We need to talk about the hippopotamus

Some weeks you’re moodily incubating a brilliant idea, some you’re just a surly, frustrated arsehole.

In the best weeks, it’s both.

This week, I’m bereft. I’ve surled and mooded my way through an entire week to find myself marooned at my desert island of a desk without an idea or a Man Friday to help me find one, partly because I don’t have a Man Friday but mostly because I’m pretty sure just imagining having one is quite racist.

So it’s Manless Friday, I have no ideas and I might be an imaginary racist.


I have a strategy for this moment. I look up. It’s desperate and unpleasant, but needs must.

On the brick wall beyond my laptop there is a fluttering spray of curly post-it notes upon which I have written every half-formed, random and/or incomprehensible idea I ever spurned. I tell myself I keep them to remind me to be discerning.

That is not why I keep them.

I extend a hand towards them now. It means reaching over my laptop lid. If I can just do it without disturbing —

I don’t know why you think sneaking past me will work, preek.

—the plastic pteranodon blu-tacked to my laptop lid.

‘Shush,’ I say. ‘I need to do this, and I need to do it with an open mind.’

It’s not so much your scryeee belief that I’m an over-vigilant pteranodon that disturbs me, says the Pteranodon of Ptruth, as your belief that my mind might have been elsewhere for a moment. Kraaaaaarg.

‘I’m not listening to you,’ I say.

Then how can I be talking? I think we need to discuss this. Kah kahkaaaaah.

‘No!’ I say. ‘Discuss it with someone else.’

Someone else? Dear oh Lord, gAAAAaaaaaahrag. You were one of those kids who wondered what Ossie Ostrich got up to during the week, weren’t you?

‘HE STAYED IN HIS BOX BECAUSE HE LIKED HIS PRIVACY. Listen, shut it. I’m done with you. You were a one-off event, a brain explosion brought on by stress and general weirdness, but I don’t need you anymore. I’ve got plenty of better ways of telling stories. Look, I keep a wall full of them.’

Ah yes, the Wall. Now, are you sure —

‘Quiet. As if I need a plastic toy to construct a narrative. I can pick from dozens. Watch this. Today’s new idea is on its way.’

I reach out and pluck a random post-it from the wall. It reads:


— He should stop at some things. List of things he should stop at:

  • releasing sarin gas
  • eating baby
  • molesting old hippopotamus

There is a long silence.

‘Do you think imagining Man Friday is racist?’ I ask.

I think, says the Pteranodon of Ptruth, that we need to talk about the hippopotamus.