Once upon a time, in the early eighties, I had a chauffeur called Nigel.
He wasn’t particularly bright but was good natured and rather gullible. He had a wife much older than himself who wore the trousers at home and terrorised him in the process.
Watching a wildlife programme on television on pumas one evening, I became obsessed with having one as a pet. I thought of nothing else for days on end and at nights had a recurring dream of sitting in my Rolls-Royce with Nigel in the driver’s seat and the puma majestically sitting beside him.
That week I told the girls in my office, located then in Wellington Court, Knightsbridge, of my intention to have the puma in residence there during the day – hoping that each one of them would take it in turns to exercise the animal in Hyde Park just across the way. There was an immediate uproar. The girls rang my wife, bitterly complaining of the dangers of having a wild animal in their midst and urged her to intercede on their behalf to stop me pursuing what they thought was utter lunacy. My wife tried to pacify them, promising to do all she could to persuade me to abort this insane idea from what she called my ‘confused mind’. But they were not convinced.
Before going on the search for the puma, I planned to make my dream a reality and have the front seat of the Rolls-Royce converted in such a way as to make the puma comfortably enthroned, sitting next to Nigel. In the meantime, and before the drama exploded further, I called him into my office to let him know of my plans.
He stood there motionless at first and then his body started quivering in a hysterical tempo, pathetic to behold. I then shamed him by asking if he was a man or a mouse. He tried to utter words which his mouth could not manage to formulate and ran out of my office stricken with fear. The girls ran after him, gave him a glass of cold water to revive his composure and the proper functioning of his senses, before escorting him back into my presence.
I chastised him for being cowardly and urged him to rethink the whole idea, which I felt he should find a welcome change from the humdrum job of being merely a chauffeur – without the challenging excitement I was offering him to pepper up his life. He became calmer and more responsive and asked me to give him twenty-four hours to think the matter over.
The next day he came into my office an altogether changed man and told me he would not be averse to having the puma sitting next to him, as long as he was allowed one weekend to take the animal home to meet his wife. When I asked him for the reason for wanting the puma to meet his missus he smiled and said, as his wife was so bossy, she was likely to irritate the animal who would then eat her and that, he concluded, would solve his problem.
Fortunately for some, the story ended on a happier note without any casualty since Westminster Council refused to grant me a licence – considering a puma to be a dangerous animal to exercise in a public arena such as Hyde Park. My whole entourage were delighted with the outcome. Nigel was disappointed, and I felt a deep chagrin for having my dreams shattered.
As for the authenticity of this drama, my old staff at Wellington Court would certainly bear witness.