Violence towards animals is unacceptable but, even so, I punched a deer in the face the other day near the Runton petting zoo, maintained by Joe and Graham. If you’re unfamiliar with petting zoo maintenance, remember this: once you have a petting zoo, you’ll always have a petting zoo, because you can never re-home a petting zoo animal, except to another petting zoo, which won’t want it. Why? Because petting zoo animals are a bunch of dicks, that’s why. They live an incredibly spoiled existence – every time they see a human, they get treats and fuss, and they have to do nothing in return. Realising a good thing when they see it, they subsequently become extremely territorial and aggressive. Try going near petting zoo animals without treats and see what happens. Never mind all the bleating and fluffiness and what not. They’ll fucking kill you.
The glampers love it, though, and now that ‘Anton’ and I have regulated the quality of glamper coming to the Estate, the Smith Plan recommends that glampers are welcomed in a more accommodating manner. There are many reasons for this volte-face. For a start, ‘Anton’ and I would like to expand our tent hire business. Also, Beggar’s Canyon would like to profit from arranging further wholesale tent purchases on our behalf from her survivalist contacts. Finally, Graham’s kids would like more opportunities to aggressively sell retreated tyres to Instagram foodies from Stoke Newington. That’s how important glampers are to the short and mid-term fortunes of the Runton Hall Estate. Joe’s even thinking of building a little chapel where they can pray for a second Brexit vote, if it will help secure our Lottery grant.
Much of Joe and Graham’s work consists of repairing fencing that the animals routinely destroy to get to humans who they then, essentially, mug. Not all animals at Runton are ungrateful little bastards, however. For example, my dog Archie exhibits all the noble gentleness and good nature of his Saluki bloodline, latterly displaying a touching concern for my welfare in post-Tennyson Road Incident physiotherapy. During these sessions, fearing that the physiotherapist will take advantage of my weakened condition to kill and eat me, Archie places himself between the pair of us, literally clambering onto my lap as my shoulders and torso are manipulated hither and yon in the name of skeletal health. The deer I punched – actually squared up to, shouted ‘Fuck off Bambi’ or something similar at, and then struck not once, but twice – had charged up to and bitten Archie for no reason other than that he was a mammal walking along with a potential food source. Furious, I leapt to the defence of my baffled dog, but could only punch with my right arm in a manner strongly reminiscent of Frank Bruno against Oliver MacCall during his successful 1995 WBC World Heavyweight Championship bid. Unlike Frank Bruno in 1995, I am no longer among the greatest sportsmen of my generation, and while I boxed enthusiastically until I was 21, there was no Morrissey, Ian Brown and Jamiroquai at ringside urging me on, no Harry Carpenter yelling through tears of joy into his microphone, no Nigel Benn dressed like Mozart and no Prince Nazeem bobbing every bob and weaving every weave at my elbow. I was a lost Cockney in a field, punching a ruminant, and that was that.
For its part, the deer seemed incredulous, perhaps detecting that while Archie and I are happy companions, we are ill matched brothers in arms. This was evident as Archie launched himself gamely at our attacker, in the process unbalancing me as I tried to restrain him on his lead. A Saluki will certainly defend itself, but they are reluctant to bite or nip; their principal modus opperandi is to startle prey into running, then chase it until it collapses from exhaustion. Playing to his strengths, Archie was trying to rattle the deer into flight, but it remained stationary. Feeling increasingly foolish, I hit it again and, perhaps out of boredom, it began to turn away. Unnoticed until now, a goat had also broken out of the petting zoo, and Archie, teeth bared and hackles up, prepared to hurl himself at this new foe. The goat cocked a hind leg and, unfurling a fierce erection, proceeded to piss into its own mouth in an unhurried manner for fifteen seconds, all the while maintaining eye contact. Count slowly to fifteen, and consider how long that amount of time seems when watching a goat piss into its own mouth, in what I later discovered was a gesture of contempt. Point made, he adjusted himself and wandered back through the same hole in the fence he had eaten earlier with a countenance suggesting he was going to run a nice bath and listen to the Archers in it. In solidarity, the deer evacuated its bowels and followed him. Archie, livid and attempting to salvage our dented honour, all but dragged me along the ground, while simultaneously trying to bite through his lead in order to commence the pursuit, becoming calm only after I carried him to the safety of the Fallow Field, squirming furiously and trying to claw around, over and through my face as I did so. At length, serenity was restored.
‘None of you were exactly the Fonz there, were you?’ said Graham, with a roll of barbed wire from the Restored Barn in front of him to strengthen the petting zoo fence. I had quite a lot of thoughts going through my mind, many of them complex, vengeful and involving venison burgers, but upon reflection, I decided it was simply easier to agree.
Main: Sundry petting zoo animals. Check out their welcoming faces.
Upper inset: Archie and Bill, one of our Runton donkeys, contemplate each other. The donkeys have nothing to do with the petting zoo, and are a right larf. Currently in Scarborough, doing donkey rides along the seafront until September.
Lower inset: Puncture wounds on the side of the dog. Needed sixty quids worth of antibiotics, which fortunately Graham not only had but was able to administer.
Video: Frank Bruno, being barely able to stand after twelve rounds, hangs on by his fingernails to to become 1995 WBC Heavyweight Champion. Marvellous stuff.