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About A Week: Monkey Business

Peter Hinchliffe tells of encounters with our simian cousins.

Rhesus monkeys are our nearest blood relative. Not surprising then that they should react to BMW cars as do certain humans?

Interest. Envy. Anger. “Why can’t I have one?

The troop of Rhesus monkeys in Longleat Safari Park displayed mixed emotions.

We were driving through the monkey enclosure, following an ancient but immaculate red BMW. The creatures leapt on to its bonnet, forcing the driver to halt.

With dexterous fingers and thumbs they fiddled with the wiper blades. They did a springy sort of dance on the roof. Then they stood on the boot lid and, piece by piece, broke up the rear spoiler.

As the demolition job proceeded the body language of the driver and his family expressed a vivid mixture of fury and fear.

We chuckled, we chortled, we laughed long and loud.

Well I mean to say…It was a BMW.

Eventually the monkeys skipped away bearing their trophies, broken bits of spoiler.

We all drove on, the Hinchliffes trying desperately not to let the BMW family see we were still laughing.

Mind you Joyce and I have both had encounters with monkeys which would have made others laugh, but which didn’t seem too funny to us at the time.

Years ago, when we lived in Kenya, my delight on a Sunday morning was to sit on the balcony of our Nairobi home, sipping coffee while reading n English Sunday newspaper, flown in overnight from London.

Our garden sloped down to a stream, on the other side of which was Karura forest, which stretched for miles and miles. Some said there were leopards in the forest, though I never saw any.

Anyway, on a sunny Kenya December morning I was contentedly reading the sports page -- contentedly because Town were having a rare good season -- when the paper was snatched out of my hands.

“David!” I bellowed, thinking my infant son was playing games.

Only to look up to see a monkey racing towards the forest, triumphantly bearing my copy of the Sunday Times.

Any day now I am expecting to hear of the discovery of a small band of intelligent monkeys who are keen readers and enthusiastic followers of English football.

Then there was the day when Joyce was being shown round Nairobi national park, which covers more than 40 square miles and is open onto the Athi plains. Animals come and go as they please.

Her friend Margaret halted by the hippo pool and got out of the car.

Joyce was about to feed young David when a female monkey, carrying her own infant, spotted a banana on the back seat of the car and jumped in through an open window.

Joyce, with Dave in her arms, got out of the car as quickly as monkey and infant got into it!

Funny in hindsight. Scary then.

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