It turned out that the rather splendid-looking coffee table book entitled “The Elk: A Photographic History” did not once mention the elk or feature any photographs of elks. Apparently it’s all a very clever in-joke among very clever people who are in on it. It was on the coffee table at Anthony and Cleo’s dinner party on Tuesday (Tuesday! What kind of day is that to have a dinner party?) and everyone, more or less, was going on about it and laughing and saying how great it was. There had been an article about it in that Sunday’s “Weekend” magazine, which I always avoid, amusingly called “What the Elk is Going On?” which everyone thought was very clever too. Personally I am not fond of coffee table books, or books of any sort, come to that. And Anthony and Cleo are pretty bloody awful, too. Cleo is my wife’s friend, and Anthony is her current husband.


If I had to choose between an elk and a wasp I’d choose the elk every time but there’s been a survey and apparently the majority of people – 66% – would go for the wasp. I don’t know how they do those surveys. Maybe they just asked three people, and two of them confused the elk with a yak, which is something different altogether. An elk can be a fantastic pet, and is very undervalued in that respect. You wouldn’t want a wasp for a pet.  Most people, if they know what an elk is, think it’s only good for supplying a very expensive high protein milk and good quality outdoor coat material when they kick the bucket, but they are much more than that. I can confirm from personal experience that they are wonderful additions to the family circle, are playful, can be trusted to keep an eye on the kids when you and the missus want a night out, and are very cheap to maintain. We called ours Elsie. When she went missing we put posters up all around the neighbourhood, tacked to telephone poles and the like, but to no avail.


Frankly I was rather appalled at the idea of an elk hunt, but we were assured that they were not real elks but students in elk costumes doing a holiday job, and they would just run around and let us chase them. Plus, we weren’t going to be firing live bullets, it would be blanks, and if any of the pretend elks fell over they would just be pretending to be dead. I couldn’t see the point, and it seemed quite tasteless, but the wife and kids insisted, and we’d paid quite a lot of money to be there, so I felt like I had no choice but to go along with it. I admit it was all pretty convincing, and in spite of myself I was quite taken up with the thrill of the chase, and I scored a couple of “hits”, which I was pretty proud of. But that evening at dinner the hotel restaurant was invaded by a dozen or so elks handing out leaflets and protesting at the demeaning nature of the whole enterprise. One of them climbed up on a table and gave a speech, and I think he or she had a point. I mean, how would we like it if students dressed up and ran around pretending to be us?




Martin Stannard







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