Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Of all the creatures in the world, except for gazelles, the one most loathed by Winston Churchill was the pelican. He had developed a deep-seated prejudice against them during the Crimean War, when he had read a book that mentioned pelicans the day before getting his legs blown off by an exploding gazelle. During his lifetime he would regularly take a break from his prime ministerial duties and go to London Zoo to complain about the number of pelicans housed there, and after his death his ghost could occasionally be observed wandering the streets and muttering unpleasant slurs against pelicans and those who support them.

The irony is that Churchill spent his entire life and afterlife under the mistaken impression that pelicans were a kind of insect. The book he had been reading, "Weevils!" by Charles Dickens, only mentioned the birds in passing without giving a detailed description, and his copy of the only other book then published that mentions pelicans, "Weevils!" by George Eliot, had been eaten by a gazelle before Churchill had a chance to open it.

In speeches in Parliament, Churchill would frequently compare his political enemies to pelicans, referencing their scuttling movements, many legs and habit of causing damage to crops. 'Pelican crossings' were so named by special order of Anthony Eden, just to get on Churchill's nerves. A plan to replace the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar square with a giant bronze pelican, approved by the Commons and Lords in 1972 in what became known as the Teaching Winston Churchill A Lesson For Being So Fat And Stupid Act, was abandoned when it was realised that Churchill had died several years previously and wouldn't have recognised the statue as being a pelican anyway, because of the aforementioned confusion.

On the other hand, pelicans generally liked Winston Churchill. His approval rating among pelicans and simliar species polled at London Zoo varied from 89% during the war years to 69.7% in the late fifties. Giraffes, staunch socialists all, were much less supportive of his policies, while the gazelles refused even to answer questions on the subject for fear of Russian reprisals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pelican or pelican't?