It's Creatures Galore!

with Billie Piper!

Previously in 'Creatures Galore':

...I looked to where the Professor was pointing. It was a working medieval castle!!! There were soldiers in helmets posted on the battlements!!!

"This .. isn't a museum, is it?" I asked falteringly.

But I knew the answer already - I'd been to museums before.

"I think we may have gone a little too far back in time..." said Professor Martin Grant, the bear professor.

Aieeee!!! I was stuck in the past with a clever, if bungling, kodiak bear!!!! How was I going to get back to 1999, and rescue my monkeys as well????

Hey Gang!!!!

Private Billie, reporting for duty!! As you can see, I left you all last week in a bit of a pickle!!! I had travelled back in time with Martin Grant (a professor bear who has fallen on hard times) to try and save my poor monkey babies. But something went wrong, and we had ended up in the olden days!!! What was I to do???

Before I tell you what I was to do, I must answer a query I've had. One of my faithful Billie-watchers (hiya, Nicholas!!!) has asked me how I could write about what was happening to me and send it to Gorilla Salad when all the time I was stuck in the olden days? Good question! Professor Grant explained to me how it works:

Think of time as being like a ball of string. Just imagine a big ball of string, and try to picture it in your head. Done that? Good. Now imagine that the end of the string - the end buried deep inside the ball - is the start of time. It's called the 'Big Bang', and it was when all the planets and animals came out of a big hole in space shouting.

Now, I want you to concentrate very hard, because this is the tricky bit!!!

Professor Grant had to explain this to me three times before it made any sense. Let's pretend that the string is like time, and that we are moving along it. I know, I know!!! 'Don't be silly, Billie! We can't balance on a piece of string!!' - that's what I thought too. But according to Martin, we can. I don't understand it myself, but he really is very clever, so it must be true.

Anyway, now you have to pretend that the string is growing all the time. Got that? Maybe it's more like a ball of magic string, or a ball made of a beanstalk, I don't know, OK? So I wrote last week's column (on leaves with a stick of charcoal) and sent it back... Oh wait a minute, I forgot to tell you about the bits where it touches. Erm... you know how time is like string? Well, in a ball of string, the bits touch each other all over the place. So if time is like that, then bits of time must touch other bits of time? Like string, see? And I sent my column from the bit of time-string where I was (the olden days) to where you all are (nowadays), because they touched each other. And that's how you are reading this now - in the present!!! I can't remember why the growing thing is important, to be honest. But I'm sure it was!!!!

Anyway, back/here in the olden days, I was a bit worried.

'Where are we, Professor Grant?' I asked the bear.

'Surely that should be "when are we"?' laughed the ursine academic. He'd made that joke before.

I looked again at the castle, and realised that I had been mistaken. It was just some crows hopping about on a rock. Martin bent down to examine a plant. He growled deep in his big furry throat.

'Mmmmrggghhh!! Well, judging from this fern. I think we've landed in the year 30,000!!'

Wow!!! I was in the future!! I was so excited. I would get to meet aliens and go in a hovercar, and record my album on a hologram and everything!! But then I remembered about my poor dead monkey babies and was sad. 'But if we are in the future, then my babies have all been dead for ages!!'

'Oh, Miss. Billie! You seem to have misunderstood!!' chuckled the bear. 'We're in the past - 30,000 years BC!! Why, your babies aren't even born!'

I was a bit irritated with Martin Grant, and I gave him a 'look'. How could he joke at a time like this??? My monkeys are all dead, and we are stuck in 30,000 BC!! What about my track for the forthcoming Pokemon(TM) movie? I hadn't even started the overdubs yet!! And I suppose Richie will miss me a bit. And worse still, he would probably take my absence as an opportunity to eat my Coco Pops and leave the toilet seat up!! In fact Martin was beginning to remind me of Richie, being a know-all and pretending that everything was alright all the time. Richie's been acting quite insufferably since he got his number one single. Well, I have had loads more number ones than him and stupid 5ive! And I've definitely had more number ones than Professor Grant!

'So, I suppose we're going to get eaten by skellington dinosaurs now then?' I said, a little bit cross. Martin looked at me a bit strangely.

'Skellington dinosaurs?'

'Yes', I retorted. 'I know all about them - I saw them in the Natural History Museum.' I can be clever too, I thought to myself, and I folded my arms.

'Erm... they're only skellingtons because.... Oh never mind.' muttered Professor Grant. 'But no, no. The dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago. We'll have no trouble from them.'

'Oh..'

'Yes. It's a common misconception amongst the young that dinosaurs and primitive humans co-incided.' explained Professor Grant, waving his great paws around animatedly. I looked at my nails - I had painted them turquoise that morning, and the nail varnish had started to chip on my index finger.

'Yes. In fact the only mammals around at the time when the dinosaurs died out would have been tiny rat-like creatures which ate the eggs of...' Martin continued.

There was some dirt under my thumbnail, and I tried to scrape it out with the nail on my other thumb.

'...and that's why there is no risk of... Whhhhhaaaaaarrrgggghhhh!!!!!!'

Professor Grant was cut short abruptly by a massive skellington pterodactyl, which swooped down out of the sky. It snapped him up in it's beak, and whooshed past me, blowing my hair about around my face. The look on his bear face was priceless.

He roared and bellowed 'Put me down you great, damn bird!', as the skellington horror beat it's great bony wings and bore him aloft.

I managed to pick most of the dirt out from under my nail, by twisting it like this. Then I ran after the skellington pterodactyl across the stony ground towards a big mountain!! Professor Grant was my only way back to the future!!! And he was my best friend!!!

I am a fast runner. When I was at school (it seems ages ago, but it was only two years!!), I got a red ribbon at sports day for the flat race. I beat Zoe Hamilton, Jane Briggs and Fiona Smith, and I even beat Claire Watson, and everyone thought that she was the fastest in the year!!! But she can't have been, because I won. And I don't need to mention that I have had more number one singles than the three of them put together!!!

So, anyway, I had no problems keeping up with the flight of the skellington pterodactyl, which glided gracefully towards a ledge high up the mountain. I could still hear Professor Grant roaring and bellowing rude words at the dinosaur bird. 'It must be going back to it's nest!!' I thought to myself.

When I got to the base of the mountain, I saw that it was a huge granite affair, pitted with cracks and holes. These made excellent hand-holds for my nimble little trainer-clad feet, and before you could say 'Trout Mask Replica', I was shinning up the sheer face of the mountain!!! It was like on Gladiators, but fortunately I wasn't being chased by a man with his name written on his chest in blue!!!

The wind whipped about me as I climbed. When I was about 10 feet away from the ledge, I saw the pterodactyl take off from it's nest, and fly over me. I could see right through it's ribs as it's massive frame crossed the sun and banked away from me on the thermals. Moments later I was on the ledge, and oh! what a sight greeted me!!!

Professor Grant was sat plonked in a big nest like a great pudding!! And around him were baby skellington pterodactyls cuddling into his fur and nuzzling him with their long bleached beaks!!! The mummy pterodactyl must have mistaken Professor Grant for her baby fallen out of the nest, and flown out to pick him up!!! I laughed hard, doubling up and throwing my arms in the air.

'Oh!!! Martin!!! You look like a big egg!!!'

'Harumph!!' said Professor Grant. I helped him out, and stroked the heads of the little skellingtons. It reminded me of the time that I thwarted the schemes of some smugglers who were stealing peregrine falcon eggs on the coast of Norfolk. But that's a tale for another time!!! I suppose I should have been angry with the baby pterodactyls, what with all the fighting they did with my baby monkeys that time, but I couldn't get mad at their adorable faces. The way the sun glinted off their empty eye sockets made my heart melt almost as much as their silent cawing. It made it all the more distressing when I accidentally knocked one out of the nest and it smashed to pieces on the hard ground thousands of feet below.

Martin cheered up quickly. 'Fascinating!', he boomed. 'Real live specimens of Anurognathus, but in this curious skellingtal state. Hmm.... I wonder if they...'

'Hey, Martin!!! Look down there!!!' I shouted over the wind. Just below the ridge, amongst some boulders, I could see some tiny figures. There was a group of cavemen, (they were anatomically modern!!) crowding around something. They had hairy faces and backs, and slightly prominent brows, with their faces twisted into sneers of contempt and arrogance. They were hitting something hairy, which, when I looked closer, had a low, sloping forehead and bones which were much larger and thicker than modern humans. It also had projecting mid-facial features and heavy jaw muscles, along with a cranial capacity that looked around 1500 c.c. I couldn't help but notice the low cranial vault and large bulge in the occipital region (an "occipital bun"!). It was another caveman, being bullied by the others!!! Cruel, grunting insults spouted from their primitive mouths!!! It was sooooo cruel!!!

Martin clambered beside me, and we watched the proceedings with our chins on the brink of the ledge and our hands/paws on either side of them. I could just hear what the naughty cavemen were saying...

'Look at you, you dirty neanderthal!', said one of the tormentors.

'Yes. Check out his ridiculous characteristic sagittal ridge!' sneered one of the others, and laughed.

'Please don't hurt me!' begged the poor caveman. He cowered against the rock.

'Yeah lads! He's not worth it.' said one of the other anatomically modern human (AMH) cavemen. He looked a bit nicer than the rest.

'What's wrong with you Andrew? Gone soft have we?' jeered the biggest AMH caveman.

'No, 'course not, Jamie' responded Andrew. 'It's that... I saw some lady cavemen over there - let's go and talk to them?'

The other AMH cavemen leered and made disgusting noises. 'Yeah - let's go check out the ladies!!!' they roared. It was foul!!!! Jamie (who seemed to be the leader) was convinced, and the caveman gang left.

'And keep your neanderthal face out of it!!' yelled Jamie as they scrambled away. 'Or we'll break it off!!' He waved a piece of bone threateningly. The bullied caveman collapsed into a heap and started to sob quietly. The poor thing!!!! I was so upset!!! We had to help him stand up to those bullies!

'Come on, you big lump!!', I yelled, and shinned down the rockface as fast as can be. Martin followed me timidly, scrabbling clumsily and dislodging stones and pebbles. I'm afraid some of them fell down and hit the bullied caveman, and he whimpered a bit. Oh dear!!!

'Hey!!! Don't cry Mr. Caveman!!!' I said when I got to the ground. He had curled up and buried his face in his hands - he looked so sweet, like a little baby!!! I put my hand on his elongated head and stroked it a bit, but then I stopped. He looked up at me. Tears were running from his rheumy caveman eyes, and matting his hairy face. He looked at me imploringly.

'Oh, those nasty bullies!!!' I cried, and passed him my hanky (the pink one with Strawberry Shortcake on it - I was a bit embarrassed about giving it him, but then I realised that he probably wouldn't know that I was a bit too old for Strawberry Shortcake.)

The caveman wiped his eyes and spoke in a deep, cultured voice, 'Oh thank you miss!!! So kind. But you are an anatomically modern human, why are you being so nice to me? Between us there is only killing.'

Just then, Professor Grant lumbered forward, grabbing the caveman's head, he forced open his mouth and looked at his teeth!! I was flabberghasted. 'Incredible!! A living specimen of Homo sapiens neanderthalis' he said as he probed the caveman's mouth with his clawy 'finger'.

'Leave him alone you big brute!' I yelled, and beat Martin's broad furry back with my fists. 'Can't you see that he's had enough today!!!' Professor Martin apologised to the caveman and backed off. I think he went into a sulk, but it's difficult to tell with bears.

'Well, Mr. Caveman. I won't kill you. Who are those other cavemen? And what is your name?'

'I am Mark. And those others are the anatomically modern humans. They hate us neanderthals, and fight with us. But they are more cunning than we kindly fellows, and at the present rate of eradication, I project that we will die out within a few hundred years!!!'

'Oh Mark!! That is so terrible!!!' I screwed up my little fists and made a distraught face. 'Where do those other cavemen live? I'm going to have a word with them.'

'Is that wise Miss Billie? What about your monkeys?' interrupted Professor Grant.

'My what?'

'Your baby monkeys? The ones we were going to save?' I think he was being a little sarcastic.

'Oh! Oh yeah! Well we'll save them later. Mark needs our help now.'

I did miss them so.

Mark gestured and we followed him to the settlement of the AMH cavemen. It was quite a journey!!! We certainly saw some amazing prehistoric sights on the way. Professor Grant spent much of the time examining plants and creatures, but not in the kindly sympathetic way that I do during my adventures. Instead, he was pulling off leaves and bear-handling little creatures roughly in his great clumsy paws. I must admit that I was very surprised, what with him being a creature too - you think he'd be more caring towards his fellows.

As we were striding determinedly across a clearing in a forest, we passed a herd of Iguanadons feeding on leaves. I was pleased to see that they were all encouraging each other in their endeavours with a hearty double thumbs-up!!! If only people could be more like Iguanadons - encouraging each other in all they do. I made a comment along these lines to Martin, but he just grunted.

At one point in our trek, Mark motioned us to be quiet. We were creeping up some big cold hills, and as we rounded an outcrop of rock, we were met with a wondrous site. There was a large depression in the hillside, with a beautiful still lake at the bottom. It looked so tranquil - the icy cold depths of the lake reflecting the clear blue skies and verdant green of the rolling slopes. I think it may have been a glacial tarn, etched into the hills thousands of years before. I just hoped that the glacier didn't come back while we were there!!!

On the other side of the lake was a woolly mammoth, and he was testing the freezing cold water with his toes. As we edged around the opposite bank, he seemed to be plucking up the courage to jump in and swim. The steam rose from his thick woolly hide as he moved forward into the shallows before dashing back when he felt the temperature. I admired the graceful curve of his vast tusks and watched silently as he eventually waded into the inky depths. The fur swirled around his great thick legs in the water. I wish I had had a Kodak Fun camera, but they hadn't been invented of course!!! Anyway, the mammoth swam out to the very centre of the tarn and turned onto his back sticking his tusks into the air. He seemed to be enjoying himself as we rounded the corner and left him to his swim. I wonder what happened to him?

Later on we passed some big monkeys having a fight, using bones as weapons. I wanted to stop them, but Martin said that we would mess up time or something. It was quite a brutal sight - we hurried away quickly. And do you know, one of them looked a bit like Rigsby from Rising Damp!!!

And we must have looked quite odd too. A bear, a caveman and a pop star trekking across the prehistoric landscape!!! I kept our spirits up by singing some of my chart hits, Because We Want To, Girlfriend and She Wants You, and so on. But they didn't sound anything like they did on Top Of The Pops I'm afraid!!! I didn't have a bear and a caveman joining in on the choruses then!!! What a grunting, roaring sound we must have made!!!

From left to right: Mark, Professor Martin Grant and ME!!

Eventually we came to the AMH caveman settlement. There were lots of huts on the savannah, with lots of AMH cavemen walking about - many of them taking advantage of their bipedal stature to look towards the horizon.

'Look, Martin!' I said 'Lots of cavemen!!'

I was trying to join in on his scientific curiosity, but he just replied testily. 'Miss Billie. What are those?' He pointed at one of the rude huts.

'Huts.'

'And do you think that the anatomically modern humans live in them?'

'Of course they do, silly. Look there's one AMH caveman being told off by his mother for his messy bedroom!!!'

'Quite. So, if the AMH "cavemen" live in huts, they can't be cavemen, can they?'

'Ermů no, I suppose not.'

'So do you think it would be more appropriate for us to refer to them as anatomically modern humans, or maybe AMH for convenience?'

'I suppose so' He was right of course. The cavemen didn't live in caves at all, they lived in huts. I felt a bit silly.

Mark kept his head down, and we walked around the edge of the village. I spotted some fascinating caveman behaviour. I saw Homo habilus mending a roof with a hammer. I saw the Aquatic Ape having a swim with his friends - he was having great fun, throwing a ball around!!! I even saw Uncle Ram telling some caveman children a story, their little hairy faces were rapt in attention. It was so sweet!!!

All of a sudden we got to the other side of the village. There was a crowd of cavemen stood by some gates. I recognised the bullies - Jamie and Andrew and the others. There were more this time, and they were facing a small group of neanderthal cavemen just like our new friend Mark. There was some sort of argument going on, but mostly the AMH cavemen were pushing the neanderthal cavemen around and being nasty. I wasn't going to stand for this, and I leapt on Professor Grant's back.

We ran into the centre of the crowd doing my biggest 'giant' voice, while Professor Grant bellowed and growled. We must have looked very ferocious!!! 'LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!' I roared as they all cowered before me. It felt really good telling them all to stop, and controlling the situation. 'I like this.' I thought to myself. 'RIGHT!! YOU WILL STOP THE BULLYING NOW!!' and we charged around the crowd, scattering AMH cavemen and neanderthal cavemen alike. My reign of terror had begun!!!

But I realised 'no'. That would make me no better than the bullies. Besides, I had already broken one of the neanderthal cavemen's legs when Martin stepped on it.

'Alright, you bullies.' I said, more gentle this time. 'Why can't you live in peace with the neanderthal cavemen?'

'Because they're rubbish!' yelled Jamie.

'I know you are!' I shot back quickly. Jamie looked astounded at my wit, and he beat his fists on his head in frustration.

'But they are so like you!' I reasoned.

The AMH cavemen all roared in disagreement. Except for one: Andrew. The one I thought looked nice.

'You're right, Miss Billie', he said timidly. He turned to Jamie 'We shouldn't bully them just because they are different.' Jamie scowled, but the other AMH cavemen looked at him curiously. 'Instead of killing the neanderthals, we could love them, and breed with them.' The other AMH cavemen nodded and looked at each other.

'Butů' said Jamie.

'But nothing, Jamie' said Andrew. 'I've got something I want to tell you all. I've fallen in love with a neanderthal caveman lady.' The AMH cavemen gasped. I gasped too, and had to grip tight onto Professor Grant's fur to avoid falling off his back!!!

'Jamie, lads. I'd like you to meet Lucy.' One of the neanderthals loped across towards Andrew as he offered his hand. She wasn't very pretty, but that doesn't matter. The two of them held hands. 'Only now can I tell you all how much I love her. I love a NEANDERTHAL CAVEMAN!!' he shouted proudly. It was a lovely sight!!!!

The AMH cavemen all cheered and clapped Andrew on the back, and even Jamie smiled. They all ran across to the neanderthal cavemen and started shaking their hands and saying 'How do you do?' I was very touched. Some of the AMH cavemen men even started flirting with the lady neanderthal cavemen, swaggering a bit and offering their biceps for the ladies to feel. I was reminded of when Richie chatted me up that time. I even missed him a bit.

'I think our work here is done' I said as I noticed that some of the cavemen wanted privacy. With a final wave to Mark (who was snogging a sexy AMH lady now. He had his tongue right down her tonsils!! Eugh!!! Kay-eye-ess-ess-eye-en-gee!!!), I rode off into the sunset on Professor Grant's back. I was very tired, and as I clambered off Martin's back I yawned a big yawn.

'We had better go, Miss Billie!' he said 'it's not safe to sleep in the olden days.'

We hugged again, and time went all crazy again. Whooooahhhhh!!! When we landed it was pitch black.

'I wonder where we are?' I said.

'I've no idea. But can we have a slightly shorter adventure this time?' laughed Martin. 'Maybe about one third the length of this one?'

See you again next week!!! And remember, bullying is terrible!!!

Lots of love and hugs,

Billie xxxxx

Professor Martin Grant says: If you want to learn more about Human Evolution...

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Billie appears courtesy of The Lancet.