Excerpt from Leopard in My Lap
My father, an archaeologist, died when I was a baby, and I was brought up by my English grandmother, a matriarch of the old school, who ruled with a rod of iron. Decisive of speech and inﬂexible of will, she said no more easily than she said yes; but I learned to respect her stern principles.
I was often in trouble. My love of animals was so intense that I used to lure our neighbors' pets into our garden and there hold a sort of zoological court. The proceedings were not always happy. Cats, I discovered, were not compatible With birds, so I had to have cat days and bird days. Sometimes I had insect days - much to the discomfort of my mother who disliked insects as well as spiders and snakes; and snakes were what I wanted more than anything - except lions!
I devoured animal books; one of them definitely gave me an African fixation. Night after night I would lie awake with the Dark Continent stretched out like a marvelous living rug whose foliage and creatures were alive. My young imagination soared. Lions dominated these African scenes and were the lords of my dreams.
Forbidden to acquire unusual pets, such as snakes and lions.
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