Once upon a time there was a green giraffe called Albert. He lived in woodland not so far from here. When dog walkers or joggers passed by, he simply stood stock still and blended in with the woods like a chameleon.
Not many people knew of his existence. In fact, the day that I first met him, I could have easily walked on by but I stopped to take a photograph of a squirrel. That's when I saw the background move.
I scrunched up my eyes and did a double take. Yes. there was no doubt about it. Blending in with a swathe of unkempt holly bushes and giant rhododendrons and the green moss on the tree trunks there was - no it could not be, could it? - a green giraffe.
With trepidation, I tiptoed over to him. I know this may sound stupid but when I was but a few feet away from his spindly green legs, I looked up and said, "Hello!"
To my astonishment and after a deep exhalation of aromatic giraffe breath, the lofty creature whispered, "Hello!"
"Do not be afraid," I said, for I could sense that he was equally nervous. "I won't harm you!"
Then with a self-concious and slightly mischievous chortle, he said, "And I won't harm you!"
We both tittered and this seemed to break the ice.
He bent his long neck downwards. He was snuffling my hair in the same way that a dog gets to know people. Then, much to my surprise, he suddenly licked my face. It was as if I had just been sandpapered.
"Urgh!" he exclaimed. "You taste of soap!"
Again we both chuckled.
I told him my name was Neil and he told me his name was Albert. At that first meeting, I didn't wish to unnerve him by bombarding him with questions. Of course there were many things I wished to ask. After all, it's not every day that you meet a fourteen foot giraffe in the woods - especially a green one. But I didn't wish to put him off through interrogation.
Just then we saw two dogwalkers approaching along the winding woodland path. Instinctively, Albert edged back into the undergrowth , bent his head down and stood like a statue - as if frozen.
A wire-haired Jack Russell bounded towards me, sniffing inquisitively at my boots.
"Stop it Nipper! Don't worry! He won't bite!" said the older dogwalker who had a powdery white face and favoured blood-red lipstick.
It was a surprise that the little terrier seemed oblivious to Albert, standing no more than three yards away.
"Got any good pictures?" asked the younger dogwalker, noticing my camera.
"Just squirrels," I replied. She seemed unimpressed.
After they had moved off, Albert said, "Thanks for not giving me away Neil. I am sorry, I have got to go now but may I see you another day?"
"Yeah. No problem," I smiled.
We made an appointment and just before Albert lummocked deeper into the woods he allowed me to take his picture. The resulting image is at the bottom of this blogpost. See below.