Why the aardvark?
Our mascot is the cute and cuddly Ethel the Aardvark.
'Why the aardvark?', you might ask.
Most people assume that the reason is that 'Aardvark' appears towards the top of alphabetical lists, and of course that's handy! But we're all fans of the surreal comedy of Monty Python - and Ethel is a Python reference, from 'The Bookshop Sketch' written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
The sketch was first broadcast in 1967, with the Assistant played by John Cleese and the Customer by Marty Feldman, with later combinations of Cleese with Chapman or Michael Palin. This version features Cleese and Chapman. And here it is, for your delectation!
A quite spacious bookshop. A Customer enters and approaches the counter, behind which stands an Assistant.
Assistant (John Cleese): Good morning, sir. Can I help you?
Customer (Graham Chapman): Er, yes. Do you have a copy of 'Thirty Days in the Samarkand Desert with the Duchess of Kent' by A. E. J. Eliott, O.B.E.?
Assistant: Ah, well, I don't know the book, sir....
Customer: Er, never mind, never mind. How about 'A Hundred and One Ways to Start a Fight'?
Customer: An Irish gentleman whose name eludes me for the moment.
Assistant: Ah, no, well we haven't got it in stock, sir....
Customer: Oh, well, not to worry, not to worry. Can you help me with 'David Coperfield'?
Assistant: Ah, yes, Dickens.
Assistant: (pause) I beg your pardon?
Customer: No, Edmund Wells.
Assistant: I... *think* you'll find Charles Dickens wrote 'David Copperfield', sir....
Customer: No, no, Dickens wrote 'David Copperfield' with *two* Ps. This is 'David Coperfield' with *one* P by Edmund Wells.
Assistant: 'David Coperfield' with one P?
Customer: Yes, I should have said.
Assistant: Yes, well in that case we don't have it.
Customer: (peering over counter) Funny, you've got a lot of books here....
Assistant: (slightly perturbed) Yes, we do, but we don't have 'David Coperfield' with one P by Edmund Wells.
Customer: Pity, it's more thorough than the Dickens.
Assistant: More THOROUGH?!?
Customer: Yes... I wonder if it might be worth a look through all your 'David Copper- field's...
Assistant: No, sir, all our 'David Copperfield's have two P's.
Customer: Are you quite sure?
Customer: Not worth just looking?
Assistant: Definitely not.
Customer: Oh...how 'bout 'Grate Expectations'?
Assistant: Yes, well we have that....
Customer: That's 'G-R-A-T-E Expectations', also by Edmund Wells.
Assistant: (pause) Yes, well in that case we don't have it. We don't have anything by Edmund Wells, actually: he's not very popular.
Customer: Not 'Knickerless Knickleby'? That's K-N-I-C-K-E-R-L-E-S-S.
Assistant: (taciturn) No.
Customer: 'Khristmas Karol' with a K?
Assistant: (really quite perturbed) No....
Customer: Er, how about 'A Sale of Two Titties'?
Assistant: DEFINITELY NOT.
Customer: (moving towards door) Sorry to trouble you....
Assistant: Not at all....
Customer: Good morning.
Assistant: Good morning.
Customer: (turning around) Oh!
Assistant: (deep breath) Yesss?
Customer: I wonder if you might have a copy of 'Rarnaby Budge'?
Assistant: No, as I say, we're right out of Edmund Wells!
Customer: No, not Edmund Wells - Charles Dikkens.
Assistant: (pause - eagerly) Charles Dickens??
Assistant: (excitedly) You mean 'Barnaby Rudge'!
Customer: No, 'Rarnaby Budge' by Charles Dikkens. That's Dikkens with two Ks, the well-known Dutch author.
Assistant: (slight pause) No, well we don't have 'Rarnaby Budge' by Charles Dikkens with two Ks, the well-known Dutch author, and perhaps to save time I should add that we don't have 'Karnaby Fudge' by Darles Chickens, or 'Farmer of Sludge' by Marles Pickens, or even 'Stickwick Stapers' by Farles Wickens with four M's and a silent Q!!!!! Why don't you try W. H. Smith's?
Customer: Ah did, They sent me here.
Assistant: DID they.
Customer: Oh, I wonder...
Assistant: Oh, do go on, please.
Customer: Yes...I wonder if you might have 'The Amazing Adventures of Captain Gladys Stoutpamphlet and her Intrepid Spaniel Stig Amongst the Giant Pygmies of Beckles'... Volume Eight.
Assistant: (after a pause for recovery) No, we don't have that...funny, we've got a lot of books here...well, I musn't keep you standing here...thank you,--
Customer: Oh, well do, do you have--
Assistant: No, we haven't. No, we haven't.
Assistant: Sorry, no, it's one o'clock now, we're closing for lunch--
Customer: Ah, I--I saw it--
Assistant: I'm sorry--
Customer: I saw it over there! I saw it...
Assistant: What? What? WHAT?!?
Customer: I saw it over there: 'Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds'.
Assistant: (pause; trying to stay calm) 'Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds'?
Assistant: (beat) Yes, well, we do have that, as a matter of fact....
Customer: The expurgated version....
Assistant: (pause; politely) I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that...?
Customer: The expurgated version.
Assistant: (exploding) The EXPURGATED version of 'Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds'?!?!?!?!?
Customer: (desperately) The one without the gannet!
Assistant: The one without the gannet-!!! They've ALL got the gannet!! It's a Standard British Bird, the gannet, it's in all the books!!!
Customer: (insistent) Well, I don't like them...they wet their nests.
Assistant: (furious) All right! I'll remove it!! (rrrip!) Any other birds you don't like?!
Customer: I don't like the robin...
Assistant: (screaming) The robin! Right! The robin! (rrrip!) There you are, any others you don't like, any others?
Customer: The nuthatch?
Assistant: Right! (flipping through the book) The nuthatch, the nuthatch, the nuthatch, here we are! (rrriiip!) There you are! NO gannets, NO robins, NO nuthatches, THERE's your book!
Customer: (indignant) I can't buy that! It's torn!
Assistant: (incoherent noise)
Customer: Ah, I wonder if you have--
Assistant: God, ask me anything!! We got lots of books here, you know, it's a bookshop!!
Customer: Er, how about 'Biggles Combs his Hair'?
Assistant: No, no, we don't have that one, funny!
Customer: 'The Gospel According to Charley Drake'?
Assistant: No, no, no, try me again!
Customer: Ah... Oh, I know! 'Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying'.
Assistant: No, no, no, no, no... What? WHAT??????
Customer: 'Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying'.
Assistant: 'Ethel the Aa--' YES!!!YES!!! WE'VE GOT IT!! (throwing books wildly about) I-I've seen it somewhere!!! I know it!!! Hee hee hee hee hee!!! Ha ha hoo ho---WAIT!! WAIT!! Is it?? Is it??? (triumphant) YES!!!!!! Here we are, 'Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying'!!!!! There's your book!! (throwing it down) Now, BUY IT!!!
Customer: (quickly) I don't have enough money.
Assistant: (desperate) I'll take a deposit!
Customer: I don't have ANY money!
Assistant: I'll take a cheque!!
Customer: I don't have a chequebook!
Assistant: I've got a blank one!!
Customer: I don't have a bank account!!
Assistant: RIGHT!!!! I'll buy it FOR you! (ring) There we are, there's your change, there's some money for a taxi on the way home, there's your book, now, now...
Customer: Wait, wait, wait!
Assistant: What? What?!? WHAT?!? WHAT???!!
Customer: I can't read!!!
Assistant: (staggeringly long pause; very quietly) You can't... read. (pause) RIGHT!!! Sit down!! Sit down!! Sit!! Sit!! Are you sitting comfortably??? Right!!! (opens book) 'Ethel the Aardvark was hopping down the river valley one lovely morning, trottety-trottety-trottety, when she might a nice little quantity surveyor...' (fade out)
With thanks to MontyPython.net.