading his Leonard Cohen biography into the early hours.
monday For the last few mornings the heating has been coming on; the leaves are turning brown and falling from the trees and the wind and rain have been almost constant. There's no arguing, the Summer, such as it was, is over and it's really Autumn now. Wilson and I were chatting idly about the recent poor weather when he suddenly asked me the date. When I told him, his face fell. 'Whatever's the matter?' I asked. 'My Grand Charity Garden Open Day!' he cried, 'Now it's Autumn, almost Winter, the garden is windswept and waterlogged, the flowers are dying and I've forgotten to hold my Grand Charity Garden Open Day! This is a calamity! I shall have to postpone it until next year!' tuesday Wilson has declared that he is willing to give Leonard Cohen a try! Jan, a friend of his (of Wilson, not Cohen, as far as I know!) has suggested I start him off in chronological order with 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen' while avoiding 'Death of a Ladies Man' at all costs! This sounds like a very good plan, so I've copied 'Songs of LC' onto the iPad and put the CD in the car stereo.
wednesday I had to have a tooth extracted yesterday. To his credit, when I emerged from the surgery mumbling incomprehensibly due to a mouth full of dressings, Wilson made a sterling effort not to giggle. He insisted that the nurse give me an "I've Been Brave at the Dentist" sticker. It had a Fairy Princess on it. The dentist told me to rinse my mouth regularly with warm salt water, but W insists on supplementing this with a mouthwash made from a decoction of ant. Apparently his mother, Mrs Vermilingua, used to give it to all her many children whenever they were suffering from any ailment, real or imagined. He's in the kitchen now, sieving a bowl of Ant Broth for my lunch. I expect this to be Nourishing rather than Delicious. Possibly neither. thursday Wilson has presented me with a card proclaiming me his longest-serving New Dad. By quite a big margin, apparently! I am very touched.
friday Wilson has been considering getting a job as a teaching assistant. He says he has 'much wisdom to pass on to young humankind,' although he admits he's not overly fond of children, and he's quite impatient. It doesn't take a lot of internet research to discover the wages are far below what he considers fair remuneration for his wisdom and experience. Also, he was surprised to learn that he'd be expected to turn up every weekday! 'That would leave me no time to work on all my stuff!' he exclaimed, 'Next year's Grand Charity Garden Open Day, and the Wilson Vermilingua OBE Museum of Old Stuff and A Robot!' I think he's now considering a different career path... possibly as a minstrel. saturday Today I found Wilson in the Wilson Vermilingua OBE Museum of Old Stuff and a Robot, searching for my old guitar. He'd already unearthed my first-edition copy of the late Bert Weedon's "Play-In-A-Day" guitar tutor book, which I'd completely forgotten about. Having laboriously worked my way through this book in my youth, I wonder whether I should warn W that it takes way more than a day? I don't want to discourage him, so I think I'll keep quiet about it.
sunday My old guitar has only four strings intact, but Wilson is in the kitchen strumming away happily, the Bert Weedon book propped up in front of him. Maybe the low stringcount makes it easier to play for a beginner -- a bit more like a ukulele, perhaps. I asked W how he was getting on, and he said his claws were great for finger-picking styles, but made it very difficult to fret the strings. Personally I think it's remarkable that an anteater can get any kind of tune out of a guitar, so I told him I thought he was doing really well and to keep practicing.
Published on Sep 29, 2012
A journal of my life with a talking anteater. I appear to have been adopted by a talking ant-eater called Wilson. This is my journal, listin...