My childhood hero, Foofy The Clown, had a very special talent. He was able to translate the braying of donkeys. That is, when Foofy overheard the braying of a donkey, he could – at the drop of a hat – render it into intelligible human speech, and sometimes, it has to be said, into unintelligible human speech. Well, let us be honest, more often than not into unintelligible human speech. In fact, the more I think about it, casting my mind back across all those shattered years to my childhood, I find it hard to recall a single instance of Foofy making anything other than unintelligible blatherings whenever he claimed to be translating the braying of donkeys. I am racking my brains and searching my memory banks with a powerful torch, or even a Klieg light, but to no avail.
It is possible that I misremember exactly what Foofy the Clown was doing when he was burbling and grunting, spittle drooling from his red-painted lips. Or were they painted blue? In any case, it may be that he never announced that he was translating the brays of donkeys. I could be mixing him up with a different hero of my childhood. And in all honesty I do not remember ever seeing Foofy in the company of a donkey. I used to see donkeys on the beach at Squalor-on-Sea, and at a farmyard, whereas I only ever saw Foofy The Clown when I was taken to the circus, and I was only taken to the circus once, because my mother was allergic to trapeze artists and sawdust. Her skin came out in blotches and she suffered from debilitating brain spasms.
I think, then, that it must have been my father, home from war in the tropics, who took me to the circus that time. I do remember, vividly, that he abandoned me there, in the vicinity of bears. My father was forgetful, rather than malicious. I think he had witnessed things in the tropics that unhinged him. The bears were in a cage, so I was not in immediate peril. It was only when Foofy The Clown came skittering along, garish and motley, and grinned at me horribly while rattling a bunch of bear-cage keys in my face, that I piddled in my pants from terror.
And I ran. I ran and ran, away from the circus until I reached the farmyard, and the donkeys. And the donkeys brayed, and I was safe from harm.