First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Sundays are long days in our household. Before we were parents, we slept in or binge-watched really bad Netflix shows. We had breakfast in bed, mostly comprising a croissant and Cape Town’s best coffee from the little café on the corner. Or we whiled away our time catching up on The New Yorker before settling in front of the stove and meal prepping for the week. But when you have a kid, by the time Thursday comes knocking you have to start planning for Sunday. What will you do? Where will you go? How will you keep your toddler entertained and yourself un-drained for back-to-back hours before Monday hits and you have to get on with chasing deadlines again?
In summer, Sundays are easier. They’re saved for parks and picnics on the beach. Running around in the sun really tuckers out the son and post-lunch rendezvous in the great outdoors are often followed by long naps. When he sleeps, we sleep.
In winter, the rain is draining and on the odd day that you don’t need an umbrella you have to find something alternative to do outside because, regardless of the storm, the ground is still wet.
Last Sunday, with the wet ground and the sun out we went to Giraffe House, just a few kilometres outside Stellenbosch.
Giraffes are my wife’s favourite animal and while the Covid-19 restrictions denied us the joy of getting too close to them so that we could pet and feed them, the experience was still magnificent. There they stood, these tall, ginormous creatures that could lean down and snap your neck off with one swing of their extraordinarily long tongues but instead are graceful and docile, and always look like they’re smiling. It was the perfect activity. Joy all round for parents and child and no insufferable moments of frustration or boredom for all three of us in between.
Once we took advantage of all the photo-ops possible with the gentle giants, we strolled along to look at the other animals and before we knew it, we found ourselves resting on a picnic table overlooking a fairly barren plot of land scattered with our national animal, the famous pronking springbok. It was mating season. Who knew? And we ashamedly sat fascinated and watched for longer than we should have while a larger male tried to mate with a very tiny female over and over again.
Nothing is more fun than staring at animals and making up dialogues as they go along. If you have watched any of the nine million three hundred and twenty four point three David Attenborough documentaries you should be accustomed to the habit of trying to imagine them in conversation.
You will also have noticed that animals, mammals in particular, constantly make very bad choices. Like when mother zebras make baby zebras cross rivers when they’re lowing way too fast, losing them along the way and then spending the rest of their lives looking for them, or when male cheetah cubs are too lazy to leave their mom’s side even though their independence is long overdue.
A cautionary tale and a habit in which many Indian mothers participate with their human sons as well.
But what you may not have come across is the illusive giraffe mating technique. Which is something we wondered about while watching the buckaroo.
“They obviously do it like any other animal,” said my wife.
Sure, this is an easy assumption to make. But think about it. Giraffes are basically just very long spines. There is very little in the way of cushioning.
There was only one conclusion… “They have to be mating back to back,” I said. “In reverse. Touching butts.”
Naturally we looked it up. And sure enough, they mate exactly like cows and rhinos and other such mammals.
Still, I can’t help thinking that God was having a laugh because surely this is a difficult way for giraffes to mate. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.