Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison

Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison

Author:Peter Allison
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Lyons Press
Published: 2007-10-01T04:00:00+00:00

On our very last drive together, we were making our tortuous pace along a typical Okavango scene, with a wide-open plain dotted with palm clumps on one side and a ribbon of thick riverine forest on the other. It is a haven for life of all types, and I saw something that made me slam on the brakes, which at the speed we were going had very little effect.

“Why?” asked Jamie, a deeper question than I could answer.

“Humph,” said Basil.

I took it as an invitation to speak expansively. “So far you have seen a lot of Burchell’s starling, right? And a few long-tailed starlings?” They nodded. “And we got lucky and saw a male plum- colored starling in breeding plumage and a greater blue-eared, but as far as I remember you haven’t seen a single wattled starling, is that right?” There was a quick consultation of lists, but while I can’t remember what I have eaten for breakfast most mornings, I never forget what I have seen with people, so knew I was correct.

“Indeed,” said Jamie. And when Basil added his expected “humph,” I carried on. “Straight ahead, in that thick patch of forest, is a tree with yellow bark. It’s called a sycamore fig, which probably won’t interest you. But if you follow up its main trunk, you will see that it has a branch to the left, then one to the right, then another on the left, which forks up and down. On the lower fork there is a leopard, and if you look over its back you will see the starling.”

I heard them repeating my directions in low murmurs as they scanned with their binoculars. “Main trunk . . . branch left . . . branch right . . . branch left . . . oh my goodness, there really is a leopard!” said an unfamiliar voice. And I realized it was Rosemary.

“Yes dear, but you really must concentrate on the starling and make sure that the bugger was right with his identification,” Basil admonished, already checking in his book.

I was unoffended and watched happily as Jamie and Jill both surreptitiously lowered their glasses to look at the beautiful cat. Many people come to Africa again and again without seeing a leopard, so when the starling took off, I sat there a little while longer before taking them back to camp.

At the airstrip, we all watched the Cessna arrive to take them away. “Thank you so much,” said Jill. “It’s been really great. Thanks so much,” she repeated. As the plane drew to a halt and its propeller wound down, it was time for them to be awkward about tipping in the way that only the English can. Americans just shake your hand, slap you on the back, offer you a place to stay should you ever be in Idaho, and when you look down there is a bunch of green notes in your fist. The English, though, seem terribly embarrassed about the whole concept of money,


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