An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Ghost and the Darkness


Zany funsters that we are, Mrs Blog and I decided to see in the New Year by watching a movie - a DVD on our trusy Toshiba laptop (Memo to Toshiba marketing dept: Mr and Mrs Blog would make excellent application story in exchange for one free new computer).

It may not surprise you that some of our favourite movies are set in Africa. Or, you might just think we're a teeny bit sad for coming all the way to South Africa and spending a starlit balmy night in the bushveld in front of a fire watching a movie abut lions.

But there we were, Legion of Fans (LOF), out on the veldt plugging in cables to watch one of our all time favorite flicks - The Ghost and Darkness, starring Messrs Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, and an assortment of multi-hued sidekicks from central casting.

I don't know what it is about this movie we like so much or, indeed, why we even like it all. Val, "Iceman " Kilmer gives a typically barely-defrosted performance, delivered in an appalling Irish accent, as Colonel John Patterson, who is sent to Tsavo in East Africa to build a bridge for the iron snake (aka railway) the British were using to import Christianity and export ivory.

Michael Douglas looks like a Jack Russell in need of a hair cut and a good wash as the wild-eyed professional hunter, Remington, who is brought to Tsavo to kill some man eating lions which Colonel Patterson, despite his promise to his underlings, has been unable to sort out.

Why would a couple who spend five months in a tent in the African bush want to watch a movie about a couple of lions that killed and ate 100 people? Weird, yes?

Without wishing to spoil the movie for you, in case you haven't seen it, it's no great secret that the lions eventually get turned into rugs. Mrs Blog loves lions and is an anti-hunting bunny hugger, so why would she want to watch a movie about kitty cats getting stuffed?

But like it, we do. Big time. We usually watch it just before leaving for Africa. Like Rugby League players banging their heads against the dressing room wall to psyche/toughen themselves up for the big game, perhaps we watch the The G and the D to acclimatise?

Battlefield Innoculation, they called it when I was a 19-year-old infantryman - making you crawl around under a fixed-firing machine gun while explosives went off around you was supposed to make you not so scared when you encountered the real thing on the battlefield. (I don't think it worked in that case, though, as I transferred to the Corps of Transport soon afterwards where we spent our weekend bivouacs drinking, perhaps in training for the day when we would become old men sitting in RSL clubs playing poker machines).

Whatever.

I have a sneaking suspicion, despite her protests to the contrary, that Mrs B has a bit of a thing for the old Iceman, Val Kilmer. As well as the Ghost and Darkness we own Top Gun on DVD. We've watched it... oh, I don't know... 20 or 30 times at least, and Mrs B is an avowed Tom Cruise-hater. She also thinks Kelly McGuinness looks like an old horse who needs to be put down. So what's the attraction Mrs B? Anthony "Goose" Edwards? Even with hair, I think not. We are also quite possibly the only people in the world to have purchased a copy of The Saint - the remake with Val Kilmer... Hmmmm.....

Anyway, with our braai (barbie) fire blazing away in the background we set up the laptop and begain watching.

Strange people that we are, one of us (it was New Year's, so I can't recall whether it was me or Mrs B), said "Wouldn't it be cool if there actually was a lion over there, just past the fence, and it walked by or called while we were watching." The fence here at Punda Maria Camp is about three-feet high and there are so many blackouts the single electric strand probably no longer works. You can tell, by now, that we'd started drinking early.

There was a rustle in the bushes.

The heart skipped a little beat, LOF, when the people in the tent next door arced up their hand-held spotlight and called us over - right at the moment the lions were about to eat Michael Douglas (errrr,, sorry if I've spoiled it for you - but with that haircut and hat, MD should not have been allowed on the set, let alone to live through 90 per cent of the movie).

I grabbed my wickedly-sharp Air Force Survival Knife (just like the one Rambo uses in the original eponymous movie), which we actually call "Patterson" after Colonel John Patterson the Lion Killer... and shielded Mrs Blog as we stalked silently through the darkness to see what beast was terrorising our camping neighbours (OK... I just made up all that stuff about the knife... except for us really calling it "Patterson" which, I admit, is a bit sad, but proves again how much we love this movie).

It was a cat.

A predator of the night.

A ruthless killer, found as often INSIDE the wire of the Kruger Park's rest camps, as outside.

Perhaps lured by the scent of fresh blood (from the neighbours' chops), or the squeals of the bite-szied children in the caravan behind us... it had stalked to within two metres of us, without us knowing it.

We held our ground and I looked it in the eye.

And shot it.

(With my Canon EOS 10D with 75-300mm image stabilised lens).

The small spotted genet.... of the darkness.

4 comments :

meggie said...

An odd, & very lucky, cat!

Nice suspense there.
Happy New Year to you & Mrs Blog!

ali g said...

)))))<^..^>(((((
Wildlife in the Park with Parks and Wildlife

Java said...

Ali G = ha ha, very clever comment.

Just wondering why you needed a image stabiliser camera. Oops, I think I would too. Surely you weren't shaking Mr 6-foot tall? ;-)

redcap said...

Heh, well played. Genets are rather cute, I think, even if they are partial to crunching up cute little things like squirrels.