On Christmas eve, a cold wind blew in from the distant escarpment and the curmudgeonly Gregory arrived late into camp. As he lay in his bed, disquieted by feverish dreams he was visited by a small pointy-eared cat-like creature. It leapt onto his bed looked him in the eye and said ‘Gregory, come with me.’ It led him into the starlight and introduced him to three ghosts: Past, Present and Future ….. you get the gist …..
The ghost of Christmas past took him on a bumpy journey over corrugated cotton soil to a tiny impoverished camp twenty years ago. Gregory shivered with shame and pitied the lack of solar, shuddered at the long drop toilets, quailed at the paraffin lamps and blanched at the food where just a few loaves and tilapia were trying to feed the five % occupancy. He squirmed as he looked at the meagre seven staff and the antiquated land-cruisers. He felt a distinct unhappiness but also a distant pride.
The ghost of Christmas presents took him to four sizzling staff quarters and four groaning guest dinner tables where he saw unbridled joy across many ages, tribes and nationalities. A few animals were even wandering up to see what the fuss was about. Gregory had been cordially invited to all of these celebrations, but had of course rebuffed them.
The ghost of Christmas future then frankly scared the s*** out of poor old Gregory, showing him a Hieronymus Bosch-like vision of poor cheetah families coralled by fifty vehicles, no off road driving permitted, absurd opening and closing times, cohorts of noisy minivans and huge hermetically sealed lodges ringed with razor wire.
Gregory was chastened by these apparitions yet woke on Christmas morning full of excitement after his harrowing epiphany. Immediately he ensured his spotted and tawny patrons were only ever visited by no more than five vehicles, only to find out that this had already been done. Then he set about making sure people could drive anywhere they liked in the Conservancies, only to find out that this had been sorted years ago. New roads, bridges, fords and airstrips would surely need attention, nope, not that either Gregory, the daily levies from each disciple in the promised land had already taken care of that. Well then, on top of these pecunious donations surely a trust could be set up for other more charitable projects …. you know the rest. He then realised, to his not inconsiderable chagrin, that the biggest seasonal turkey was not the one he had bought each camp, but him.
A note from Paul: ‘ Greg it is twenty years this July, who’d have thought, use the next 20 to get your own back!’