The Company’s Garden

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Today we spontaneously, as usual, ended up at the Company’s Gardens. This is one of my favourite places in Cape Town and we have visited a few times. First of all, I love driving through that part of Cape Town to get there – the buildings flaunt their history and I am always left wondering about Cape Town’s beginnings.

The gardens are one of the most accessible places for Damian and I – besides trying to find parking! There were a few parking spaces open, but I am ashamed to say that I still cannot parallel park. I did attempt it three times however – I will claim points for trying! I managed to find an easier parking even closer though. The gardens are easily manoeuvrable with a wheelchair, the paths are paved and there aren’t any stairs or bumpy sections. There are plenty of park benches and lovely spaces to picnic on a good day. It is clean, neat and very safe.

Once we started in, we were confronted by a man selling peanuts, which I bought. Within 30 seconds of opening the bag I found myself at the heart of a frenzy of feathers, beaks and claws. I had a whole flock of pigeons in my lap, on my arms, perched on the cellphone I was trying to take photos with, on my head – all scrabbling for the peanuts. Damian was squealing in a blend of terror and delight. One woman walking passed stared in shock and asked if I had something on me… “Peanuts!” I giggled through flapping wings and snatching beaks. Two pigeons flew onto Damian’s legs looking if he had anything. At first he was horrified, but as I couldn’t free myself to ‘rescue’ him, he soon relaxed and enjoyed having them there. They weren’t harassing him the way the others were me.

Then in a flash, the whole flock took off and flew out of the park. We went to the restaurant for something to drink – Appletiser for Damian and Horlicks for me. I bought another bag of peanuts and we continued exploring.

We came across a few squirrels darting up and down the trees, into the bushes and across the paths. They are delightful, and after today I have developed a deep love and appreciation for these little furry beings. Despite being ever wary, they are still brave enough to eat peanuts out of your hand. I crouched down and held my hand full of peanuts out. The squirrels would dart over, reach up with their tiny little front paws holding my hand and take a few peanuts out of my hand. They would move a little way away, eat the nuts and then rush back for more.

As we walked the squirrels were everywhere, scratching in the bushes, lazing in the trees, dashing out to any passers by holding out some peanuts. They really are busy little creatures and fascinating to watch.

I witnessed the most peculiar thing and wish I had been able to film it entirely. As we were walking down a more secluded path I stopped to take a photo of a squirrel cuddled up asleep on a branch. Behind us I heard another squirrel – not quite squeaking, but making an odd sound, as if he were complaining. I turned around and it was halfway down the tree, watching me and making these peculiar sounds. I moved closer to take a photo and it didn’t run away but carried on moaning at me. The top of its head seemed to be missing a bit of fur and was a little red. I wondered if it was hurt. To tell the truth, my overactive imagination had me a little nervous that it was rabid and I had visions of it springing on me and biting me. The other thought that made me giggle was that it was an Emperor’s New Groove’s Krock meets Ice Age’s Scrat moment. Did I say that out loud? Moving on…

The next thing it ran up the tree, there was rustling, more squeaking which sounded like it had company up there and then leaves rained down out of the tree and two of them darted down the tree and into the bush. I wondered if perhaps it was a nest up there and that this first squirrel had been trying to distract me away from babies up there. The two of them kept darting about. When I moved away to carry on taking photos of the sleeping squirrel in the other tree, these two squirrels ran back up the tree, squeaking again, another rain of leaves and then chased each other about. One squirrel sat on another tree, while this scruffy-headed one sat halfway up the original tree – the two of them were both shaking their tails vigorously. My next thought was that this was some sort of territorial fight. I still don’t know, but it was interesting to watch.

Damian was absolutely delighted by the pigeons and the squirrels. We also saw some Egyptian geese with their goslings. This time, we didn’t pay too much attention to the plants and trees as we were very amused by the creatures living in them. There were a lot of people about, yet the gardens held their serene quality.  We both enjoyed a good afternoon of walking, fresh air and nature and will definitely be visiting again soon.


A whole new world

The Chaeli Campaign sponsored an iPad with communication software on it for Damian. This has opened up a whole new world for him.

I am incredibly proud of how determined he is to use the program and surprised at how quickly he is learning to sequence words correctly to form short sentences. For example, when trying to make a simple request, like asking for juice – he will struggle just to make the single word ‘juice’ understandable to others. He very rarely attempts a full sentence. Now, with the iPad he is learning to phrase “May I have” followed by whatever he wants, in this case “juice” and then “please” – allowing him to use a full sentence: ‘May I have juice please’. I believe besides being able to communicate, this will also go a long way towards assisting with his general education.

We are both still working to make the most of the software in a way that will be most convenient for Damian. So far we have set up the basics: being able to say his name, how old he is, where he goes to school etc. All of the typical questions strangers ask him, and I answer – up until now. We have also set up a movie page so that he can tell his friends what movies he watched over the weekend, as well as a page with the typical foods and drinks he would usually like to ask for.

We are so grateful to the Chaeli Campaign for making this possible for Damian and opening doors that have previously been closed to him. I am optimistic and excited about what lies ahead for Damian.

(The following is a link to something I wrote on my personal blog giving a bit of persepective into the challenges Damian faces as a teenage boy completely dependent on others)