The temperature dropped like a brick that night. The morning was cool – well, cool by the standards of the Valley in late October. Not quite the open-oven-door we had yesterday, anyway. And as we drove across the still-dry lagoons, it was clear that the shift in the weather had prompted a certain skittishness among the impala.
Three males with lovely lyrate horns chased each other in mad loops, for no reason whatsoever: no need for either pursuit or flight and no prizes on offer for either. Others set off in pointless gallops, successful escapes from no one and nothing. There was a rumbling and a grunting drifting towards us from the lagoon: the sound of impalas under the grips of strong emotion.
They performed demented skywards leaps that served no Darwinian function – not unless joy can be explained in Darwinian terms, in the shared delight in the fact that the times they were a-changin’. And me, I understood every nuance of what they were saying to each other, and it was this. No more Latin! No more French! No more sitting on the old school bench!
School wasn’t quite out, not yet, but soon, soon – the drop in temperature and the faint bloom of humidity on your skin meant that the end of term, the end of the long, hard, dry season was at hand. Soon it would be holidays, soon there would be water to drink everywhere, soon the whole world would be green and delicious, soon there would be places to hide, and soon the predators would have all the odds stacked against them once again.
It was like a sunny evening on the day the clocks go forward in Britain and spring is still only a promise — but what a promise. For most of the time the bush is a pretty serious place but this cool morning had given the world a sudden license. For once, impalas could be silly. They took the opportunity with all four hooves.