I married him a few weeks ago so the bearded man isn’t much of a stranger to me. I didn’t think I’d be telling him the whole plot of Dickens’ Bleak House, in great detail, on our honeymoon though.
We were in the Okavango Delta, hoping to see birds and animals. A mere four hours after our arrival and after a tasty and relaxed dinner with the guides and fellow-campers, we were a bit more aware of where we were – and that wildlife was all around us. We had been warned about Amadeus the hippo: ‘if you see him, run like hell and try and find a step to go up because he can’t follow’. We heard stories about the South African tourist who was pulled under water into a crocodile’s larder, found an air pocket and managed to escape; and a Japanese woman eaten by a lion over the border in Namibia’s Etosha National Park. When he was taking a shower before bed I heard a shout of ‘Elephant!’. There was a large elephant wandering through the camp ten feet away.
I really don’t like the idea of being eaten by a crocodile or lion – and am happy to admit this fear! So I was afraid when, in the middle of the night, there was a sudden thud on the reed roof of our hut. Something had jumped out of a tree. Then, the gentle sound of footsteps, pad-pad-pad. We were wide awake, very wide awake, listening carefully. There was a slight rustle in the undergrowth as the animal jumped off into the roof onto the ground. Could we relax?
It was probably, we learnt in the morning, a genet, a small cat, no more than 2 feet long, but our imagination made it ferocious and huge and not far away. For a long time after it jumped off I managed to forget the wild animals and the fear while I concentrated on relating the intricate details of Dickens’ plot to my husband.