Living in Balham in the 60s the chances of being taken by a wild animal was unlikely.
Even when the circus came to Clapham Common, the animal security was quite tight, so you’d have had to have been very unlucky to have been trampled to death by marauding elephants running down Balham Hill.
However, in February 1965, shortly before my 7th birthday, Goldie the eagle (no avian relation to Eddie) escaped from London Zoo. My dad worked near there, in Gloucester Place, and would go and see the errant bird during his lunchtimes.
My immediate fear of him doing this was: could an eagle carry a five-foot nine man in his beak, thus rendering me 50% of the way to becoming an orphan? And if this happened what sort of work could I do as overnight I’d become head of the household?
As a six-year-old my options were few: chimney sweep was out of the question as we lived in flats; my fear of horses (or any animal larger than a gerbil) preventing the course to becoming a jockey and although Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had been written the year before, casting for the film had yet to begin.
I pondered in my mind that, because dad smoked about 40 Senior Service most days, would the eagle pass on capturing my dad as the eagles could be more partial to filtered fags or even Consulate?
My fears were abated twelve days’ later as the eagle was recaptured – dead mice being preferable to 20 Kensitas.
Security was enhanced at London Zoo shortly after that as Pipaluk never escaped.