I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I think I have the makings of an excellent singing teacher. I am to pedagogy as a duck to water. There is nothing that cannot be taught by ferocious spittle-flecked shouting accompanied by thumps on the head with a big stick. It is true that my field of expertise is ornithology, not singing, but I have taught even the most recalcitrant dimwit to identify four different types of bird, with as near as dammit a twenty-five percent success rate. The birds were a swan, an owl, a wren, and an ostrich.
I’d like to teach the world to sing, and the world is rather larger than the classroom in the cellar of Pang Hill Orphanage, where I currently teach. In fact I have never taught anywhere else, as far as I can recall. And I have rarely taught anything other than bird identification skills, apart from occasional sessions of boot-scrubbing, mucking about with saucepans, and guttural German. But pedagogy courses through my veins like blood. The more recalcitrant dimwits among the orphans often develop nosebleeds after my thumpings, so I know what blood looks like, even though it is not my field of expertise.
Another reason I am well suited to the task of teaching the world to sing is that I awake every morning with a song in my heart. Often it is a tuneless and monotonous dirge, which is the best I can muster when I wake in a foul temper, as I usually do. My attic bedroom at Pang Hill Orphanage is dark and dismal and icy cold, even at the height of summer. I have been told this is something to do with local atmospheric conditions, but such conditions are outwith my field of expertise, so I cannot judge the truth of the claim. Sometimes a frail and freezing robin will come and perch on my windowsill of a morning. I think it is a robin, though it is difficult to tell through the grease- and grime-smeared window. But at the sight, albeit blurred, of a feathered friend, the song in my heart is a cheerier and more up-tempo one, such as “Withered And Died” by Richard and Linda Thompson.
Before I teach the world to sing, then, I will make a start by teaching the orphans to sing. But before I teach the orphans to sing, I will hone my singing-teacher techniques – shouting, big stick – by teaching monkeys to sing. There is a Monkey House at Pang Hill Zoo, over on the other side of the hill beyond the viaduct. Through bribery and threats I obtained a key to the Monkey House. I think the janitor who passed me the key assumed I wanted to gain access to the monkeys for unseemly purposes. Well, let him think what he likes. I will betray him to the zoo authorities in any case, and he will languish in a prison cell while I teach the monkeys to sing.
UPDATE : I have discovered that most of the monkeys in the Monkey House at Pang Hill Zoo are howler monkeys. They can already howl their little heads off like nobody’s business. My work is done.
Hone Mr Key’s owl!