Miles Kington: Lost in the jungle, not counting the film crew

'They didn't have celebrities in the 1960s, not the all-purpose, disposable celebs like we have now'
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The Independent Online

Today I bring you the beginning of our grand, new adventure yarn, "Bungle In The Jungle"

There were only four of them in the expedition, not counting the film crew. But nobody counted the film crew. There was the Professor, the leader. There was Susan Scrimshaw, the anthropologist. There was Ivan Skrott, the Croatian cook and plumber, and there was Maurice, who was sort of middle management or fixer. And the film crew. If you counted them.

"What do you think we'll find?," Susan Scrimshaw asked the Professor one day, when they were on another of their slow daily treks through the maddening jungle growth.

"I don't know," said the Professor. "Nobody has ever gone looking for a lost TV programme before, so nobody knows what to expect."

"I didn't know they were making celebrity jungle survival programmes in the 1960s," said Susan, stepping on a spider.

"Oh, it wasn't a celebrity programme," said the Professor. "They didn't have celebrities back in the 1960s. Well, they had the Beatles and all that. But they didn't have low grade, all-purpose, disposable celebs like we do now. This programme - called Jungle Survival - was a genuine, scientific attempt to see if modern man could survive in primitive surroundings. They put 12 volunteers in the jungle, and left them there for two months."

"And never saw them again," said Susan.

"No," said the Prof. "Nor a trace of them. Which was odd. You'd think that if they had perished, they would have found their remains. But when they went back, there was nothing ..."

"And now, 40 years on, we are going to have another go at finding their remains," said Susan. "Bit bloody optimistic, isn't it ?"

Whether the Professor thought it was a bit bloody optimistic was never established, for at that very moment an arrow whizzed narrowly past his head and lodged in a tree next to it. "What the ..."

Suddenly, the jungle was crawling with dark-skinned, almost naked tribesmen, all holding bows and axes.

"That's probably what happened to them 40 years ago," muttered Maurice. "Wiped out by savages."

Much to his surprise, the nearest savage addressed him in near-perfect English. "It rather depends on you," he said. "The way you go, I mean. You can turn round now and go away. Or you can come with us, and stay."

"You speak English," said the Professor, for something to say.

"Of course," said the brown-skinned man. "I am English. At least, my parents were English. So I grew up speaking English. Now, come with us, please."

"My God, I've got it !" said the Professor. "You are the descendants of the Jungle Survival volunteers! They bred and had children! You are them!"

"Well," said the brown-skinned man, "you are nearly right.

"However, we also intermarried with the members of a Japanese film crew who came to find us in 1978, as well as with two stray National Geographic photographers who stumbled across us in 1990."

"You didn't let them go?" asked Maurice.

"We couldn't take that risk," he said. "If any news of our small settlement got out, the whole world would come and see us, and spoil it. Our happiness depends on the world's ignorance. Incidentally, I like the look of the woman."

He reached out and fingered Susan's arm. She shrank. "Have you had children ?" he said.

"Certainly not," she snapped.

He laughed. "We must put that right," he said. "Now, you must all come with us. By the way..."

His eyes roved over the film crew at the rear.

"Who are they ?"

"They are our film crew."

His eyes glittered suddenly, dangerously.

"Then they must die. Our forefathers made us swear to kill all film crews. From them comes only destruction and death."

"Now, look here, chum..."

It was Sid, the cameraman, charging forward and wagging a furious finger. He said no more, for he took an arrow in the chest.

More of this some other time.