What Venizelos and Lloyd George would have decided to do can never be known for sure, for one of the most bizarre political accidents in modern history took the matter out of their hands. On 30 September 1920 the young Greek King, Alexander, while taking a walk in the grounds of his palace, was bitten by a monkey. A severe fever set in and, on 25 October, Alexander died. In a famous phrase, Winston Churchill later wrote that "It is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million persons died of this monkey's bite" - for it was his belief that if Alexander and Venizelos had continued to rule Greece, the tragic outcome of the war that Greece was to wage against Turkey in 1921 and 1922 would have been averted.
I don't know what grabs me so much about this story. I used it as the basis for an incident in my story Monstrous Men - see my Short stories and tall tales page - which goes:
Even as an unacknowledged child of privilege, L’s child had been allowed to go anywhere she wanted to. This included the animal cages at the palace zoo where, one day, a gibbon bit her. The wound festered, and she died, closely followed, probably, by the monkey keeper and the nanny.
I like stories about animals, in general, though inevitably I read more of them as a child than I do as an adult. There's something about their lack of intent, the laissez-faire chaos of their world, that appeals to me, I think. I'm writing a story at the moment that features an animal at its centre - not a thinking one, like Tom, or Jerry, Top Cat, Roadrunner, but an animal nevertheless. The story partly features how people relate to animals, and how people get them to appear to reflect their own opinions, and, it is suggested, endorse them. That's not the main point of the story (which is quite long) but one that came out of the background as I wrote. At the moment the story is called The Fortune Teller's Factotum, and I think it'll be under construction for a while yet. You can see two pieces from this tale - at the moment, not quite long enough to be a novella, but terribly long for a short story - here: http://www.nicksweeneywriting.com/my-works-in-progress.html