47. A leprechaun with eyes on the back of his head.

I had promised to do a post on the owls of the Lowveld. I’m not going to. I’m going to do a few. And today, I’m going to do a very short one indeed. I’ve been called away on an emergency. I have to go the bush for a night. There I will be forced to spend an afternoon driving around looking at elephants and rhinos while sipping an ice-cold beer before being forced to endure yet another African sunset, while the meat sizzles over the fire and I force down a glass of chilled white wine.

How much does this suck?

How much does this suck?

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Watching the grass grow

I’ve haven’t done a Lowveld post for a while. My attention has been held by other things. I’ve been distracted. But don’t worry. I’m coming back with a real humdinger. I hope you’re all ready for a bit of excitement. We’re going to watch grass grow. Yeeeeeehah!

Try to contain yourselves.

Try to contain yourselves.

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Learning to read

Lyle Krahn is an awesome wildlife photographer. He is not, however, a very sensible man. How do I know this? Well, the other day he set off into the frozen Canadian wilderness, on his own, on foot, to follow the trails of some animals because I told him it would be easy.

Lyle Krahn following some bad advice

Lyle Krahn off to follow some bad advice

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Ribbit.

I can’t remember if there was ever a single moment when I realised that my family was not quite the same as other peoples’. I suspect it was rather a series of moments, and one of these had to do with a visit to the botanical garden in Pretoria.

The garden is huge, set into the side of a low hill. There are small patches of forest, beds of flowers, pockets of wetland, and large, rolling lawns. On the day of our visit, the garden was filled with people. There were young couples, wrapped up in each other and blind to the rest of the world; there were the plant-lovers, meandering slowly around the network of paths, stopping to examine the rarities in the garden’s collection; there were the birdwatchers, weighed down by cameras and binoculars, peering up into the trees.

But mostly there were families. Some had come to enjoy a picnic, others just a day in the sun. Everyone seemed to have brought something along: cooler-boxes full of snacks and drinks, bats and balls, Frisbees, even a kite or two. Not us. We brought along an umbrella and a handful of clear plastic packets. Obviously. Continue reading

Serpents in the Garden of Eden

I am going to have to start this post off with an apology. If you followed this blog in the hope of watching the slow but inevitable collapse of civilization at the hands of my family, you will have to wait until the next post. I’m trying to write a book. As part of my research, I am plagiarising an entire ecosystem (yes, I’m afraid it’s sci-fi. It’s going to be about a planet of mutes, because I can’t write dialogue). The ecosystem I am stealing is that of the Lowveld. For those of you who are not from South Africa, that’s where we keep all the proper animals.

Anyone from South Africa who has spent any time outdoors while growing up will have some experience of snakes. For those of you not from here, whose idea of Africa comes from wildlife documentaries with names like “Africa’s Twelve Most Murderous Death-Beasts”, it’s not like that at all. Put anything you have learned about Africa from the Discovery Channel out of your mind (after calling the producers and telling them to stop being such dicks.) Continue reading

Keeping an eye open for our owls

The book has been on the back-burner for a couple of days. We’ve been a little busy, but most of all the weather has just been miserable. The temperature has been below zero (centigrade), and the water has frozen in the pipes outside. This may not sound all that impressive to those of you from Northern climes, but bear in mind that we cheerfully build our houses as if we lived in Borneo. We tell ourselves that winter doesn’t last very long, dress warmly and sit huddled around heaters and fires. Our own house has inch wide gaps under the doors, and only about half the windows close properly. It’s very hard to type when you can’t move your fingers. Continue reading