My girls have got into the habit of rating the day out of 10. Most days get at least an 8 1/2, so I count that as pretty reassuring, but Friday was extra-special. Friday got, from Miss A, ‘’eleven out of 10.’’
Even before coming to Uganda, Brian and Miss A particularly (and me if I have the time to think about it, and little Roo by default) are all quite obsessed with living creatures. For Brian it is insects, for Little Roo it is anything fluffy. For me – I don’t mind really. For Miss A, the answer is without doubt, reptiles. Whilst the rest of us are watching the monkeys play in the trees, she’s focussing on the nearest lizard, or gecko (and if there isn’t one, then a mole rat, or millipede.) Top of her list, best above everything is the chameleon.
Just as it was getting to dusk on Friday, I took a phone call from Flaviah, the wonderful lady who helps get our clothes washed and keeps our house clean. She was in her village but was coming ‘’now, now.’’ She had something that ‘’Tata-Brian’’ would be really keen to see. (Brian was already in England, but she thought I could take some photos and send them.)
I rounded up the children, just as Flaviah arrived with a cardboard box, tied with banana leaves. She opened it gingerly and stepped back. Tucked into a corner was a rather cross Johnston’s three horned chameleon, (Triceros johnstonii.) It showed its dissatisfaction at being moved from a bush in a field, by opening its mouth wide and rasping at us in an airy, crispy way, then proceeding to scurry as fast as possible away from the gathered children and adults. Not fast enough. He was picked up and admired for the next hour, as he tried in vain to climb every one to reach the highest vantage point and regain his composure.
He was three horned, with jowls like a lazy publican, skin the texture of a pan scourer and revolving bulging eyes that really could look in two directions at once. His skin was greeny-grey with a flash of rust-coloured orange across his back. He went darker, with time ( I suspect this reflected his mood.) Unlike the other chameleons we have found – generally small and dainty, and delicate of foot, – this one clambered with feet that pinched like pegs, and with an energy that was admirable, if misguided.
Chameleon-fascination is quite infectious. Soon there were at least 12 gathered around this remarkable creature, taking photos, trying to touch it. Wondering at just what an amazing invention nature could come up with.
We asked Flaviah if she might take it home with her. After all these creatures are rare, and would be happier in the environment they had chosen, but she had used all her courage to bring him here. People here are in general uncomfortable about chameleons. There seem to be as many reasons as there are individuals to have them, but the general feeling is that they bring misfortune.
So our Mr Johnston was taken to the nearest patch of forested land by the children – carrying him as if he were the most precious treasure and placing him carefully onto a high branch. He settled himself and his black cloud-of-thunder skin returned to its green-and-rust pattern as he made his way close to the top of his new home.
Miss A was in raptures. Surely the best day EVER.
Here is the whatsapp message I got from Brian on sending him the pictures: –
‘’Oh my goodness! Where did she find it? Where is it? When can I see it?’
‘’Are those the only photos you got?’’
Flaviah was right!