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Family tree: Marina and her husband John with their two daughters Vanessa, left, and Joanna, far right, in in St Ives, in 2012
In that instant I trusted him. The look in his eyes and the calmness in his movements made me realise he was trying to help me.
I did as he seemed to want. I went under and drank in great mouthfuls of muddy water, feeling it force its way up my nose.
Grandpa monkey let go of me. I scrambled out and collapsed face-down on the ground. I began coughing again and then vomiting – great heaving gouts of acid liquid that burned my throat.
The purging worked. Gradually, I felt able to make my way slowly back towards our territory. Grandpa monkey, seeming satisfied with his efforts, turned and scuttled off ahead of me, back to his tree. From that point on, Grandpa monkey’s attitude changed completely. Where once he’d been indifferent and then wary, he now felt like both my protector and my friend.
At the time, I didn’t give them names – I had no such concept – but now, when I look back, I remember them as individuals and so have given them names.
There was Grandpa, of course, energetic Spot, gentle, loving Brownie, and timid White-Tip, one of the little ones, who seemed to love me and who would often jump on to my back, throw her arms around my neck and enjoy being carried.
Perhaps my favourite – aside from Grandpa – was Mia. She was affectionate, but unlike him she was also shy. I first won her round when I got cross about the way she was sometimes bullied and I would use my size to stop some of the more aggressive young monkeys from poking her and pushing her around.
Now I felt more accepted, I became determined to learn how to climb to the top of the tree canopy, to join my monkey family in their natural domain. Day after day, I would try to climb the shorter, slimmer trees. I fell often but I didn’t let my failures deter me.
I grew stronger, the muscles in my arms and legs developing and becoming sinewy, while the skin on my hands and feet, elbows, knees and ankles was dry and leathery.
I will remember the day I reached the canopy for the rest of my life. The view was breathtaking – literally. The rush of cool air up there was such a shock to me that it made me gasp.
The monkeys were, of course, indifferent, showing no interest in the fact that I was suddenly up there with them. But I couldn’t have been more excited. So here was where they most liked to be. I had now become fully part of their world.
There were few moments that the monkeys didn’t spend together, whether grooming or playing or communicating in some other way. Now I could go where they went, communicate with them and play.
I was just happy to be one of them, to feel included. There were still nights when I was overcome by what I’d lost and wept for hours. But as the months rolled by, curled up in my little ball, in a hollowed-out piece of tree trunk, with the comforting, familiar sound of the monkeys up above me, I was gradually turning into one of them.