Let me tell you a story. It is my story. It encompasses microwaveable burritos, FIFA-style investigations, plebs at gates, Brangelina and wine. Bienvenida…
It was three years ago to the day that I first stepped off the Ryanair plane (following another ‘successful Ryanair flight’ as they enthused over the tannoy), after a 12-hour flight from Mexico with a stopover in flipping Málaga. For a small penguin with big dreams, Luton was not what I expected (I can see why they call it Bedfordshire… zzz) Anyway, I said to the cab driver, ‘take me to Kentish Town, I hear this place is full of intellectuals and artists’ and he muttered something that sounded like ‘depends what century you’re living in’. When I arrive at my new ‘gaff’ as he called it I realised what he meant. Also, I thought ‘studio flat’ meant it would be lovely and bohemian but it does not mean that. So, when Christmas came, I was alone and depressed and all I had to eat was a microwaveable burrito. On New Year’s Eve I watched the Hootananny with Jools Holland by myself, with only half a bottle of tequila for company. Lo siento, if I hear the word ‘Hootananny’ one more time I swear I’m going to hurt someone.
This is me, Pepita. Brains and beauty, what can I say?
A couple of months later I was walking around London and wondered into a wine shop. Crikey, the people spoke to me like they were reading an extract from the Holy Book. I didn’t like it. Then I went to the supermarket, but this time there was no one to talk to at all – so I went to the frozen fish section to cheer myself up. Then (I am aware I am sounding like Goldilocks and the three bears) I went to Oddbins in Kentish Town and the man (Ian was his name) has a big smile and says do I want to try this wine from Portugal. And it was at that moment, as our eyes met over a glass of ‘FP Branco’ that we fell instantly in love. Not with each other! I am not like that soppy love-sick Monty the Penguin and, anyway, I don’t go in for that inter-species business, unlike some unmentionable Arctic cousins of mine. There is just no accounting for them. Anyway, over time, I also kind of fell in love with Oddbins – with the wines (eclectic), the people (mad) and the way they don’t do all that smoke and mirrors pricing like “was £12.99 now £5.99” when, in reality, it's not even worth £5.99 (the British people are getting wise to that one). So I asked Ian if I could get a job with Oddbins and he asked me what my ‘skill set’ was. “Ian,” I said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I am a penguin. My skill sets are principally eating fish and swimming.” But I could see that they’re not just going to give me a job out of sympathy, so I make a video showing them my wine journey. They rang me up, said they love it and asked me to come back in two years’ time to be The Face of Christmas 2014. I was so happy! I even made Ian point at me like Alan Sugar and say ‘Pepita, you’re hired’.
My poster for Nikka From the Barrel. Those turkeys are for it.
I had two years to prepare, so I went on a wine course and worked on my English but, as a smart penguin, I wanted to do more. So, I followed Angelina Jolie around the world. I thought about following Bob Geldof but Angelina manages to look tidy as well as talking about serious things, so I thought she would be a better mentor. I was right – she was fantastic. She took me under her wing, gave me lessons every day and told me I was part of the family. I felt like Oliver Twist. However, it turns out that she has a wildly possessive PA who decided that I am the devil incarnate and paid off the security guard to evict me and dump me at the zoo. (It’s OK – you can cry here).
It was there and then, outside Los Angeles Zoo, with kids patting me on the head, trying to force-feed me sardines, that I realised I wanted to get back to Dear Old Blighty, have a nice cuppa tea and start my new job. But, when I returned last month, it was not the same country I left. The whole place has gone mad for penguins, because of that cheesy hombre Monty – that was my act! He’s stolen my act! OK I have no proof, but Oddbins think there might be a spy in their marketing department who is giving JL intel, because two years ago they just so happened to run a Christmas ‘Love’ campaign at the same time as Oddbins. So Oddbins have launched an internal investigation and my guess is that the outcome will not be dissimilar to the recent FIFA report if you catch my drift.
So anyway, Monty has got heart strings twanging everywhere with his search for love. The UK seems to have imported that daft American sentimentality – whatever happened to a stiff upper lip? Tell you what, if Monty comes wondering my way looking for love, I’ll do us all a favour and put him out of his misery. Talking of rubbish American imports, what is Black Friday doing in the UK? Some company bosses must be rubbing their hands with glee – it’s like they’ve managed to secure a frenzied removal team for all the rubbish they couldn’t get rid of.
Best use for bears, if you ask me.
Dios mío the whole UK is like a big jar of pickles at the moment. One thing I’ve noticed is getting all the politicians worked up is immigration. You’ve got a Labour MP sneering at someone for hanging the St George flag – she should know better than that. Then you’ve got a Conservative-turned-UKIP MP who thinks everybody except the Anglo Saxons should be rounded up and shipped out. Nice. Then you’ve got the Lib Dems who… well I can’t recall their position on immigration. You know what? A plague on all their houses – they’re all as useless as each other. I just hope that they remember that immigration can have a positive effect on the economy. My cousin Carla was trying to explain that to the American officials at immigration and I think it would have gone better for if she hadn’t got angry and called them plebs. But she’s always had a mouth on her. I also hope the politicians realise that penguin migration is a different kettle of fish and we don’t get tangled up in this. Although, if they want to deport Monty, I am here to help.
Christmas with me will be present-filled and magical. Except if you are a pig. Or a bear. Or a turkey.
Anyway, Ian is now standing over my shoulder and says I should probably step away from politics and tell people what I am going to do this Christmas. Fair point. Good head on his shoulders, Ian. So! I will be hijacking the Oddbins Twitter account (@Oddbins) and I am on the posters (Kate Moss has got NOTHING on me). I have had tête-à-têtes with all the Oddbins Managers and have rounded up the best wines and the best Christmas tips, so I will be dishing those out throughout December. As you’ve guessed, there will be a fair amount of ranting – I haven’t even got started on those blinking bears in my windows – and, lastly, I will be giving out gifts to people who make me laugh (I warn you I am a tough bird to please). Think of me as a kind-hearted, fork-tongued, wine-loving agony aunt.
I look forward to meeting you.