Sunday, 2 February 2014


‘There’s a caracal in my garden.’ I announce to my son over the phone.

‘Probably a large domestic cat.’

‘No. It was caracal.’

‘Maybe you need to update the prescription for your glasses. By the way what time of the day was it?’

‘It was night. Caracals are night hunters.’

‘A domestic cat out on the prowl,’ he says almost too quickly.

‘It was caracal. It had tufts on its ears.’

‘Exactly what time of night was it?’

‘I’ve seen it twice. At different times.’

‘Be more specific.’

‘What do you mean?’

There’s a short silence. ‘Was it before or after you’d had a glass of wine?’

‘After. It was late. Caracals hunt late at night when everyone else is asleep.’

‘So you saw it after you’d been sleeping?’


‘It could have been a dream. You know those waking sort of dreams where you look out the window and imagine a cat is huge like a caracal.’

‘It wasn’t a cat. It was caracal.’

Another silence. ‘Maybe you were working too late. After all you're a writer.'

'What's that supposed to mean?'

'All writers have vivid imaginations. ’

‘It was a caracal. I was in the car.’

'What were you doing driving around late at night after you'd had a glass of wine?'

I refuse to reply. Do I hear him sighing? Or is it the sibilance of the line? Do overseas calls still go under the sea?

‘Mum since when do you know what a caracal looks like?’

‘I Googled it.’

‘You don’t know how to use Google.’

‘I do. It’s a caracal. I saw the picture.’

‘A picture on Google has nothing to do with what you probably saw. Or imagined you saw.’

‘I’ve got proof.’

‘Did you take a photograph?

‘Not of the caracal.’

‘Why not?’

‘It was too beautiful. I was staring at it.”

‘And what was it doing?’

‘Staring back at me.’

‘So what’s the proof then?’

‘I took a photograph of some poo I found on the pathway the next day.’

‘Did anyone see you?’


‘When you were taking a photograph of poo?’

None of you might believe me either, but it was the most beautiful creature and stared straight back at me both times I saw it, unperturbed to have been caught in the headlights of my car. Now I’m prowling the neighbourhood at night with my camera to see if I can get a photograph.

But in case anyone is alarmed about an influx of caracals roaming the UK, I’m not in London at the moment but living on a dune next to the sea in the middle of a patch of indigenous ‘fynbos’ on the southern tip of Africa.
Dianne Hofmeyr's attempt at dialogue both in fictional work and in conversation with her sons can be equally confusing. Her latest picture book, Zeraffa Giraffa, illustrated by Jane Ray and published by Frances Lincoln, will be coming out soon.


catdownunder said...


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

catdownunder my caracal sends you a throaty growl from SA.

Stroppy Author said...


michelle lovric said...

I would be absolutely delighted to hear of an influx of caracals in the UK. I'd like an influx in my house! so beautiful. Lucky you, Dianne.

Sue Purkiss said...

Well, in Somerset we see black panther-like beasts practically on a daily basis. I know several people who nearly know people who've ACTUALLY seen one - so I don't see why you shouldn't have seen a caracal in South Africa!

Joan Lennon said...

Oh! Oh! What a beauty!

David Thorpe said...

I want one!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Isn't it the most beautiful creature! But beneath that kitty cat exterior lurks a feline that can bring down an antelope twice their size.

Penny Dolan said...

Sounds blissful! Enjoy your time and hope your caracal visits again while you're there.