Animal organs? The Garrick uses nothing else

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
Click to follow
MY OLD Great Granny Arnold was a unique source of wisdom. It's an unwise man, she would often find cause to say, who puts three biscuits in his mouth at the same time. That's a lesson that has helped me through thick and thin. And so is another of her familiar mottoes. "If a man is going to wear a sock," she would say as she puffed at that old pipe of hers, "he'll find it best worn on his foot."

But it is to another of Great Granny Arnold's marvellous old mottoes that I turn this Sunday morn. "You know, young Wallace," she would murmur while gently nibbling on one of her choicest lumps of coal, "if ever a man is offered the heart of a pig or the kidney of a monkey, he would be a perfect fool to refuse."

These words came wafting back to me earlier this week as I read of the all-too predictable "outcry" (dread word!) that greeted the news that hearts and kidneys from some of our most illustrious pigs are to wing their way into human beings. Needless to say, I allowed myself a quiet Arnoldian chuckle at the story, for some of my dearest friends and admirers have been walking around for years with the organs of animals happily keeping their bodies going.

For a while now, it has been something of a fad among the cognoscenti to pep themselves up a little when times are low by nipping down to the small cottage hospital situated on the third floor of the Garrick for a quick organ transplant. Sometimes they would insist on bringing their own donor along with them - a chicken, perhaps, or a cock pheasant - but more often than not they would be content to browse through the animals in the Garrick's own collection, under the expert guidance of the Garrick's very own general practitioner.

Any mid-to-heavy smoker in search of a fresh pair of lungs need look no further than the Garrick's masterly selection of kangaroos, bred in captivity but given a good run around the Covent Garden area by trained experts for up to two hours a day, thrice weekly. When the time comes, these are then used as a profitable source of lungs for senior Garrick Club members. A member can be having a pre-prandial drink in the Smoking Room and be plucked from his seat by a skilled surgeon, only to be returned before the middle of the main course, fighting fit and with a fresh pair of kangaroo lungs. Lord Wyatt of Weevil is probably the most prominent Garrick member to sport such lungs. Few would be able to spot the difference, though on reflection Woodrow's habit of taking great hops towards the cold table while furiously shadow-boxing the air may well be something of a tell-tale sign.

Other animals have proved just as invaluable. Ferrets have provided many members with a marvellous new set of eyebrows, at once more flexible, bushy and severe than their own. Sir Kingsley Amis opted for an eyebrow transplant only last week, to tie in with the publication of his latest novel. I note with some amusement that many interviewers have commented on the gruffness of his facial expressions without ever guessing that he owes it all to a couple of ferrets.

Such success stories from the Garrick Cottage Hospital are legion. Not so very long ago, my old quaffing partner and fellow scrivener Paul Johnson opted to have his vocal cords given a good going-over by the in-house Garrick GP after one or two of his closest friends had complained that they were unable to understand a word he said. After a thorough examination with the stethoscope, the aforesaid GP sent out for a bull terrier and recommended an immediate transplant. The operation was a total success. Paul is now speaking at full pitch, though he sometimes complains that the wearing of the obligatory muzzle in parks, recreation grounds and other public places is highly inconvenient.

One final example of this extraordinary breakthrough in medical science. Only last week, my very dear friend Lord Rees-Mogg popped into the Garrick asking for something for his head. Quick off the mark, the Garrick doctor sat William on his couch and opened the door marked "Livestock". Just in time for afternoon tea, William emerged from the surgery sporting the head of a Muscovy duck. Ever since then, his weekly column in the Times has improved considerably, enlivened by a lively about- turn on Europe. As my old great-grandmother Arnold used to observe as she sat there scratching her left wing, "No man has a right to call himself a duck until he can quack."