Ben and I have known each other for about 15 years now I think...maybe more. So that's a fair few birthdays and Christmases...which means numerous gifts have been exchanged.
Items which gave been given by Ben to me and other friends over the years include:
A dentists' mirror
A transvestite Barbie complete with lovingly hand-crafted Fimo penis
A bag of compost
Possibly some bodily fluids
Books on mathematics
A tank driving lesson
As you can see, Ben is quite inventive when it comes to giving, and such effort merits reciprocation. Luckily, Ben has a range of interests which make him relatively easy and pretty fun to shop for.
When he expressed an interest in preserved insects and antique taxidermy, I felt we'd hit the muthaload. A few beetles, spiders and butterflies later, some of us decided to club together and get him something a bit larger. At first we scanned ebay for some genuinely beautiful bird samples from the 19th Century, carefully watching various auctions and studying photos to check the condition of each one. But then, being us, other things began to catch our collective eye. Moose heads, lion skins and even a PIG. I shit you not, someone was selling a whole, stuffed PIG.
Now, Ben loves a pig. For a few days, our biggest dream was to present Ben with a full sized, dead adult pig which would have to be used as a sofa or an elaborate pouffe because it took up the whole floor area of his living room. But when the bids reached £700 after just a few hours, we had to admit, with heavy hearts, that the pig might turn out to be the most expensive backfiring prank of all time.
(Incidentally if anyone knows who bought that pig, please make yourself known. I have questions.)
So, undeterred we decided to set our sights a little lower. A fox maybe, or a badger?
And then we saw this....
It's a SQUIRREL riding a freakin' HORSE!!!!!!!
From the same source, we could also have bought a squirrel IN AN ORANGE BOILER SUIT, riding a QUAD BIKE! This would not only have been brilliant, but would also have matched the decor in Ben's flat. But something about the horse made this too good to pass up.
We registered our interest.
Now, you're probably thinking a stuffed squirrel, riding a plastic horse would set you back about 25p. YOU'D BE WRONG! Although we were no longer in the giddy world of pig money, the bids were rolling in, and it became apparent that if we wanted to witness Ben's face as he came face to face with a dead squirrel super-glued to a horse for the first time, it was gonna cost us. Still, it would be worth it, right? Right?!
Having won the auction and taken delivery of Ben's gift, we then had to keep it safe from the marauding threat of a friend's cat until the evening of the grand unveiling arrived.
We nervously assembled in the pub and waited for the rest of the gathering to present their (nice and largely sane) offerings. Finally it was our turn. Ben took the package and tore into the paper. He opened the box and looked inside. For ages. We held our breath. This could go BAD. We had a lot riding on that little squirrel/horse combo (sorry). Maybe Ben would laugh a little at this tasteless monstrosity and demand his real gift. The silence was oppressive.
Finally, Ben reached into the box and removed the squirrel and his steed. Held them aloft to take in their full kitsch glory, face still impassive.
Then a huge grin broke across his face and he declared:
"Aaaaaargh...I LOOOOOOOOOVE HIM! I shall call him GERARD!!"
And that is another reason that Ben and I are friends.
UPDATE: You can now read more about the adventures of Gerard the dead, equestrian squirrel HERE!