In Eric Worrell’s Reptile Park at Wyoming, near Gosford, I think it was in the 1960s, there was a cage full of old cockatoos and parrots, ancient geriatric survivors of long years of domestic confinement – and speech training.
Having outlived their owners, they wandered about in the cage, many of them bereft of plumage, repeating the words of their deceased owner/teachers, “Hello!”, “Who’s a pretty boy?”, “Fuck off!” etc. They would climb the mesh, regard you with a cold eye from a grey leathery skull, and repeat meaningless sounds; the trophies of their education; meaningless reiterations of meaningless words that once gave unarticulated meaning to lives now gone.
With all of them muttering and squawking at the same time, it was a scene of great pathos, and also, strangely, of hope.
A million monkeys with typewriters might not manage the bible in a million years, but these guys, with dictaphones, might just knock out the front page of the local paper on a good afternoon.
Image: Ken May, Sculptor, circa 1963.