What follows in my personal tribute to Quentin Bloxam, a dear friend and Gerald Durrell apprentice, who who finally retired yesterday after dedicating many decades of noble service to saving endangered wildlife from extinction.
Though by no means a saint, he may yet be destined for celestial glory as he was and remains one of the most enjoyable and inspiring people to cross my path. The planet’s natural wonders are safer for his tireless devotion, though now that he is retired I dare say the world’s supply of fine wine is in genuine peril. Cheers, Q!
“Having had the good fortune, due to no great ability on my own account, to be published in one hundred and fifteen countries I am constantly both delighted and appalled to find that everywhere I go the name Quentin Bloxam goes before me eliciting the most curious reactions: Women clutch their ovaries and sigh, furious Cossacks draw swords, police officers frantically load pistols, monks scramble to bolt their cellar doors and startled altar boys leap back and cross their ecclesiastical vestments twice, and twice again.
Even before he attempted to steal silverware from Buckingham Palace, Q was far too much of a scoundrel to be considered for a knighthood, though perhaps not quite caddish enough to join the peerage. Mores the shame. Not since Francis Drake has Britannia had such a magnificent brigand in her service. And such dark times as these call for brigands.
For many decades Q’s passionate exertions have brought great acclaim. In defence of wildlife and wild places Quentin has swum oceans, traversed deserts and stormed jungles, bars and cloistered nunneries without flinching. He is, standing here before us, as renowned a champion of Durrell’s living legacy as any that has ever or will ever walk the face of this green earth.
For all his primate savvy and feminine acuity, Quentin Bloxam is a man’s man. Silver tongued, quick with his fists and always thirsty. It’s no secret that, in the event of his untimely demise, donating Quentin’s liver would qualify as a malicious act. Were it not for the fact that every summer he foolishly believes England can win The Ashes he has all the makings of an Australian Prime Minister.
It’s hard to imagine a more capable and engaging fellow. Though often happily bemused, he never seems ruffled or out of sorts and thus is a boon when great tasks are at hand. Rough and ready, coifed, rakish and eagerly committed to the kind of devilish roguery that vestal virgins find so offensively charming, Q is a formidable ally when he chooses to use his powers for good.
In 2003, when we joined forces for the Australasian promotional tour of Priceless; The Vanishing Beauty of a Fragile Planet, a book dedicated to the memory of The Trust’s charismatic namesake, Q proved invaluable when it came to building bridges between disparate wildlife groups and uniting rival zoos. His potent allure was shameless and I soon came to accept that the excited crowds awaiting our public presentations had no interest whatsoever in my existence. Indeed it’s fair to say no other European entity has so overwhelmed natives of the Pacific since smallpox. Our public obligations presented a relentlessly gruelling schedule, however Q remained energetic and light-hearted throughout, indeed the only time I ever heard him complain was to the effect that he was being stalked by a nymphomaniacal posse of Czech supermodels.
Needless to say, Quentin’s robust and amenable veneer masks a great vault of hard-won knowledge. He is an insatiable student of life and a venerable teacher. Whether he be knee deep in iguana guano or molesting a member of the royal family, Quentin is always a gentleman.
He is also a creature of tremendous appetites, tireless good humour and astonishing inventiveness, yet curiously old-fashioned enough to value timeless traditions and thus is only very rarely found unconscious in public. One wonders how he will adapt once released into the wilds of retirement. Is the civilized world ready for a Quentin Bloxam with time on his hands? I think not.
Of course I could go on and on about Q’s many amusing mishaps, diplomatic disasters and life threatening faux pas. I really could. Such as the time he almost expired after becoming lost on a well watered island no bigger than a football field, and then there was the night strange sirens were knocking on every hotel door in Melbourne hoping to discover his whereabouts, and who can forget the countless acts of drunken indecency at sites which, as a result, have subsequently been consecrated to both Dionysus and Priapus. But I will abstain from such unsavoury jousting, for as soon as Quentin Bloxam walks out the door, and for the rest of our lives, we swinish braggarts will crow that we knew this man and so, instead of crowning his platinum pate with shameful japery, I propose a more solemn toast -
I raise my glass to the man behind whose hairy chest beats an enormous British heart still largely free of tropical endomyocardial fibrosis.
A bona fide original and a great inspiration, whose intoxicating joie de vivre and profound compassion for God’s forgotten creatures marks him out as one of Gerald Durrell’s true heirs. My dear friend, Quentin Bloxam.”
February 11th, 2010