Tania Unsworth, Children's Writer

an embarrassing moment

01 Oct 2019

You’re supposed to keep your eyes open when you’re on safari in a tiger reserve. But if you’re also gathering material for a book and every detail – however small or random – might potentially be useful, the act of looking intensifies to a point where you start to feel slightly demented.

I spent a week in the back of a jeep hardly daring to blink.

On the first day, I looked at things. On the second and third, I began to actually see them. By the fourth, I was seeing things that weren’t there. On the fifth, my eye was so attuned that I managed to catch sight of a tiger resting in a bamboo thicket a whole half-second before our guide did.

On the last day – perhaps because it was the last – I stopped scouring the landscape for extraordinary sights. Instead, everything seemed extraordinary. The way a group of trees grew together, shadows across the path, the feathery tips of grasses, a fallen log.

Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!  I kept thinking.

The reflection in a pool, the slope of a hill, patterns in the dust…

“LOOK AT THAT!”

I hadn’t meant the words to come out so suddenly and so excitedly, as if I’d just spotted Bigfoot’s Indian cousin lurking in the undergrowth. I hadn’t meant them to come out at all. But it was too late. Our guide braked sharply and gazed in the direction of my pointing finger. There was a short, uncomfortable silence.

“It’s a rock,” he said at last.

Everyone in the jeep stared at me.

“I know it’s a rock,” I muttered. “But it’s so big and…so white.”

Someone cleared their throat, and there was another, even more uncomfortable silence. Then our guide started up the engine again, grinning to himself. I knew what he must be thinking, and he was right.

I’d finally lost my mind.

 

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