The love affair started when she was in her late teens. So where did this young girl fall in love? Just as the sun went down in South Africa.....twilight is very short....she fell in love with giraffes. I don’t talk of myself, but my eldest daughter. We were living in Hong Kong at the time and decided to make the most of our annual leave to meander back to UK via the Seychelles and South Africa. My husband’s uncle had lived in Durban most of his life and with a local going on safari with us, we had privileges maybe not on offer to others. Thus, leaving our rondavel, we had this private safari in the early evening and my daughter had one of her life’s best moments. A mother giraffe with her youngster suddenly appeared from the bush, bent down and kissed my daughter. And so she fell in love.
More than forty years later, now a grandmother herself, she was given a 60th birthday gift by her own daughters of an overnight stay in Giraffe Cottage. We were eight in the party. No, we don’t need the magic carpet for this trip. We were not going to Africa, but to Kent.
My scarf does not seem appropriate, but my photograph album lies not, and I was wearing this lilac fine silk chiffon with butterflies for the first day of our two day visit. Today, I photographed it around my wooden carving of mother giraffe with baby, brought back by my father from Uganda as it was once called.
Our trip started at Howletts Wildlife Park; the weather turned nasty and I was glad to have my silk scarf as we sat in a shelter with our picnic watching the giant gorillas, which were part of a breeding programme to return them to the wild. Howletts was the country mansion owned by John Aspinall and he had his own private zoo, where controversially five keepers were killed in twenty years, three by tigers and two by elephants. One four year old tiger escaped and had to be shot to safeguard the public. Our little party was a motley lot, a great grandmother, two grandparents, three other walking adults, a young child and another adult being pushed in a wheelchair having just had foot surgery. She had balloons tied to the wheelchair. Fired up with tales of missing Lord Lucan from 1974, a friend of John Aspinall, what happened to his body and an escaped tiger, it was not surprising that one of our party called security that a monkey had escaped and was on the loose. Not me, this time! Someone should have gone to Specsavers. An innocent domestic tabby stalking in the bushes!!
From the John Aspinall Foundation run Howletts we drove to Port Lymphe Reserve where we boarded an open sided ex Army vehicle to take us to Giraffe Cottage, not an easy operation with one wheelchair user and me with a dodgy back that particular day. Our safari guide gave us the treat of going ‘off-road’, but every agony filled bump was cancelled by seeing so many giraffes, camels, deer and zebra roaming freely, such a contrast to the fenced in animals at Howletts. Finally, we arrived at the cottage, to be greeted by our private butler who would cook us a magnificent banquet, served by our safari driver, now turned waitress. We all got dressed up.......I bought the giraffe dress specially for the occasion but have since passed it to the birthday girl.
After dinner, the ‘staff’ left, we were locked in with strict instructions not to venture out. They were back at the crack of dawn to cook and serve us with a full English breakfast and we were off again for another back crunching safari. Daughter got her final treat of hand feeding the giraffes, but no kiss this time.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!