How much do you know about hippos? Come on, don’t be shy, the answer can’t be nothing, surely. Surely you must know at least one thing about hippos. There should be a law or something that says everyone needs to be armed with at least one cast iron hippo fact by the time they reach the age of 10. Just imagine a cast iron hippo. Imagine what that could do to your living room. And if, by the age of 10, you haven’t squirrelled that fact away for future reference then you should have to pay more tax than everyone else when you start earning money. And also have the words ‘I know nothing about hippos’ tattooed across your forehead in size 72 Calibri (Body) font. Just one of the policies in my forthcoming manifesto.
Hippos are very interesting creatures. You’d know that if you knew anything about them, you ignorant shit. When I was a kid I loved Coco Pops but I always thought Coco the Monkey was a bit of a grinning tit. I much preferred his buddy Harry the Hippo and so one day I started to cut out the vouchers and many months later became the proud owner of my very own Harry the Hippo hand puppet. Rarely have boy and soft toy bonded so effortlessly, and not just because I liked to put my hand up stuff. I once stayed up late reading and to prevent waking my big sister in the bunk below I used soft, cuddly, improbably blue Harry to dampen the glow from my toucan bedside lamp. This promptly set fire to Harry’s chubby little leg (well, one of them, he wasn’t a monoped; that wouldn’t work) and big sister very kindly sewed up the wound for me. I still have Harry. He decided he wanted to live in a plastic bag in the loft. I wouldn’t recommend you do that to a real one.
Where was I? Oh yes, hippos. Now I don’t claim to be an authority on hippos but amongst all the creatures on this earth they are definitely in my top 10 (in case you were wondering – top 3: Miss Hairy Mary Miyagi, great white shark, anaconda). Hippos must be chuffed. I know that they’re really dangerous (all the best animals are) and that in Africa more people are killed by hippos than crocodiles. At least that’s what the hippos say. I know that there are pygmy hippos but I also know that they aren’t a patch on the big, fuck-off proper ones; I reckon I could take on a pygmy hippo. I know that they have great big teeth the size of a toddlers arm and that when a hippo sticks a tooth through your thigh it is very likely to smart a bit and make you cry. I also know that hippos can run and that unless you have a head start on an angry hippo coming out of the blocks you are, technically speaking, in a bit of trouble.
I’ve seen quite a few hippos in my time. At London Zoo, Adelaide Zoo, Sydney Zoo and Whipsnade and probably Woburn too, and on safari in Tanzania (get me) but the best one was in a big pool in Berlin Zoo. It was totally submerged and its face was about three feet away from the glass viewing gallery and when you looked at it, three feet away, through the murky water you got a sense of just how huge the fucker was. Enormous. Epic. Awe inspiring. A contemptuous thug, imprisoned for no crime. I doubt it was very happy, stuck there in a pool all day long looking at little twats like me looking back at it. But now isn’t the time to debate whether zoos are good or bad; we’d paid good money so for the purposes of this feeble anecdote we’ll settle on good.
My favourite fact about hippos is that they like shit. Shit and mud, though I expect they pretty much become one in the environs of your average hippo gathering. They use their tails to spread their shit as far and as wide as possible. This is chiefly to mark out their territory (we only use bricks and fences because its less smelly), but also it has something to do with attracting a mate. Perhaps this is why we don’t have tails: pubs and clubs and dancehalls and speed dating restaurants would be exposed to a faecal carnage every night and as the saying roughly goes – anyone who thinks their shit doesn’t stink is wrong. But I like hippos for being so blatant and devil-may-care about it. Rather than getting all precious about their toilet behaviour they just get on with it; fling it, sniff it, roll in it, serenade with it and then sleep in it. If only life were so simple. An act humans (doubtless rightly) demonise is to be celebrated in the hippo community and that is somehow cause for celebration in itself. Quite why I have written a post about hippos is something of a mystery but I think perhaps its just a way to offset all the moaning and cynicism I usually offer. Hippos are fabulous and when human beings wipe each other out I would be a happy man in the knowledge that maybe the hefty hippo will take over the world. You’ve got to have a dream, and I’m backing Harry’s.
G B Hewitt. 04.10.2019