I have to get to the South African capital Johannesburg and then on to Tasmania and it seems to me that I will have to go in disguise. What is more, I don’t think I can use my sari disguise because I am sure I had witnesses at the seaport in Mahbourg who might remember me. So I have been considering my options.
I’m quite practised at disguise. Mrs Desai used to give me and my parents birthday parties. We tried to tell her that it was not necessary but, to be honest, we enjoyed them and always arranged something for her on her birthday (March 12th). Mrs Desai and I continued to make the effort in later years, but this year I didn’t celebrate at all.
Anyway, at the parties we sometimes dressed up in outlandish, home-made costumes. I can still recall my mother as the Statue of Liberty and there was one year when all four of us were punk rockers. I wish I had a photo, but as I have already said, Mrs Desai did not take pictures of us. I have pictures of Mrs Desai that I have found on her laptop, but none of my parents. I sometimes worry that I will forget what they looked like.
So, I have some experience of disguise and drawing on my experience I have considered three possibilities:
Disguises suitable for your average dodo wishing to escape attention:
1. The sunglasses
This is the most basic of all disguises and is useful for protecting the eyes in bright sunshine. On reflection, it may not be the most effective disguise, unless the desired effect is to make elderly ladies laugh merrily (as it has done on many occasions).
2. The Ostrich
Ostriches are magnificent, long-legged birds that live in Africa. They have long necks and beautiful black, white and grey feathers. Despite what the children in Mahbourg thought, this makes ostriches rather unlike the dodo (who is no less beautiful in his own way), but the challenge of disguising a dodo as an ostrich is easily met with the use of feathers from a mattress company such as Heavenly Rest (warehouse located on industrial estate close to sea port in Cape Town), with strong sticks (easily located in rubbish piles or in the countryside) as stilts, and with glue.
3. The turkey
The turkey has an advantage over an ostrich in that it is nearer in size to a dodo and a turkey disguise does not require stilts. However, it does require more feathers, some of which have to be arranged in a fan and attached to the dodo’s bottom. This can be challenging in the absence of a mirror but can be convincing.
I have decided on the ostrich look. I am holed up in an industrial estate near the port where I have found a supply of tinned peaches (rather pleasant though the sugary juice is potentially beak-rotting). It has taken me quite a while to create my disguise, what with the need to whittle away at the sticks with my beak and claws, but at last I have something roughly resembling ostrich legs and have fashioned a cheeky little ostrich face. I have practised walking on my new legs in the hope that I will not fall over too much.
I am pleased with the results and delighted that the extra feathers hide my camera and laptop. I sometimes fear for their safety.
Hark!. Someone is making his or her way through the estate. I wish that my real neck is as long as an ostrich’s so that I can look more easily (as it I am forced to peer out from the bottom of my ‘ostrich neck’ – see diagram 2.
What? How can Dr Candlewick have followed me here? I last saw him at the port in Mauritius. Is it possible that he has worked out which boat I had taken? Even so, I was careful to leave no tracks. Or was I? Ah. Oh dear. There are my real footprints for all to see, each one clearly defined by the sun cream I sat in while on the boat. O, you fool, Ferdinand, you fool. I must step out now. I hope I won’t wobble too much.