Charles Mclellan takes a break from reviewing duties and pops along to see Corel, who are launching their fancy new CorelDraw Graphics Suite X3. New product, new mascot — enter Carlos the Chameleon, who can be seen bursting through the logo wearing a dashing DayGlo set of stripes. What can possibly go wrong? Over to Charles in the newsroom:
"Where better to launch the product, think the ever-inventive PRs, but London Zoo, where the Reptile House will be able to supply a real live chameleon for the amusement of those other reptiles – the gentlemen of the IT press?
"We duly assemble in the Mappin Pavilion, next to the once-wondrous but now distinctly tatty Mappin Terraces whose apparent sole occupant tonight is a depressed-looking brown bear. It's the middle of winter in North London, where the only native animals are the hoodie and the kebab beast, so no wonder he's pining for the sequoias.
"But Corel knows how to prevent its charges from falling under such a dismal spell. Out comes the suitably green 'Chameleon cocktail' and, once we've been suitably primed not to care too much, we endure a briefing from the product manager. There is a curious and awkward pause in proceedings, a bit like when your parents are trying to gather up the courage to tell you that your father's lost the house in a drunken gambling incident and your sister's run away to the circus. With Mrs Daique, her maths teacher.
"Finally, the nice PR lady approaches the microphone looking slightly uncomfortable: 'We were going to have an appearance from a Chameleon called Christopher' — he's a British Chameleon, you understand — 'but I got a call from the Zoo this morning. Unfortunately Christopher died last night'.
"I'm sorry to report that the news of Christopher/Carlos's demise — presumably from stage fright -– was greeted with some mirth from the journalist pack. 'Are you sure he's not just a bit off-colour?' yells one unfeeling hack. Then we got to wondering: has London Zoo's stock fallen so far that it only has one (elderly and frail) Chameleon to its name? How things have tumbled since the glory days of Withnail and I, where entire packs of wolves looked on hungrily as Richard Grant misquoted Shakespeare by the zoo fence.
"As we filed out past the mixture of Victorian enclosures and Sixties concrete bunkers (many of them crumbling and seemingly devoid of tenants), you could almost hear the word going round on the animal grapevine: 'If a software company comes looking for a mascot, DON'T VOLUNTEER'. Perhaps that's why the bear was looking so down – maybe Microsoft have booked him for the Office 12 launch…"