If I say the word “monkey” to you, a whole bunch of associations are sure to be triggered. First of all, you will picture a cheeky little scamp, a charming, miniature man-beast who lives to laugh and play, swinging through the trees playing practical jokes on his companions and eating bananas. If you’ve spent a bit of time in zoos, you might also picture a certain amount of self-abuse and poo flinging. And this is how you will picture his home;
I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist. If there really is a secret cabal running the affairs of the world, like the Bilderberg group, the Rosicrucians, or the Illuminati, they are so obviously incompetent that they deserve our sympathy, not our fear. I used to think the whole concept was just an idle fantasy. A fun but harmless thing for superannuated teenagers and lonely computer engineers to cling to, to while away the long, dark hours round midnight.
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