“Meer kat as hond”

“Meer kat as hond”

A tiny bundle of fur punctuated with two bright-black beads and an impossibly tiny nose was presented to my gangly five-year-old self one frightfully cold day by my father accompanied by strict instructions relating to the care and responsibilities of looking after a little creature of the veld. Dutifully I carried the precious bundle to my room where my new companion was unwrapped as carefully as an expensive gift on Christmas morning “ Hallo friend” I whispered , in awe that this miniscule creature could actually be alive! (the awe evaporated about 3 seconds later when little needle-sharp teeth embedded themselves in my gently caressing fingers!!)  So a blood bond was forged that was to last the greater part of my childhood. “Meerkat” (I wasn’t very imaginative with names) became my constant companion, sharing adventures, sleeping quarters, food and fleas in equal measures.

Meerkat played an important role in my early art tuition, being model and sometimes canvas simultaneously although he hated being covered in paint! Revenge as  art critic came naturally to him though, as the urine stains on my drawings testified. (We made our own watercolours!) From him I learnt that courage had nothing to do with size – the farm dogs soon realised that meerkat was ‘THE CHOSEN ONE”  that could do no wrong . He took advantage of this favouritism with unerring instinct, elevating himself in status to just below me (probably above, if I have to be honest! Bruno the great dane and Kate the boxer were frequently the recipients of well-planned attacks that always culminated in the safety of my shoulders or hat if I was wearing one, accompanied by the peculiar “nnjrrrr  nnjrrr” cry of victory of “MK” as he became known!

The paintings on this and the following pages are in tribute to my little friend – I have never lost my fascination with these delightful creatures and my only regret is that Meerkat was never a member of a proper clan.

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