My white lie over Madam’s camel is working a treat...

IT S reasonable to assume that for most of us, one camel looks much like another, fortunately. For it has meant that myself and farmer friend Ali have been able to get away with a deception aimed at sparing Madam what would be a real and understandable s

IT'S reasonable to assume that for most of us, one camel looks much like another, fortunately.

For it has meant that myself and farmer friend Ali have been able to get away with a deception aimed at sparing Madam what would be a real and understandable sorrow.

In addition to a dozen or so milk cattle, a productive bull, and flocks of goats and sheep, Ali supplements his income with a trio of camels.

In the holiday season he leads the string back and forth along the lengthy beach giving rides. Personally, I'd rather walk any day.


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But there's no gainsaying the wide-eyed, if a tad apprehensive, glee with which youngsters cling on when they are aloft the stately, swaying beasts. And grown-ups' feigned aplomb fools nobody, either.

Last summer, Ali added to the stable a four-month-old camel, which captivated one and all as it tagged along behind its seniors.

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It's endearingly affectionate nature we learned from Ali, was the result of it being hand-reared by his family after the mother camel died giving birth.

An entire beach full of people to nuzzle and be petted by was heaven to the little animal. It particularly liked Madam.

When it tired at the camel corps patrolling, Ali had no qualms over leaving it in her care, sprawled on the sand beside her, requiring no more than the occasional neck scratch or gentle blow up its nostrils.

Madam took to having a spare bottle of Fanta for it to swig down in a couple or three mighty swallows.

If she went for a dip, baby camel stood fretting at the sea's edge, greeting her return with such intense rubbing of its head against her, it was as if it was checking to see it was really her.

Then the creature would resume laying next to her, grumbling and groaning away to itself as if to say "don't you ever do that to me again".

There was great concern when one late-season day it turned its usually eager snout away from proffered food and drink. Going home later, Ali had to lend a helping hand. "Malady" he said, suggesting the young camel had eaten something on the beach that disagreed with it.

Next day he reported the vet had given the ailing camel injections.

Daily bulletins indicated the corner had been turned. But then I found Ali waiting for me on my early morning constitutional.

"Camel morte", he said sadly. We adjourned to a caf� where he revealed it died in the night.

Would I tell Madam the bad news? OK, I sighed. Then I thought of her seeing Ali's adult camels passing by several times a day without her little friend in tow.

I'm not sure if Ali understood my explanation of what a white lie is. He caught on all right for the need of one, albeit to a mature lady.

We would say the absence of baby camel was because the vet had sent it to recuperate in the country.

We'd also have occasional progress reports. If such deceit breeched his faith, Ali never said. Nor whether he felt Madam old enough to accept the facts of life and death, however distressing.

It was he, though, who in early January collared me and, all beaming smiles, hustled us to his cattle shed to see an obviously thriving baby camel, with a protective mum.

It was Ali, too, who put a finger to lips as, pointing to the newcomer, he warned "Madame, non."

When the season began in July, Madam's yell shook the whole beach as she clapped eyes on Ali's camels making their first appearance of the summer, with her old, recovered mate trotting alongside .

The fears Ali and I nursed that the deception wouldn't work proved groundless.

"Hasn't he grown? Look how he's losing his woolly coat and going all smooth like the big ones," enthused Madam.

Luckily, he liked Fanta, too. Ali and me exchanged relieved, somewhat shame-faced looks.

"Chukran, mon ami," I muttered in confused Arabic and French.

"Not at all," Ali murmured back, with the one bit of English common to all of his countrymen.

God forgive the pair of us. Good job Madam's no Trev's World fan!

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