Fred The Giraffe

01 August 2014

Deutsch-Ostafrika, Giraffe

[Image: Walther Dobbertin/German Federal Archives, CC via Wikimedia Commons. See here.]

So a guy’s driving along the road and he’s got these two giraffes in the back of the truck. And he passes under a low bridge, and just as he sees the bridge he realises that he hasn’t fucking measured the giraffes. And he completely freezes and cramps up and he doesn’t hit the break and there’s this awful noise like BONK.  He stops the truck and gets out, and he knows that it’s not going to be one of the giraffes, it’s going to be a low-hanging branch and he’s going to feel like an idiot for worrying because hey, even giraffes aren’t that tall, right?

So he gets out of the truck and he goes round to see and that’s when his life comes to an end, emotionally speaking, because he’s wrong. Giraffe jam. One giraffe is standing over the other giraffe looking at this new, weird, flat-sided hairstyle and saying (in Giraffe-ese, which is a bit like mime in Esperanto) “what the fuck is wrong with you, Fred? Get up, man, we’ve got leaves to eat together and tall spindly babies to have!”

But that is no longer on Fred’s list of life options. In fact, that list is now null. Fred is not “dad”, which is what my autocorrect keeps insisting he must be. Fred is dead.

You know what? We live in Giraffe World. That’s the international human condition right there. “Oh, shit, it totally did not occur to me to measure the giraffe!” Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it?

(Funny story: I’m in the butcher yesterday and the guy behind the checkout is giving me a whole thing about the evils of asparagus. Asparagus in the UK is mostly imported, and that from places where people are literally killing one another over asparagus water. Oh, hey, Fred-the-headless-giraffe, you’ve got company! And I’m listening to this whole speech and I’m looking at this guy over the corpses of about ten beef cattle and I’m thinking: BEEF, dude! You want to have a land-use revolution, screw the fucking asparagus! Let’s talk COWS.)

And now an uncontacted tribe has come out of the jungle. (Probably because BEEF.) It’s a little bit amazing that there are still people living in total and probably blissful ignorance of modernity, but my main take-away from the uncontacted tribe story is: they have already caught our diseases. So now we have to go in there and totally remake their world because otherwise our colds will basically kill them – or we can leave them to their understanding and most of them if not all of them will expire. Go, Go, Global Village! So I can’t even think what I was thinking which is: it may be in your interest to melt undetectably back into the trees.

Today is a shit day, news-wise. A lot of them have been recently. The Arab Spring has turned into the Bastard Summer – which is, by the way, a surprise to no one who has studied the history of revolutions – and Israel just bombed another school in Gaza. The UN says that’s a blot on the face of humankind in the 21st Century. It’s not. It’s basically familiarly awful shit. If it’s a blot, our whole face is made of blots. You know what’s really a blot on the face of humankind in the 21st Century? The fact that sixty years on we have not got our collective arse in gear to create peace in the Middle East. Because Israel/Palestine? We did that. We-all-of-us. And we continue to do it by sponsoring the shitty behaviour of monsters on both sides in the name of things that do not matter and high ideals that specifically ask us not to behave like this.

So Fred, right now, means the world to me. Fred is climate, oceans, dead kids in Gaza and dead kids on a school bus in Israel. Fred is Ukraine and Malaysian airliners, Fred is antibiotic resistant MRSA in the rivers near water treatment plants, Fred is misogyny, Fred is blinkered human short-term bullshit wherever it may be. Fred is the computer that says no. Fred is anti-abortion protestors who support the death penalty and won’t pay for child benefits or even contraception. Fred is my government and yours and deniable prisons and the Snooper’s Charter and transparency for the masses and the new distributed totalitarianism. Poor fucking Fred the dead giraffe is not alone. He’s got seven billion humans for company on his road towards the bridge of doom.

Abstractly, I love you all. Collectively, you can be – like me – totally imbecilic. Individually you are people and you’re who you are. We might or might not get along but you’re worth more than this.

I got no answers, people.  I got a dead giraffe with half his face plastered to a low bridge.  Nothing’s gonna fix Fred. You want to take a swing at some of this other stuff?

Then let’s do it.

If you feel the urge: #iamfred

In My Underwear And The Top Half Of A Godzilla Suit

29 July 2014



[image: Wilfriend Berns/, CC details here]

It has been observed – chiefly by my wife – that the Booker List was notable this year for not having me on it. I write books in which otherwise-sensible people do things like save the world from ontological armageddon, or put on surplus combat gear in the name of fatherhood and try to make a difference to a tiny community under the shitheel of the geopolitical boot, so I have to acknowledge (when I am not moodily stalking the dim and dusty corridors of Harkaway Towers dressed in my underwear and the top half of a Godzilla suit, stamping on origami models of the judges made from pages of Anna Karenina) that I may not be dead in the centre of the Booker’s institutional target area.

However, dear reader: here is your opportunity to redress this wrong, and to free me from the clammy embrace of that lizard costume. The Guardian has included me on the (absurdly) long list for their Not The Booker Prize. And very few books are more legitimately Not The Booker than Tigerman, while retaining that “shake a granny” goodness that all top-grade Not The Booker literature should have. I therefore humbly submit to you, even as I fold a new set of A. C. Graylings from the words “Happy families are all alike” and sit like some strange proto-saurian minotaur in my chair, awaiting the moment when I must once more lumber with inexorable grace and appalling sorrow from the lounge to the library of this decaying wreck of a building, grinding the fruits of my origami to the black and white tiles and mooing in my finest impression of cinema’s most beloved monster, that you should go to their website and vote, vote, vote for Tigerman to make it through to the next round. It does not matter who or where you are. To the voting booth! Or actually, to the comments page! You write a review of 100 words or more, take the opportunity to review another book you enjoyed from the list, and vote! And why would you do this?

Because you liked the book.

Or because the image of me thus attired, melancholically making my way over the wreckage of an origami city dappled with the words of Leo Tolstoy, somehow strikes something in you that you cannot extinguish, and even though you’ve never heard of me or cared about my work or indeed any books of any kind, you genuinely feel that Tigerman, somehow, must be worth supporting, must express an identity that is important to you in some ineffable way you cannot express without also putting on half a Godzilla suit and walking ghostly and immense through the crushed Tokyos of your own home. In which case you need to read the book quickly and then review it.

Or for reasons of your own too strange to explain. Although you should feel free to explain them to me as best you can, and indeed to the Guardian, because they must be dying to know.

Take a moment. Vote for Tigerman in 2014.

Thank you for your attention.

And now, back to my work. I see a surviving Alastair Niven close by the umbrella stand.


SQUARK IN THE WATER (why science is cool)

28 June 2014

Squark in the water! Get Quint immediately!

In which I explain to my three year old daughter why genetic science is cool. With sophisticated visual demonstrations.




DEATH MATCH (cue my evil music, please)

26 June 2014

I’m onna flyer! I’m doing the LITERARY DEATH MATCH on July 3rd at Foyles. It’s a great event, much fun with great books. Come!

Literary Death Match, July 3rd at Foyles


Or maybe…





Anyway. Come.

Drop me a line

Drop me a line! Forgive me if the response is not immediate - I tend to get rather behind. If something requires my rapid attention, please tweet me or get in touch through my agent, Patrick.

Cheers, NH





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