It is in this capacity that I have been in a position to glimpse the hierarchy of animal celebrity and how they play the PR game, continuing the Park’s long history of decadence and depravity amongst the infamous elite.
The Earl of Rochester, who had the good sense to die of syphilis at 33 before he could inadvertently commit a non-venal act, wrote a poem called A Ramble in St. James's Park that is impressive in its Rabelaisian licentiousness. Must have disturbed the pelicans no end, or more accurately, their ends must inevitably have been disturbed along with everyone else’s.
The pelicans, of course, are the A list stars. The Russell Crowe of waterfowl stand for the minimum amount of time in front of the Clickerati before attacking a random photographer and retiring back to their island.
The heron is more obliging but haughty. She poses like Angelina Jolie, wiry, ramrod straight, impossibly beautiful, tolerating the attention for as long as she needs to before flapping slowly away, the weight of celebrity hanging heavy on her lean limbs. Her immobile face says she is here for as long as it takes to promote her fragrance and then she is out of there.
The squirrels of course, are all from Essex. Reality stars, posing provocatively in the most promiscuous photogenic poses wherever they are required. ‘Where do you want me?’ say their quivering little noses. ‘Over here? Shall I nibble this cobnut in the gutter or do you want me to run up your trousers and take a peanut from your fingers? No, really, it’s no trouble. We’re all going to be struggling for crumbs from your table come the winter.’
The ducks? Well, the ducks are just hangers-on. Like those perpetual crowd artist extras the pigeons, no one’s really interested in a desperate duck.
And it is a desperate duck, or something that sounds very like it, that the venereal old Rochester was talking about.
‘Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops do here arrive,
And here promiscuously they swive.’
It is one of those urban myths that on being told an MP had been arrested after being caught in the bushes with a Guardsman in St James Park, Churchill is said to have remarked ‘In this weather? Makes you proud to be British.’ On the whole, the real world of celebrity and the PR machines of the entertainment industry, pale in comparison with the quiet park that has been a microcosm of Britain’s elite misbehaviours since 1603. Makes you proud to be British.