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Boris Gripper

Marriage, me, and the RSPB

He was the golden boy of Hoggshire cricket at a time when regional greats abounded. These days Boris Gripper is a recovering addict in a viewless room at Green Fountain Sanatorium.

No-one saw it coming, not even his wife Constance who this week released her third book about life with the former Trench Lice CC captain.

In an abridged version of Walking on Eggshells, which appeared in yesterday's Hoggshire Bugle, Mrs Gripper describes how the leg spinning all-rounder succumbed to egg addiction after eczema forced him into early retirement in 2003.

I guess you could say I was pretty naïve but I thought nothing of it when Boris returned from a shopping expedition with ten dozen chicken eggs and a jumbo sized frying pan.

He told me his doctor had put him on an egg-only diet to clear his skin condition and I had no reason to doubt him.

"The main difference between me and Jane Goodall is that I am all for poaching"

Shop-bought eggs met his needs in those early days and I was more than happy to take a break from cooking meals.

He did a very good egg sandwich which was a combination of curried and hard boiled eggs, sandwiched between two square shaped Spanish omelettes. I liked that and was also fond of his pastry-free egg-pie, garnished with oven baked yolk shavings.

Before long we both started drinking eggs. Boris's usual tipple was pale ale and poached eggs but if he was in a celebratory mood he would sip brandy from an egg shell. As for me, I used egg whites to whiten my tea and enjoyed a raw egg in a glass of sherry at Christmas.

These were happy times and it was nice that we were sharing things, even if it was only unfertilised embryos.

We grew even closer when we acquired a small collection of laying hens later that year. Filth encrusted eggs disgusted Boris and he soon developed a nest phobia. It was a manageable disorder but one that demanded we spend our waking hours inside the chicken coop.

It was tricky to begin with but you soon acquire a sort of sixth sense for knowing when a chicken is due to lay. I was responsible for holding the hen aloft for as long as was needed before the egg was released. Boris was poised beneath, waiting to pounce and would catch it before it hit the ground.

This may not be everyone's idea of marital bliss but we were happy. He had the harder job but never complained, saying it was much easier than fielding in slips.

"My heart goes out to all the children who helped us with especially difficult assignments such as coaxing birds of prey out of their nests."

By the time autumn arrived Boris had grown tired of chickens and evermore curious. He was full of ideas and particularly interested in an experimental form of cookery he called egg fusion: egg-only meals made from three or more types of eggs.

Initially this was fairly straight forward such as an omelette made from cormorant, salmon, and quail eggs.

Over time our tastes became more and more exotic and the methods used to acquire eggs were increasingly dangerous.

This would often involve dressing up to gain the trust of the birds and reptiles we would thieve from. I have worn a penguin disguise in the Arctic Circle, swum in a turtle suit in the North Atlantic, and climbed the Andes dressed as a condor.

Most dangerously of all we donned Somali pirate outfits, chartered a 'Man-O-War', and unfurled the Jolly Roger to safely navigate the treacherous waters separating the Somali mainland from an uncharted island that is home to the Ethiopian single winged eagle.

In less than five fun packed years we had eaten nearly every type of egg known to human kind and all but one that was of interest to us. This final piece in our pre-embryonic jigsaw was nearer to us than anything we had previously collected yet it would ultimately prove unobtainable.

Some might say it was a culinary creation too far but if it is okay for women to allow their eggs to be collected for IVF storage then I can't see what is wrong with allowing my husband to collect mine for dinner.

Boris plotted the removal with customary thoroughness. It didn't take him long to acquire the skills needed to perform the procedure but the prohibitive cost of DIY surgery posed a real problem.

Reproductively speaking I was already on the turn so we needed to raise cash fast. Fortunately, or so it seemed at the time, Boris came up with a near perfect get-rich-quick scheme: giant sized exotic egg drinks that only millionaires could afford.

Nothing too experimental this time, we needed to appeal to as broad a base of wealthy clientele as possible. After some deliberation we opted for chilled flamingo yolks due their long life, taste, and drink friendly viscosity.

We knew a man in China who farmed waders and was renowned for his high grade ovules. He assured us we'd have what we wanted within a fortnight and sure enough all three bottles were safely secured in our newly refrigerated shed ahead of schedule.

I was anxious to find a buyer or three as soon as possible but Boris insisted it would take a further eight weeks before our produce reached its optimum condition. He felt that inviting customers to try our wares at this early stage would prove counterproductive.

Boris took it upon himself to oversee the fermentation process and would lock himself inside our shed for up to nine hours each day. He was in high spirits and I had no reason to suspect that he was doing anything more than taking care of our precious assets.

After about a month his mood took a sudden turn for the worse. His nerves were shot and his nonsensical attempts to provide reassurance worried me:

"Don't worry Mrs; things aren't as bad as they look. I am sure it will be gone by tomorrow."

His condition deteriorated rapidly. Later that week I found him huddled in our broom cupboard. He was oblivious to my presence and mumbling:

"Well I'll be blowed. They don't half grow up fast these days."

It was clear that my husband was in a very bad way and needed help. I explained to him that I was going to visit the pharmacist to find out how to make him better then headed to the shed to put on my 'Sunday best'.

The source of Boris's derangement confronted me as I entered the room. There at the top of the bottle nearest the door floated a pitiful creature that shared both human and flamingo characteristics. Its movement was limited due to the confinement of the bottle but it swam as near to me as possible.

It had the face of a beaked infant, what appeared to be a pair of deformed human legs, but was otherwise of juvenile flamingo appearance.

Though barely audible, the repetitive trill escaping from the air-holes at the top of the bottle haunts me still: "Tricky wicket this one Mrs. Tricky wicket this one Mrs ..."

Kindness demanded that I comfort this most miserable of creations but instinct kicked in and I took flight.

Forensic artist Richard Neave collaborated with Mrs Gripper in 2005 to create an exact replica of the Flamingo Creature.

I barely gave Boris a sideways glance as I ran out of the house, jumped aboard the first bus that was passing, regrouped, and reported the matter to the RSPB.

That was the first and only time I saw the creature. The authorities had removed it and the contents of our shed by the time I returned home some two weeks later.

Boris was sent to the sanatorium at the same time. I visit him when I can but he is unable to communicate in any meaningful way. Unless he regains his faculties I may never know whether I am the stepmother to a monster or merely the victim of a most peculiar mishap.

I would like to think it was beyond my husband to inseminate bird yolks but he has the most curious of minds so I simply just don't know.

As for the creature, one can only guess whether it still exists and if so where. I suspect the RSPB knows but they certainly aren't saying.

All I ask of them is that should it be alive, of female origin, and capable of reproduction, let Boris have an egg or two. It might just be the tonic needed to rouse him from his lunacy.