For the birds
Ian Martin works his way through the Potential Animal Client list
MONDAY ‘Animals. Now that’s a client base worth cracking you mark my words, can I have those chips? You got any wi-fi on your mob?’
Rock Steady Eddie, my fixer, is explaining how the ‘charity game’ is changing the nature of client funding by jabbing at my phone with a sausage.
‘Everybody loves a donkey sanctuary, I get that. But this is off the hook, bro…’
This year’s Times Animal Rich List is out. There’s always something new. The richest animal in Britain this year is Caspia, a three year-old Siberian bear owned by Iain Duncan Smith. She has her own apartment in Pimlico and a reading age of five.
I laugh cruelly. There’s a photo of her arriving at the Royal Academy’s Nativity Concert for Cancer Research in a gown designed by Daniel Libeskind.
She looks fucking ridiculous. The gown’s exquisitely tragic, cut on the bias but to little effect, as she’s mostly on all fours. And the shoes! Really, heels? Up those steps?
‘Laugh all you like son, but it may interest you to know that Caspia has a disposable income of about three million sovs a year. Tax-deductible too, IDS knows how to play the system.
It may ALSO interest you to know that this laughable bear in a frock has just been revealed as a leading affordable home provider working in partnership with Bristol City Council. This bear is a potential client now. Think about THAT while you’re getting another round in.’
TUESDAY Oh my God, Eddie’s right about the donkeys. People are giving so much money to this sanctuary in Dorset that even when admin and overheads are deducted each of the 14 donkeys is worth north of a couple of mill per annum. They’ve all got AGENTS now. None of this ‘cameo on CBeebies for a scratch behind the ear and a bucketful of carrots’ rubbish any more. They’re pros.
And they’re planning a chain of sanctuaries called Nuzzle and someone’s got the corporate design gig and it isn’t me.
WEDNESDAY Eddie and I work our way through the Potential Animal Client list.
Mr Breezy, an oligarch’s parrot, holds 51 per cent of the shares in a leisure development company. A hedge fund ruthlessly buying up arable farmland in Gloucestershire has for the first time appointed a pair of swans - Tony and Carmella - as joint procurement managers. The swarm of bees owned by former Coalition arts minister the Hon Anaeas Upmother-Brown is now the collective head of innovation at Sainsbury’s.
Eddie tells me he’s not stupid. ‘Some of these appointments are strategic. Some might even be a front, we don’t know. I notice that dog you used to knock about with is Number 87 on the list…’
Indeed. It gives me no pleasure to discover that my former acquaintance, the preposterous architectural dachshund Bauhau, is now head of the Bartlett school of architecture. AND running a hugely influential atelier in Shanghai.
Curse him and his ridiculous clothes … Eddie’s snapping his fingers.
‘Come on son, focus. We need to concentrate on these gannets. And puffins.’
THURSDAY A quick day trip to Lister Craigs, a group of volcanic islands off the Ayrshire coast. Some nature conservation trust has just bought the lot - via a massively oversubscribed crowdsourcing initiative - to secure the future of Europe’s largest gannet colony. The
islands are also home to a shitload of puffins.
There’s not much to see. A ruined castle here, some cottages there. It’s mostly birds. ‘We need to find out what they want and then take their demands to the new owners innit!’ shouts Eddie, struggling to light a fag in the whooping gale.
FRIDAY The young people at Ornithol seem surprised when we turn up without an appointment brandishing a client wishlist. Eddie is adamant.
‘Can gannets and puffins get along? Do you care? Cos it’s all a bit Sunni and Shia up there, mate. You need to get an income stream going, peace and prosperity, yeah?’
They seem less hostile to the ecological five-star gambling and hotel development then we’d expected, although of course we do propose preserving a lot of the landscape.
Maybe securing the absence of Eddie is enough of a result for now.
SATURDAY Eddie calls. ‘Fancy a quick one down the Gannet and Puffin? Wire transfer’s come through…’
SUNDAY Conserve self in recliner.