When I was a child I had a rabbit as an imaginary friend. He was called Mark Marshmallow. He was pink, and soft, and squidgy and fluffy. He was with me all the time. When watching TV, when I played football, at the dinner table ... just everywhere.
My parents humoured me and set an extra place at the dinner table for Mark Marshmallow.
As a child I hated carrots, and spinach, and broccoli too. My mother made use of my imaginary friend by setting a plate of these vegetables at my side. She encouraged me to eat the vegetables in order to get Mark Marshmallow to eat his from his imaginary plate.
For a while, Mark Marshmallow and I got on well. Then one day, I imagined another imaginary friend. She was a rabbit too. Her name was Florence Petunia.
I liked Florence Petunia, and Mark Marshmallow too. My mother served me more vegetables on my plate because now there were two rabbits to feed in my imagination.
Mark Marshmallow and Florence Petunia liked each other too. They became friends. And pretty soon in my imagination I got other friends. All rabbits.
There was Simon Smelly-Sandals. I called him this because he wore sandals and white socks.
Hey ... this is my imagination, folks! You can imagine your own friends and name them what you like!
There was Gloria Gargoyle. She looked at you with a stony face that would turn milk into yoghurt. I had a literary imagination at an early age, it seems.
And Roger Rawbottom, who just sat there not moving but reading dictionaries. He told me once that the author keeps changing the subject every few words. So I gave him a telephone directory to read. He complained that there were too many authors but no story or plot.
Also a small Angora rabbit called Nosy Nostrils. He just sat there twitching his nose and he could smell round corners.
Before you knew it, there were many other rabbits of every shape and size and colour and breed following me everywhere.
Before you say anything, remember that at the time I knew nothing about genetics and breeding and family traits. As far as my imagination was concerned there were many rabbits everywhere breeding like rabbits and running all over the place. So much so that my mother stopped serving platefuls of vegetables which I could not eat anyway. She just served two portions and told me that the other rabbits will have to fend for themselves.
My head and my imagination were over-run by rabbits. There was Keen-Eyed Ken, Floppy-Eared Flora, Belching Bernard who suffered from acid reflux due to his penchant for pickled cucumbers, One Eye-Brow Wendy, Hermione Hairy Lip, Furry Armpits Anna, Liposuction Leonard, Gerbil Gary who used to go round and round a square wheel instead of a round one, rabbits named after the seven dwarfs, and rabbits named after Father Christmas' reindeer, as well as a hypochondriac rabbit who always said, "What's up Doc?"
I used to invent stories about all these rabbits in my head, how Toilet Tony escaped from the bathroom, why Greedy Gary ate dad's trousers, or why Freezing Fred hid behind the fridge, and I told my parents all about them; so much so that the rabbits in my imagination took over the house as well as my parents' sanity.
Mom could not vacuum clean in case she sucked up a rabbit into the cleaner, nor could she cook in case a rabbit fell into the pot. Dad wished this would happen for real; and Mom told him not say it out loud so as not to upset me.
My father could not sit anywhere without checking first in case he sat on an imaginary rabbit. And before you know it I had my parents at my beck and call in case any of my non-existent rabbits came to any harm.
Eventually , my parents got me a real tortoise called Speedy Gonzales for me to look after and care for.
Pretty soon, all the rabbits went away. They were no longer there. Not in my imagination, not in the house, or anywhere else.
I don't think rabbits like tortoises.