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by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

I was at Limassol Marina with a charming Anglo-Cypriot woman called Johanna, sipping mineral water in the winter sun, when I asked her if she had any pets. What a menagerie!  A French bulldog, a chihuahua, 3 cats. 2 tortoises and a gecko. She said her son was fascinated with lizards.

Suddenly I  was reminded of an old Portobello Road market colleague cum 'friend' called John who I had come across in the 80s. John, who was Jewish but never knew his birth parents, bred and trained green iguanas and, according to him, was the UK and French authority on this species having vets and custom officers seeking his advice in the South of France where he resided.

 His dream was to be the official consultant for Monaco's Marine land but it was not to be. John stubbornly refused to get his official working papers in order to do his real professional work and be paid  properly or even be an iguana consultant. He could not afford the official bureaucratic licence for the Carte de Sejour so he was part of the cash 'black' economy. Instead of renting, John had stupidly bought a small house in the hinterland of Nice and somehow got behind with mortgage payments so the bank had a lean on his property.

He was not well organised when it came to money matters. In fact his real profession was that of a hotel, shipping and yacht carpet fitter. Top of his profession, so he claimed, in London which was how he got to working with the jet set at marinas in Nice, Cannes and Antibes.

How he got into lizards and reptiles I know not. I recall he came to our Notting Hill house, a stone's through from where he stalled out, bringing his star possession and best friend - Iggy. I took photos of this curious green member of the lizard family with a very long stripy tail and a complicated sex mating life. A shame I never asked his weight and the length of his tail from his snout which would have determined his age.

I still have the photo today of John and Iggy.  He travelled with him from England to France and knew all the customs officers in Nice as Iggy had to be declared like a cat or a dog. Maybe Iggy had a passport. I forgot to ask! John was training Iggy to be in movies. He had other green iguanas but Ziggy was his 'bed' companion, sleeping on a special ledge which John had built above his bed. I am sure he wished Iggy sweet dreams every night.

When magical Martin and I finally got to Nice and Menton for a winter sun holiday one New Year, John welcomed us to his home. Along with other green iguanas and stick figure Mantis in glass tanks, I recall the clawing odour of his home. Thank God we were not staying with him. John showed us around Nice and I recall we spent New Year in a cafeteria as everywhere was booked and he had not got it together to think of reserving a table!

 Then disaster struck! Iggy died. John went into chronic depression and bereavement. He really loved Iggy. He had no wife or girlfriend or much to offer a woman at the age of 40 except other green iguanas and Praying Mantis. Iggy was his entire life and I am sure John kissed him every night but Iggy went to Iggylandia and that was that!

Written on the balcony in the winter sun at the Curium Palace Hotel, Limassol on 11/1/17.


Green iguanas
Melissa Kaplan updated 2014
For age/size norms
Sexual Dimorphism
Effects of diet and care on growth

Stick Mantis with 6 legs.