The urban owl

4 02 2022
A bedraggled urban owl

“Did you see the owl?” the office lady asked.

“Owl?” I repeated, envisaging someone dressed as an owl. It was after all three o’clock in the afternoon and not dark not withstanding the downpour in which I’d been caught. I must have looked rather blank because she flapped her arms in a bird imitation and said, clearly enjoying my confusion;

“Yes, an owl. Whoo, whoo”.

I hadn’t see it but given the intensity of the downpour I wasn’t going to step back outside to have a look. Apparently it was a captive-reared owl that had for some reason, that I was not told, taken up residence in the shopping centre not far from where we live. Initially it had tried to cadge food off passing pedestrians and its former keeper had, on occasion, called past to feed it. Now it was independent but still habituated to humans.

I had just been to the bank to see if I could exchange a rather grubby stack of US$5 notes for large denominations and to my surprise they hadn’t balked at the state of the notes and changed the lot. For a price of course. It would be the next day before the deduction of 3% for changing the notes appeared on my statement and of course it was not just a simple exchange as one would expect in a First World country. Oh no.

I had to deposit the cash into my company’s foreign currency account (FCA) whereupon the government took 20% and paid back the equivalent at the official rate to my company’s local currency account. This was done at the official Reserve Bank rate of 105 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar. The “street rate”, i.e. what you’d pay anywhere else to buy US dollars, is double that. So yes, just for changing money I’d devalued it by 13%.

However, whilst the teller was counting the money, I spotted a bundle of new USD$1 notes in his drawer. Now small US notes are indeed rare again, just as they were in the halcyon days back in 2009 when we started flirting with the greenbacks and “dollarized” stopping the multi-billion percent inflation in its tracks and ditching the Zimbabwe dollar. At the time we thought it was a permanent solution. Sadly it was not to be. Yes, small denomination dollar notes are sought after again and worth paying for. My business does not do a lot of transactions in cash but having change helps keep the walk-in customers coming and over the month it adds up. So I got the entire bundle.

As I stepped out of the bank it started to rain but it didn’t look like it would amount to much so I started up the slope out of the mall. It soon became intense and I sought shelter under an umbrella by an estate agent. It wasn’t long before I was invited in and offered a cup of tea. The staff were friendly and promised that the tea came without an obligation to buy a house.

After half-an-hour of scanning house prices the rain eased and it was time to go. I stepped out of the office, looked up under the eaves and there was the owl. Bedraggled.





The Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary

30 12 2018

No animals are turned away from the Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary. Yesterday I rescued a battered malachite kingfisher from the garden. It was in its prime and beautiful but sadly was missing crucial primary wing feathers from a collision with our electric fence which is difficult to see (I didn’t photograph it – it went straight into a cardboard box to reduce the stress that so often proves fatal to small birds). Fortuitously we were already booked to go to the Twala Trust 40 km to the east of Harare so as it was still alive this morning we took it along. Colin the senior caretaker there greeted us and we passed the box over to him and he said they would do their best.

All manner of animals find refuge there; dogs, donkeys, horses, cats, birds and a variety of other animals. They do try and return animals to the wild where possible but some are hand reared and would not survive, others are permanently disabled and others have become too habituated to humans. It was an entertaining and fun visit and after a picnic we visited the kingfisher who’d already managed to eat (an excellent sing according to Colin) and made our way back to town.

This is a worthy charity for your support. You do need to book your visits. It’s a great educational opportunity for children with guided tours and there’s a swimming pool and reservoir to paddle around on. Take a picnic and enjoy the day.