This is Alasdair, the head hypnotist at Broadleys Veterinary Hospital. He also happens to be the head surgeon, but it’s his shamanic skills that impress me the most. Like Gillian the Bird Nerd, who captures wild birds with her bare hands, he has this notion that he is not a wizard – but as you can see, he clearly is one.
The entranced Broccles in the crook of his arm is a rabbit of a few strong opinions. One must not pick him up. One must not touch his mouth or legs. One must not prod him with instruments or stabbity needles. As long as one follows these simple rules, he is a perfectly unfrenzied ball of non-fury.
For whatever reason (probably involving witchcraft), the vets and nurses of Broadleys can convince him to go along with all the sorts of things he normally disapproves of. Alasdair is the king of coercion, thanks to his hypnotic approach. He picks up Broccles, flips him onto his back and then sits there, stroking his forehead until that excitable rabbit nose stops twitching. At this point, Broccles will remain motionless while Alasdair presses his bad eye, feels his guts, sticks endoscopes into various orifices, shaves his leg or ear, inserts needles, and draws blood. Once he’s done, Alasdair flips him back onto his front and pets him. Broccles spreads out under Alasdair’s hand like he does at home when he feels relaxed and sleepy.
Broccles is one of those incident-prone pets who always seem to be in and out of the vet hospital. Recently one of his back teeth grew all misshapen and gave him a tongue abscess. Then his tearduct got blocked and his blind eye got infected. Then we feared a kidney infection. It now looks like he will need to have his blind eye surgically removed by one of the Broadleys wizards.
Here he is bandaged up after Alasdair extracted blood from his ear this week. As soon as he got home, he went back to investigating ways of reaching Bunty’s herbage. Bunty has had to place his fruit, flowers and vegetables on higher and higher levels over the course of the summer. Several of his plants are on the roof, thanks to Broccles. That rabbit is fond of his Sky Cabbage and Sky Strawberries, and he brooks no argument – except when he’s being hypnotised.
I once asked Alasdair what his secret is. He was amused that I thought he had a secret. (Like I said, he is oblivious to the fact that he’s a shaman.) He replied: “I think it’s just a case of taking your time and not rushing it.”
He lies the rabbit along his forearm, with its head tilted slightly downwards, then gently strokes its forehead. “It helps if your forearm is the same length as a rabbit,” he observed.
I noticed that he has a very calm and low-pitched way of speaking around rabbits too. Nothing sudden, nothing loud. He sounds like my yoga teacher when she’s getting us to drift into meditation.
He makes rabbit hynotism seem like something any muggle could do. But it’s not true. I’ve tried it. Broccles was immediately beside himself with indignation. There was no option of “taking my time” about it. He kicked his way out of my arms and stamped every square foot of the living room floor, before retreating under the TV table to sulk. It appears that only wizards can hypnotise rabbits.