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Of monkeys, mice and canaries

    I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a monkey living in my flat. I bought him last summer in Bourne End. The statisticians among my readers will, I am sure, be able to confirm a spike in road accidents on the M4 heading to London on August 23, as some drivers appeared surprised by my passenger. You’d have thought he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

    We were at the first red lights, when the driver in the next car started making monkey noises and waving his arms around. I got out a banana and waved it at him. “Never seen a monkey before?” My passenger didn’t react: not surprising as he’s made of plaster.

    In retrospect I suppose I should have warned Grace, my cleaner, about Irving (I named him after my late cousin Irving Rose), but I forgot. This was a mistake. I got a hysterical call: “Mr Rosengard, there’s a monkey in your living room!”

    “I know, Grace. It’s my pet monkey — nothing to worry about.”

    “I nearly have heart attack!”

    On Tuesday, I had lunch with my friend Nobby Clark, who for 49 years was the legendary head waiter of Claridge’s breakfast room. He told me a story about the Aga Khan.

    “Whenever he came down for breakfast he had a mouse in his pocket. Tom, it was called. It was white. He kept it in his pocket — he’d always have guests — and in the middle of breakfast he’d let it out and it would run up his shoulder, across the back of his neck and down the side into the other pocket”.

    “Amazing!”

    “He never said a word, the Aga Khan, he kept a straight face the whole time. But you should have seen his guests!”

    One day, at the beginning of my career as a serial breakfaster (I’ve booked my table until December 12 2046. I will be 100 and one day old, I only call them if I’m not coming), Nobby said: “Mr Rosengard, I’ve got some sad news, Mr Onassis has died; but the good news, sir, is you’ve inherited his table. He used to sit here every morning and he’d draw his business plans for new ships on the tablecloth. Every month he’d get a bill for all his breakfasts and 25 tablecloths.”

    While on the subject of animals… my father, who was a busy GP in Shepherds Bush, used to buy canaries for his elderly, newly widowed patients to keep them company. As soon as the husband died, he’d rush round to the pet shop.

    “Another canary, Doctor?” the owner would ask. He’d run out of the shop holding the cage and drive straight over to the bereaved woman’s flat.

    “Sorry about Fred, have a canary,” he’d say. In a good week he’d get through three or four canaries.

    My father died a year ago — he was almost 98 years old. My mother’s 91. Her brother’s 93., Only my father’s eldest brother died young, at 97; we’re still getting over the shock. I walk up to total strangers at bus stops.” You don’t know me but my mother’s 93, and Dad was just short of 100 when he died. I know you’re not interested, but I just like saying it.”

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