19 April 2014
Early on Saturday morning, I noticed that Aunty Lissi was slicing up some cucumbers and tearing up some lettuce leaves.
“Are you feeding the tortoises?” I asked, suddenly remembering the day last year when the twins and I met Herbie the Tortoise, and his/her friends, Bella and Berta. The twins had been fascinated by these strange rock-like creatures with their short stumpy legs. Herbie hadn’t been too pleased with the pair of them hopping up and down on her back, as I recall.
“Yes,” nodded Aunty Lissi. “Do you want to help me?”
“Oh yes, please,” I cried. “It was such fun last time.”
We followed Aunty Lissi out into the garden. All around the outside edge of the flower bed underneath the big old palm tree, there was now a barrier, with an opening of slightly lower rocks on the one side. Aunty Lissi tossed the lettuce and the cucumber slices into the enclosure.
“This is the new tortoise home,” explained Aunty Lissi. “As you can see, we have a few more tortoises this year. It seems that Herbie was definitely a girl and not a boy tortoise. So we have six little ones at the moment. See if you can find them, while I go and find the big ones.”
With a bit of help, and much close looking inside and underneath turned-over flower pots and piles of leaves, we finally had all six little tortoises together near one of the heaps of lettuce. By the time that Reggie had posed us all for a photo, though, one of them had stomped off and hidden itself in a flower pot.
And then I saw a familiar grumpy face peering at me over the edge of the barrier.
“Herbie! Hello Herbie! Do you remember me?” I cried happily, immediately recognising my friend from last year.
Herbie glared at me rather sternly. “Good morning, Flat Kathy,” she said stiffly. “I see you’re back in Windhoek. But I hope you didn’t bring the Terrible Twins again.”
“No-no,” I hastily reassured her. “This time it’s just me… and …”
“They were impossible,” Herbie interrupted me crossly. “Jumping all over me, and poking me with sticks, and staring at me while I was trying to eat my breakfast in peace.”
“Oh don’t be such an old fuddy-duddy,” said Aunty Lissi, unceremoniously lifting Herbie up and over the barrier, and plopping her down in front of a large heap of lettuce.
Herbie began to munch her way through the lettuce with much gusto.
In the meantime, Aunty Lissi had located several more tortoises – some of them I recognised from last year. There was Berta and Bella, for instance, and a new one called Blackie.
“Do you remember Troubles?” she asked. I nodded.
“Well, Troubles has lived up to his name,” she continued. “Troubles is the reason we now have all these baby tortoises. He and Herbie have been at it like randy teenagers – and that’s despite the considerable difference in their sizes!”
“Troubles had quite a serious accident last year – he fell asleep underneath a car, and got partly driven over… Luckily the vet was able to repair his shell, and he’s made a full recovery. Only one staple remains in his shell. Have a look.”
I inspected the staple, which was holding together his cracked shell. “Wow,” I gasped. “He must be tough to have survived that.”
Troubles grinned proudly at me, and gave me a cheeky wink, before marching over to a large heap of lush green lettuce leaves. Clearly, he fancies himself a bit of a playboy.
Now that we had located all the tortoises and made sure that they had enough food, we left them to enjoy their breakfast in peace.