Our small twin-engine plane circled over the South Pacific island of Bookman Old Style just as the sun set, the sky becoming a heady mix of bruised purple, blood red and city-boy-sock yellow. Our entrance could hardly have been any more dramatic. As the plane pitched and yawed, we took in the view through the tiny porthole windows. Rolling grassland dominated by jagged peaks, acres of
untamed forest. And then the gunmetal grey fences which striped through all of it, looking strangely out of place here, in
the Lost World. Man’s fingerprint. Or rather, one particular man’s fingerprint. This was Glenn Hoddle’s lifelong dream made flesh, scientifically-engineered destiny. And because of the difficulty in accessing the island (we’d already had to hop on a bi-plane and later would face a ten mile hike to our quarters) there’d be no disabled people in sight.
On the seat next to me was the renowned scientist Pete Venkman, his hair now badly deforested. He wasn’t even looking out the window, preferring to leaf lazily through a Paranormal Parent magazine which already looked badly dog-eared. As our elbows connected over the arm-rest he gave an exaggeratedly cynical sigh. I tried to engage him in conversation. ‘No Grant,’ he groaned, ‘playing God is never wonderful. Imagine what happens if a fly lands on some Shark’s Fin soup in China. What are the possible repercussions of this?’
‘Eton boys in UK government,’ he said, and then, counting things off on his ghostbustery fingers, he added, ‘and the dismantling
of the NHS, and the cuts to the Arts budget. Mass unemployment, Royal weddings… It’s chaos.’ He shook his head wearily.
‘I must admit,’ I said, ‘when the news hit the stands I thought it was an April 1st prank, Fools’ Day high-jinx. So I couldn’t believe
it when I found out it was true. And then to be invited here! It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.’
Over the course of the next few hours I was to swiftly reassess my opinion. The plane’s wonky landing wasn’t a great start, nor
was our trek through the Lost- style jungle to our quarters. I kept expecting a smoke-monster to emerge out of the trees and
confront us. Venkman wryly observed that there were far more dangerous monsters in real life. The creatures Hoddle and his
science boffins like Eileen Drewery had genetically-modified so that Karma from past lives would not make them disabled.
When we reached the quarters, Hoddle was there to meet us, and, despite my excitement and aching feet, I immediately slipped on my professional, journalist’s mask. Despite the fact I knew everything there was to know about the place due to my phone-tapping, I ‘Why?’ I asked him. ‘Why have you built it?’ ‘Look,’ said Hoddle, ‘God, Buddha, whoever, they wanted me to. They saw the mess some of our leading lights were making of their public lives and they made me see just how disabled these people would be in their next lives and the ones after that. Look, it was the only thing any right-minded ex-England manager could do.’
But you wouldn’t see Graham Taylor or Steve McClaren building a theme park in the South Pacific would you? I had to know more. I
begged him to let us go on the tour now, see the animals, and amazingly, the sometime cultured central midfielder acquiesced. The
New Zealand born actor Sam Neill soon turned up in a muddy-looking Land Rover with a sticker on the rear bumper which said ‘I wish
my wife was this filthy, eh? Eh? Like that one, do you?’
We all climbed in, Venkman didn’t seem very happy about it. He asked whether he could fetch some carry-outs for the journey, but
Hoddle, the man said to have the most educated feet in the history of Tottenham Hotspur, shook his head. ‘There’s no need for
chemical stimulant where we’re going, boys. The things we’ll see…’ He couldn’t even finish his sentence. Got all misty-eyed he did.
Soon as we got going, Sam Neill cranked up the stereo. He got us listening to a track which I presumed was called ‘Inspiring
Classical Music with Lots of Horns in It’, or perhaps ‘Jurassic Park rip-off’. It might also have been the Champions League music,
which was in itself a rip-off of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’, a pop-classic in its own right. Chalk that one up.
We bounded down uneven tracks, my head cracking into the ceiling at regular intervals. ‘Imagine if you were a Joey,’ whispered the Hodster, ‘imagine being on a wheelchair on this ground. Impossible.’ Finally, the Land Rover jogged over the crest of a hill and suddenly we were arrested by the most stunning vista that any of us had ever seen (at least until we saw what was to come later). A herd of majestic Crouches at the water hole. Each one had to be fifty feet high. Moving with a clod-hopping, loping gait which was clumsy but at the same time impossibly graceful. Every so often one of them would buckle their legs, lower their giraffe-necks down and take a hearty gulp from the water. I felt tears prick at my eyes. The host, who only had eyes for
us, for our reactions, shot me a knowing smile. I know, his smile seemed to say, there are more things on heaven and earth…
Venkman was unimpressed. He started humming the circus freak-show theme tune. ‘Duh, duh, du-du-du-du-du-du duuuuh duh.’
Our host looked as though he was about to burst into tears. ‘What is it Venkman? Are you not overtaken with the wonder of this
‘In your email, you said you’d impress me. Impress me motherfucker. Tell me, do you have a Rooney?’
Our host’s eyes lit up. ‘Yes, we have a Rooney,’ he said all chirpy-like.
‘Well, let’s go and see it then,’ said Venkman.
Sam Neill spun us round and the Landie bipped across the acreage, bouncing across the mud tracks. At one point a school of tiny Shaun Wright-Phillipses, the smallest of all the dinosaurs, ran merrily alongside the vehicle as though engaged in a game of their own making. They were gambolling like lambs, having fun like dolphins following an ocean-bound vessel. We saw, or thought we saw, an injured Rio Ferdinand in the distance, though it might have been a herd of trees (trees don’t use Twitter though do they?) Venkman claimed he saw a rare John Terry masturbating himself against a fellow animal’s fence, but I thought he was making it up for attention, or because he hadn’t been allowed his carry-outs.
Finally, we reached the biggest enclosure in the whole park. By now it had grown full-dark, but Sam Neill whacked on some floodlights (apparently they’d been pilfered from the old Wembley) and suddenly everything was illuminated. I craned my neck to see a fabled Rooney, but saw nothing except the trees and light reflecting back off a couple of signs which had been affixed to the fence. The first sign read ‘Danger of Death, 100,000 volts’, the second was an educational one set up for the kids to read. You got all the usual science gubbins.
‘The Wayne Rooney (or ‘Roonus-Battus’ in Latin) is a predatory animal from the Jurassic period. Said to prefer living in or near swamps, the Roo is a rather feral creature known for its low intellect. Strangely, Roo society is quite developed, and they have been observed looking after older creatures.’
‘Where is it?’ moaned Venkman.
Sam Neill hopped out of the L'andie and started fannying around with a crane which he eventually got working after a couple of aborted efforts. With it, he lifted up a rather frantic-looking goat and dropped it over the other side of the electric fence, close to the tree-line.
Venkman whispered to me. ‘A Rooney doesn’t want to be fed. A Rooney wants to hunt.’
I ignored this receding-hairlined stick-in-the-mud, settled back in my seat to watch the show, expecting at any minute to see the trees battered to the side, a Rooney barrelling through, drawn by the smell of the goat’s slightly hay-ey blood. But nothing happened.
We waited a good hour. Two. And then, suddenly, we saw a dark shape in the undergrowth. Heard a low, bestial moan. Just like
that, the goat was gone. Gobbled up. But where was the Rooney?
We were soon to find out. It was like a real-life recreation of that urban myth where some psycho climbs on top of the car and
has a head in his hands or something. We heard the crash as the Rooney landed on the L'andie, we felt his heavy fist as it
cracked the windscreen. Panicked, Sam Neill stamped on the accelerator pedal, and the murky monster rolled off onto the
path in front of us. His eyes burned into mine. He wanted nothing more than to kill us.
Sam Neill stamped on reverse now. The Rooney chased after us, yelling ‘You f*/king what?’
Glenn Hoddle collapsed into tears. ‘This is supposed to be a family park… What if children hear?’ he sobbed.
‘That’s not your biggest worry,’ smarmed Venkman, ‘your biggest worry is if children start copying.’
As they debated, the Rooney was still gaining on us.
‘WHY?’ I screamed. ‘Why does he want to kill us?’ ‘He can’t help it,’ mused Venkman, ‘it’s in his nature, like the scorpion and the frog.’ I didn’t know what Venkman was on about. Perhaps the Scorpion and Frog was a boozer down his way, or else the remark was simply lost in translation. Finally the Roon gave up and slipped quietly back over the fence, perhaps accepting his two-game ban for bad behaviour. But as we drove quietly back to our quarters, we heard his blood-curdling cries on the breeze. ‘You f*/king what? You f*/king what? You f*/king what?’ And I wondered whether there was anything in Venkman’s chaos theory after all.