Part 19. The Jarvis

There was great excitement in 1978 when, during a naked ramble through the Serengeti, the broadcaster and naturist Sir David Attenborough discovered the long lost Jarvis Cocker. Thought to be extinct, the last reported sighting of the timid and reclusive creature had been in 1879 when the explorer Stanley, whilst out one day looking for Dr Livingstone's car keys, inadvertently fell over one.

At one time the Jarvis Cocker (Latin name Jarvus cockus) was a common sight on the plains of Africa. Its nests, known as 'sheds', were tall wooden structures wherein the Jarvis would spend long periods making pipe stands and bookends out of wood, only venturing out when it was necessary to acquire tea, sandwiches and glue.

Naked encounter

Attenborough's naked encounter with the Jarvis came as a shock to both parties, with the startled Jarvis fleeing into the bush and Attenborough rapidly scaling a nearby tree. However, once the eminent broadcaster had got over the shock, he realised what a rare discovery he had just made.

By following the trail of wood shavings he tracked the creature back to its shed where he ordered it to come out with a loud hailer. The Jarvis responded that it didn't have a loud hailer, so Attenborough told it to come out with its hands up. The Jarvis replied "Come out with my hands up what?" Attenborough replied that that was not what he meant.

The Jarvis then said that it didn't know how to get the door open. Attenborough told him to turn the knob on his side. The Jarvis replied that he didn't have a knob on his side. Anyway, much hilarity ensued and the incident is now the subject of a successful farce in the West End, if you're interested.


The upshot is that the Jarvis was captured and brought back to London, where Attenborough displayed both it and himself at the Royal Academy. Attenborough was booed off stage and told to go and put some clothes on but the Jarvis went down a storm, especially when it was discovered that it could play the banjo.

It also caught the attention of the famous entrepreneur and circus impresario Dr John Peel, who bought the creature for an undisclosed sum, although this was later disclosed to be twenty five English pounds.

Peel took the Jarvis on a tour of the UK, during which it never failed to draw a crowd. It was granted a personal audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury, given the freedom of the city of Liverpool and presented with a commemoration mug in Bristol. But unfortunately the Jarvis had a nasty habit of associating with common people and baring his backside at visiting American pop singers, so it was decided that he would henceforth perform from behind bars.

This was a mistake.

The smell of wood shavings

Put a Jarvis in a nice cosy shed with the smell of wood shavings, a Thermos of hot chocolate and half a dozen copies of Practical Woodworker and he will be as happy as Larry.

But put him behind bars to be ogled at by the public and well... even Larry would lose his shit if you did that. Sure enough, the Jarvis displayed what we might now term 'an adverse reaction' and at a gig in Sheffield he broke free of his confines and disappeared into the city, joining a group of feral musicians called Pulp.

From time to time they surface to play the occasional festival, but for the most part the Jarvis leads a quiet life. Somewhere there is a shed where a half-glued model aeroplane sits drying on a worktop, where a freshly-planed length of pine waits patiently in a vice, where the dog-eared plans of a rudimentary coffee table quietly moulder in the gloom and where the Jarvis sits quietly, drinks his tea and dreams of Africa.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster once had a poem published in the parish newsletter and was given a certificate for spelling.

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