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Monday 19th July 2004

CNPS numbers spotted 5 (931).
I got up at 6am to travel to Colchester so that I could go to the zoo and help them muck out the elephants.
Reader - What are you doing wasting time taking a part time job Rich? You have a show to write.
Rich - Calm down, this is part of the show. This is my modern day version of the Augean stables task.
Reader - Oh phew. I thought you hd turned into a mental (aside) yeah right, like he wasn't a mental already. I hate Richard Herring and only read his blog in order to make him think he is popular, but in fact I and everyone else on here hates him. One day we will use the information we have coaxed out of him to destroy him. Ha ha ha.
Rich - Did you say something?
Reader - No (aside) yes.
Rich - I can read those asides, you know. You should just think stuff if you want to keep it secret.

Anyway cleaning up the shit was quite good fun. At least it felt like I was doing a proper job and something with a useful purpose. I wouldn't like to do it all the time though. I am beginning to realise once again how priveleged I am to have the job I do.
The shit didn't smell too nasty, though it did start to make me feel a bit nauseous after a while. The smell reminded me of something, but I couldn't put my finger on it for ages. Finally I realised what it was. It was Weightwatchers microwaveable shepherd's pie. I used to eat them when I was dieting. It was exactly the same smell. Weightwatchers should use that as an advertising pitch, "Smells like elephant shit. But it doesn't taste of elephant shit.... I expect. I don't know. I've never eaten elephant shit. And anyone who says I have is lying."
The other keepers were training the baby elephant, probably slightly bemused about why this man wanted to come in and sweep and shovel straw based excrement around for nothing. I expect they thought I was strange.
The zoo is a nice one and the elephants have a big paddock to wander around in. They are magnificent beasts, but they sure do shit a lot. I was cleaning out the stalls that they stay in over night.
A theory began to develop in my mind. Hercules had avoided cleaning the Augean stables by diverting the course of two rivers through the building. He didn't want to get his hands dirty. This seems like cowardice to me. I think we can judge the real heroes in this world by how much excrement they have to deal with on a daily basis. You can't include your own in this. Dealing with your own excrement is a given, provided you are capable of doing so.
But what I mean is that whilst the shit-avoiding fool Hercules is seen as a hero, shouldn't we be lauding the people who are prepared to deal with the shit of others on a daily basis? Not so much the elephant keepers, though they are quite heroic. But what about the nurses and the care assistants and the nursery workers? And for that matter the sewage workers. What about our mums and (for some of us) our dads who spent all that time dealing with our shitty, piss filled nappies (when we were 28 years old)?
I think my definition pretty much covers all the real heroes. But I would have to exclude the people who work in certain areas of the adult video entertainment industry. Those people aren't heroes in any sense. Especially if they are enjoying what they're doing.
But there's something in that. The people who stay as far away from the shit as possible and metaphorically divert rivers (washing their hands of the real work) are often handed accolades, but it's the people up to their necks in shit who deserve our praise. There's probably a heavy-handed political metaphor about the situation in Iraq here, but I'll let you have the fun of constructing it yourself.
By the time I was finished you could have eaten your dinner off the floor of the elephant house. Provided your dinner was a Weightwatcher's microwaveable shepherd's pie.

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