The House of the Orange Monkey chronicles the adventures of a very special tourist. Mr Monkey is one of the few simian visitors to our city. He certainly makes the most of it, exploring the parts other tourists cannot reach, and writing up surprisingly useful field notes. We caught up with him to ask a few questions.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a pocket sized beanie monkey living in the north-west. I love hats and visiting interesting places, and the camera loves me. Luckily I live with a pair of humans who are willing to take me most of the places I want to go, and to take a camera with them. What’s more, I’ve persuaded them to chronicle my trips in a website, which has been described as “surprisingly useful”.
2. You are rather orange for a monkey. Are you OK?
Yes, I’m fine. I’m an orange monkey, so it’s okay for me to be orange.
3. You’re not a Londoner, but you do make regular trips to the capital. Is it somewhere you’d like to live?
No, because then I wouldn’t be able to make trips to London. If I lived in London my humans wouldn’t take me to the interesting places we go to in the city, they’d just take me to the supermarket like real Londoners.
4. Any good trees for climbing down here, or are you not that sort of monkey?
Well, there are admirable trees in some of the green bits of London, but I much prefer being carried up spiral staircases, on escalators and in lifts, with the promise of a decent view or architectural oddity at the top.
5. You know, London has had its fair share of famous monkeys lately, with plucky primates escaping from both Chessington and London Zoo. Do you ever feel the urge to run away from home – and where would you go?
I’ve never felt the need to run away from home. I’ve got properly trained humans, all the bananas I can eat, made to measure hats, and frequent trips to interesting places: why would I leave?
6. We’ve noticed a lot of monkey-style graffiti around London lately. Anything to do with you?
No, but I do admire properly done graffiti (Swoon from New York in particular). Sadly, most graffiti isn’t anywhere near properly done. The monkeys in that link look very angry. If I did graffiti I’d do happy monkeys, to make the people of London smile (see picture, which adorns a white board inside the building that used to be the National Library for the Blind).
7. Which bit of London have you been most impressed with?
Mmmm. The whole of the Thames Path from the Tate Britain down to the Tower (which is visibly and blatantly a castle, but can I get anyone to change the name?) is a favourite haunt of mine. I love the hidden crannies and small museums of the city – the Garden History, the Florence Nightingale, the Old Operating Theatre or the Kirkaldy Testing place. On the other hand, you can always find something different to see at the British Museum.
8. And what bits would you never return to, even if offered a very large banana?
I’m afraid that would be Crystal Palace Park. It might not have been anyone’s fault that it was raining heavily when I went there, but someone should be pointed at pointedly and scathingly for the incredible short sighted lack of direction signs to the park. It’s very commendable spending lots of money restoring the Victorian dinosaurs, but a visiting monkey shouldn’t have to rely on asking passers-by for directions. While I’m on the subject of signs, it wouldn’t hurt to put a sign pointing left to the Hendon RAF museum outside Colindale Underground station, either.
9. What one piece of advice would you offer to mayor Ken Livingstone?
Use them river more – start running more little boats like the water buses in Copenhagen, and incorporate them properly into the London transport system. Maybe with some water-based black cabs, too. And it’s a bit late now, but he should have built city hall under a big fountain that could slide aside to allow the mayoral office to rise up out of a pit , perhaps to the sound of a mighty Wurlitzer, whenever he had a particularly important announcement to make.
10. Have you ever been sick on the Tube?
Nope, not even after a banquet of bananas. Unfortunately I’ve been in carriages that other people have been sick in.
Can anyone identify the four places Mr Monkey is visiting in our montage at the top of the page?