The people of Altrincham are of strange stock. If one were to delve more deeply into the fractured reality of their genes one would discover many a sordid detail. For example: humans share 98.5% of their genes with bonobos; the people of Altrincham share 92%. In fact, after years of research, it has been discovered that Altrincham people are much more closely related to the rest of the animal kingdom than any other group in humanity. It should come as no surprise, then, that one should find, amongst its pampas lined avenues, the exciting and never visited attraction of Chinchilla world.
Chinchilla world is run by a woman named Claudia. She has a full-grown beard (some of the local children call her Claudius such is the wit that penetrates the area); she walks with a severely bent back; with every pace she takes she ums and ahs and finishes these ditty sentences with a whistle as if she's just seen something shocking; she dresses in clothes that are way too big for her giving the impression that the place is run by a walking tent; she smells of sawdust, droppings and hay; in short, she is just the sort of person you would expect to find running a place like this.
So what can you expect to see at Chinchilla world? Chinchillas? Wrong! Claudia informs me they are far too expensive. She took a trip to a local pet shop recently where they cost £60 each. Instead she has populated her hutches and cages with rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs which, by all accounts, are much cheaper. They have ridiculous names like Grumps, Pumps, Shits (my personal favourite), and Hunky. I'm worried for Hunky for Claudia spends an awful amount of time fawning over him. Why did she call him Hunky? Could it be possible that she fancies him? Are their genes so wildly different that they couldn't mate and produce, at the very least, an infertile child? I try not to think about the possibilities.
And then I visit the cafe. The shelves are lined with former residents that have been stuffed so badly the taxidermist must surely have been insane. One guinea pig, who used to be called Fats, is stuffed so much its eyes have literally popped out. Fats is giving me the impression that he has seen Claudia sans tent and has never recovered from the shock. Another victim, Quim, a giant hamster, is wearing a morning suit complete with a full size, fake rose. Why must Quim be forced to wear this ludicrous outfit? Can he not have any dignity in death? He had none in life; he was called Quim!
Anyway, the cafe, according to the menu, serves biscuits and tea. In truth it serves only tea. The biscuits, Claudius informs me, are for the chinchillas. Who? There are no bloody chinchillas. I bet there are no biscuits too. The tea is good, though, and is served with sugar on request.
I'll miss chinchilla world. Even now I think about it all the time. I can't bring myself to go back, however. Instead, I think I'll buy myself a chinchilla. They are available for about £60 but, by golly, they are cute. This reconnection to the animal world worries me though. Is it possible, by a cruel twist of fate, that I'm from Altrincham?