Why the UK is Going to the Frogs

12 August 2010

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At first we were afraid, we were petrified.  Well, not quite but there is a worrying trend going on in the UK.  It all started in London, as things sometimes do in the UK. The beginning of a worrying trend?  Perhaps not, we thought. Yet across the gulf of Lands End to John O'Groats, minds that were to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this country with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twenty first century (2010 to be exact) came the great Elephant Parade of London.

They did not come quietly either, like Dumbo and his friends on the train. There may not have been a crow chorus but there was plenty of trumpeting.  Yet people welcomed the elephants of London - they were for a good cause - and their eventual auction would raise a good deal of money to help Asian elephants in the wild - to the tune of four million of our British pounds.  Hurrah.

So, when the good citizens of the City of Bath in that most ceremonial of counties, Somerset, decided to adorn their urban environment with lions, who could possibly blame them?   They wanted to take pride (ouch) in their city and the rest of the country cheered on, in that polite, British sort of cheering-on-iness type of way.

The lion has long since been the symbol of this ancient city, which goes back to pre-Roman times.  So, a few dozen more lions did not phase the denizens of Bath - especially as the lions will go on to be auctioned for charity - in a similar way to the elephants of London.  Hurrah! exclaimed the breathless population of the UK (not to mention the tourist hordes who lay siege to Aquae Sulis each year). But then Chester just had to get in on the act. 

Another ancient and venerable city, Chester decided that the Rhino was their thing.   This particular parade of animals is known as Rhino Mania and the 62 sculptures dotted around the walled city most certainly create a kind of madness among the good folk of Chester, especially at around 11 in the evening when the city's pubs close.  Each morning one or two of the rhinos seem to have mysteriously disappeared, replaced by one of their unadorned brethren, with the notice that the original has gone to the vets.  Quite.

Why rhinos, however?  Well, the city zoo has nine of the real thing, which is quite a lot for somewhere outside of Africa - in fact, it's quite a lot for inside the continent, which is the point of this particular exhibition. The Chester rhinos will, in September, be auctioned off to support the getting on for extinct Black Rhinos of Kenya and Tanzania. One of the rhinos is even muscling in on the empty space left by the London elephants, guarding the entrance to the platform at Euston Station in London (see above).  Hurrah!  again. Probably.

Something's Got To Give.  Yes, the name of the unfinished 1962 Marilyn Monroe movie, but also the general sentiments of the upstanding council leader of Hull.  This lovely spot in the East Riding of Yorkshire is now home to a host of giant model toads.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the death of their most famous son, the poet Philip Larkin, £175,000 was squandered spent on reminding the people of Hull of Larkin's poem Toads. And Toads Revisited (we are not making this up, honestly!).

The council leader became rather miffed by the profligacy of his fellow councillors and has withdrawn the funding - which is a shame. In a way.  Larkin's Toad was a metaphor for work, and in both his poems on the subject he wished it would just go away - which now looks quite likely in all truth.

This aside, with all these sculptures of animals littering the country, could this be the final, proof positive (if we had to have it) that the UK is going to the frogs?



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