UNITED KINGDOM: NEW MONSTER TERRIFIES LONDON

EVERY YEAR, THE BRITISH PRESS REPORTS SIGHTINGS OF A NEW MONSTER OR GHOST, BACKED BY STORIES FROM EYE WITNESSES This year, another monster has appeared, which is the talk of the town in London. Beckenham Park, south London, is the scene is numerous sightings of a “beast” which has attacked old ladies walking their dogs and more seriously, the dogs themselves …and even worse, has interrupted games of golf, provoking hilarious scenes of businessmen-golfers leaving their clubs on the course and sprinting in panic into the club house to be soothed by a comforting gin and tonic, or three. Britain in general and England in particular have both been the source of numerous stories about monsters and ghosts. There is hardly a house in the land over a hundred years old which does not have a story of a ghost. English people like to terrify each other on long winter evenings by telling stories of ghosts, demons, monsters and the national phobia, spiders - every Englishman has a pathological terror of spiders. One of the most famous stories is the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Sightings have been very few but there have been two photographs published of a plesiosaur-like creature swimming in Loch Ness (Loch means Lake in the Scottish Gaelic language). Other monsters reported include the Surrey Puma (an enormous cat which has been apparently sighted by thousands of people in Surrey, south of London) a giant pike, an enormous fish which is supposed to live in various lakes in England and which is reported to have attacked dogs swimming in them, biting off legs and pulling the animals under the water and even a huge lizard, which is supposed to have terrorised London in the 1990s, jumping onto the ground from third-floor windows onto unsuspecting, innocent victims below. Now it is Beckenham Park golf course, which has apparently had various sightings of a giant kangaroo, among stories of “strange noises” and “a creature which flew out from behind the bushes and kicked dogs violently”. This monster has certainly created interest: the Mayor of Lewisham, the area in which Beckenham Park is situated, appealed for calm. The t.v. station CBS sent a crew to report live from the park, waiting for the monster to strike again, Lewisham Council officials and representatives of the Natural History Museum are combing the area for signs of faeces and footprints. The local council has issued a warning against kangaroos: “These animals are very territorial, powerful and potentially very dangerous…Stay away from it and call the police!” The question is, which police, the British or the Australian? Maybe it is an Olympic high-jumper who lost his way in London.

Tim Bancroft-Hinchey Lisbon/London 2000-11-07