The following day I had to go to work on the Tube, which was a bit scary, but I made it through the week and was returning home on Friday afternoon, when I suddenly smelt burning in the carriage!
However this time I was a bit more sanguine, not because I was now a hardened veteran of Tube fires, but because we were overground rather than a couple of hundred feet under Totttenham Ct Rd. So, I looked round to see where the smoke was coming from and saw a very tall spindly East African(?) guy in a long, ankle length white robe jumping up and down and trying to beat out the fire in his seat with some sort of fez (in those days you could smoke on the Tube). Just thought, OK I can deal with that on a Friday afternoon…
When I lived in SA, flying back from the UK overnight via CDG to JHB on Air France, in the first row near the tail on the port side where there’s only two seats rather than three and you’ve lots of legroom. You wake up and know from the light streaming in around the blind that it’s dawn in southern Africa. Slide the blind up a bit so as not to attract the attention of the air hostesses and peek through as the plane follows the Zambesi south for a couple of hours and you can see the herd s of elephant and other game going across the mud to the river. It’s sublime and very emotional. I used to think, OK I was born in England, but never ever felt the blood tingling thrill about returning there, that I felt when returning home to Africa.
It’ s about a year since I last left France (for winter sun in S Spain) and I think that returning home now has a very different, far less dramatic emotion, it’s more a sense of returning to a place where although I’ll probably always be a foreigner, it’s not merely home, but a place that I love and can to a reasonable extent understand.
Whale watching from the cliffs at Hermanus on the Cape in the southern hemisphere Spring. It claims to be the best shore-based whale watching in the world, when the entire population of Southern Right whales gather in the bay at Hermanus - it’s an amazing sight - they calve there and then stick around till the calves are strong enough to swim down to the Southern Ocean. I’ve seen people (usually dreadlocky types) climb down fom the cliffs and stroke the whales’ backs.
We used to fly back to the UK from Durban and at that time the change was at either Joburg or Salisbury or both.
At that time SAA were not permitted to fly over certain countries ( due to apartheid) whereas BA could fly more directly via Mombasa etc .The SAA would have to fly via West Africa and Victoria Falls was on the route. That used to be a stunning sight from 30000 ft !!
Ohhh I’d forgotten another flying one, we were dropping altitude into somewhere (Abu Dhabi maybe??)over the middle east to refuel. It was amazing desert everywhere without a single spot of any man made anything when I saw a man on his camel in full robes / head covering, I was only about 16 and was just mesmerised and felt very special to see that as it looked like something that could have easily been seen 2000 years ago!
Enjoyed your post, it brought back two sets of memories:
1 Flying over the Kalahari for the first time and seeing what I later learnt was a bakkie (pick-up truck) driving across a seemingly endless featureless desertscape leaving a huge plume of dust in its wake as it went from nowhere imaginable to nowhere equally unimaginable. Two years later doing a similar drive and thinking back that I was now the driver of the bakkie and I knew exactly where I was going.
2 Early morning winter in the Karoo - a semi-desert area of central S Africa and sitting around waiting for things to warm up so I could remove the frozen rocks from the approach to my installation. Suddenly became aware of another presence in this remote landscape, on the ridge above me was a Xhosa man on horseback - I’d never before seen an African on horseback and to make it even more weird, he was wearing an ankle length army surplus rubberised riding coat and hunting with a bow and arrow!
There was a distant meeting of two worlds - European uni prof trying to intellectualise the intercultural semiotics of this apparent combination of African and Native American, whilst the local was probably thinking bugger, there’s a whitey messing up my hunting.
I had worked in Kenya so it was natural to get married there, we married on the beach and then went to Tsavo East nature reserve for our safari honeymoon.
We visited Voi hotel where once you got up for your breakfast you went for a swim looking out onto the reserve from the infinity pool, then down to the enclosure to feed the elephants and giraffe.
Then onto Taita hills which looked like a row of rockets that had been stood up in a row in the middle of the velt, they are two storey, two room roundels on top of 60ft columns joined together with walkways which then join onto the main hotel, you were woken up in the morning by the elephants rubbing themselves on the columny to get rid of ticks…
It is all set around a watering hole, the flat building has way mirrored windows so you can watch the animals, you get there via a tunnel.
Then we finished off by going to the Ziwani tented camp, set by the side of the watering hole they are individual tents built into wooden structures that you could lie in bed watching the stars at night, then a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro for dinner.
All the trips in-between locations were a safari, all in all a magical three weeks that we never wanted to end, now 26 years ago.
Although I’ve published a few academic papers on the problematic issues inherent to post-Apartheid game reserves, I’ve found it hard to ignore their magic. Perhaps one has to temporarily put history and contemporary social problems to one side and just live in the moment with the animals. However, some of my favourite game watching memories are of things I didn’t see, or barely caught a glimpse of.
We once spent three days in a state game reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal, where there lived a herd of around five hundred elephants. Didn’t see a single one, but it was good to know they were there in such numbers! Still have a couple of their turds as souvenirs.
I greatly value opportunities to venture beyond the rest camp fence and become a potentially vulnerable temporary intruder into the animals’ space. We once spent a whole day watching hippos in SE Swaziland, but all one saw were theireyes and nostrils above the surface of the lake. As dusk fell, the eyes and nostrils started moving towards the shore and we legged it back to the car. Driving back in the dark (against the rules) the headlights picked out two large pale white shapes that silently crossed the track and vanished into the thornbush - a ghostly pair of white rhino.
I’ve seen lots of rhino and once on a bushwalk stood about twenty metres from a family group with nothing between us, but a dirt track (the adults are virtually blind). Although it was unforgettably amazing and scary, it’s harder to recollect visceral sensations, whereas the fleeting glimpse of the ghostly rhinos is a strong visual memory.
I have seen a lot of the non tourist side of Africa living and working in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar 25-40 years ago, so in a way I have seen the best and the worst the countries have to offer.
I loved Kenya the most, South Africa the least but 40 year ago perhaps wasn’t the best time to be there.
My mum, in 1968, caught the last boat from Australia to England before it became cheaper to fly. Her and her equally young and glamourous friend took themselves to the first class bar as soon as they got on board (I think they were actually staying in 2nd or 3rd ) - they got away with that for at least 1/2 the journey as well educated, attractive young ladies! When it was clocked they were asked very kindly to stop coming there as they’d been spotted but they were apparently well missed! Her biggest regret of her life was that they had the option of getting off the boat in … uummm sorry my African geography is dodgy! The east side anyway - Cape town??? They had the option of travelling overland to rejoin the boat in Joburg’ she was worried about finding work in London so was too scared to spend the extra money (as it turned out she found work on her 2nd day so would have been fine!) and regrets it until this day as apparently the wildlife at that time was just beyond belief, around every turn and the last of the numbers as they had been.
I did also mention my SA geography is shite! So get off on the right hand side and safari to theleft hand side before rejoining boat I may have had Joburg’ in my head as the man shape lived and worked there for a year so that is the city I most often hear of!
somewhere I have an old passport with row 57 deeply marked into the back as a reminder to always book these window seats with a gap next to them for LHR-SFO when I was going there a lot for work
My life in London when I was young was complete and with good friendships
which I cherished but like every one I had my best friends.
I had not seen one of these closest friends for years and begun search for her.
Her brother was in a band and that proved the best way to reach her as I did not know her married name
To my dismay I discovered that Paul had died in the Lockeby bombing. He was with his young bride leaving for their honeymoon.
There is an extension to the sad story of how he managed to find a place on the flight and this is something I can never forget.