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By Gerald Malcolm Durrell

An enthralling account of Gerald Durrell’s first activity as a scholar keeper in Whipsnade Park in 1945.

Gerald Durrell used to be one in all Britain’s best-loved naturalists, whose books, together with My relations and different Animals, proceed to entertain and amuse generations of kids and adults alike. Fifteen of his vintage titles have now been republished via Bello.

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I was entranced at seeing animals under these conditions. To me it seemed the ideal way to keep them. I had yet to learn that a very large area to keep animals in is a mixed blessing both from the animals’ and the keeper’s point of view. Suddenly I remembered the time. I hurried back to the elephant house and met Charlie. We picked up my suitcases and made our way across the common to the cottage. ‘Take your boots off, both of you,’ said Mrs Bailey as she opened the door to us. ’ She pointed to where she had spread newspapers in the hall.

I do not know if Albert realised that I had little affection for him, but he suddenly seemed to take an intense dislike to me and made noisy and alarming attempts to slaughter me whenever I went near the cage. He nearly succeeded, too. One day Joe decided that we would clean out the drains alongside the lion cage so that I would have something to remember when I moved to another section. We went along there, armed with a hose, forks, brushes and other implements, and after a time managed to get Albert and company into the traps.

Have some meat, then. Come on, then. Come on. Come on . . We would repeat this endlessly, like a part song, and the whole performance was made doubly ridiculous by the fact that Albert understood none of it. Having exhausted our encouraging remarks, we would reach a deadlock; we would glare at Albert and he would glare back at us. All through this Nan and Jill would be prowling in the background, obviously impatient but doing nothing, for tradition demanded that their lord and master should take the lead.

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Beasts in my Belfry by Gerald Malcolm Durrell


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