A Prestbury donkey goes globetrotting

2010-08-17 00:00

AFTER standing still on the same wall for donkey’s years, a ceramic donkey ­ornament has globe-trotted and had the travel adventure of a lifetime.

But the entire journey is shrouded in fascinating mystery.

The story began when John (81) and Maria (72) Bekker of Stott Road, Prestbury, realised that the donkey that has adorned their verandah wall for over 20 years, had vanished.

“We noticed that the donkey, which had been screwed to the wall had been stolen,” said a bemused Maria. “But we are not sure how long it had been gone for.”

Maria said she wrote in her diary on January 27 this year that they had repainted their verandah after they previously noticed that the donkey was missing. Its distinct shape left a patch on the wall that was noticeable. “It must have disappeared around December.”

She told how John left his tools out overnight, making the donkey work of removing the wall decoration a cinch. “At the time we were concerned that someone had been on our verandah, but I didn’t worry about it too much.”

The disappearance of the donkey took a back seat in the couple’s minds until yesterday morning, when Maria walked outside and found the donkey returned to them on a ledge on the verandah. Lying with it was a pile of captioned photographs showing the donkey posing at different exotic locations in Europe.

In one, it stands illuminated by shimmering lights reflected off the Brouwersgracht Canal in Amsterdam. In another the donkey stands at a train station in Berlin, and in yet another it’s shown on a snowy London street, with the caption reading “The first winter snow in London”.

If the pictures are to be believed, the donkey has also travelled to Ireland and is shown on a rainy Dublin street and outside the magnificent St Patrick’s Cathedral. In another picture it stands next to the Berlin Wall.

The Bekkers are delighted by the whole story and now want to meet the person who took their donkey travelling, if indeed that is what happened.

“It is such a wonderful thing to do. Imagine — this donkey has travelled the whole of Europe. I called my daughter in Holland immediately and told her. She thought it was intriguing and said we should come to the newspaper,” said Maria.

“At first I was not convinced that the returned donkey was actually our donkey, but when we put it back up on the wall, we found the holes for the screws matched up perfectly. I noticed its ear had been re-joined, but it may have been like that before.”

Maria is not alone in being completely mystified as to who may have taken the donkey.

But whatever the truth of the matter, the donkey’s adventures now seem to be over. The ass has been nailed … firmly to the wall.

Do you have any idea who took the donkey on its European adventure? Call 033 355 1127 and speak to Stephanie or e-mail newsed@witness.co.za

Travel bug: Donkey has lots of gnomes for company

THE Bekkers’ travelling donkey forms part of a tradition spanning at least 20 years.

Since the late 80s, garden gnomes have been stolen,only to be returned to their owner a few months later with pictures of the gnome at various landmarks around the world.

The first reported incident appeared in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, after a gnome was replaced with a note reading: “Dear Mum, couldn’t stand the solitude any longer. Gone off to see the world. Don’t be worried, I’ll be back soon. Love Bilbo xxx.”’

Since then, the trend has increased rapidly, resulting in the founding of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front.

In 1997 the leader of the Liberation Front was convicted of stealing 150 gnomes.

The travelling gnome has become a pop-cult hit, with the acclaimed 2001 film Amélie featuring a travelling gnome as a subplot.

In 2004, the online travel company Travelocity launched a viral marketing campaign called “Where is my Gnome?”

The “Roaming Gnome” has since become the unofficial mascot for worldwide travels.

The gnome phenomenon hit Pietermaritzburg in 2006 when gnome thieves angered Hayfields residents.

In the space of a week, around 10 gnomes were stolen from gardens in Hayfields and Scottsville — one made its way to the top of a speed camera on Alan Paton Drive.

Speaking to The Witness at the time, an angry resident said she awoke to “five or six guys” rummaging in her garden on a gnome-hunt.

The same resident had a gnome that went AWOL for two years before it was finally returned to its rightful garden.

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