Sunday, 12 May 2013
An African Journey
My own 'proper' African Journeys started in September 1987 and the last time I went there was near the end of 1997. I'm talking sub-Saharan Africa by the way - the classic photographic safari that began in Kenya and then took in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and, finally, Zambia. Those ten years did not change my life immediately, but they left an indelible mark on me on all kinds of levels, however the abiding one was wonder and respect for this capricious, beautiful planet we're privileged to live on.
The idea of writing about Africa actually started in earnest for me on that last holiday in Zambia, as I was sitting in a rustic gazebo overlooking the Lufupa river trying to sketch some hippos. Yes, a gazebo - it had a thatched roof and no walls and some garden-style chairs. The hippos weren't co-operating so I got myself another mug of coffee from the thermos, turned the page and started to write a true story from a leopard's point of view. That was the first shaky outline of the Watching chapter in Milele Safari inspired by a mother leopard and her two cubs that we'd seen tucking into a bushbuck in the middle of a thornbush on our very first safari in Samburu, Kenya.
Then real life kicked in and I didn't do very much with those few hundred words for a long time, just adding a bit here and there, or changing something or, more often, losing it altogether whenever the 'mood' took me, which was not very often. Things changed in 2005 though, as I fell ill and embarked on what turned out to be a permanent break with the world of gainful employment. A lot of the problem was in my head and writing again started to be something I had a lot of time for, because it was a therapeutic refuge for me. I finished Watching and began to think about other strange and wonderful experiences, or 'magic' moments I'd had, not necessarily on safari; but it turned out a lot of them were in fact centred on different parts of the Dark Continent and an idea for a series of themed short stories along the lines of The Canterbury Tales began to form. And inspired the highly original working title for the book of course (Safari Tales), although I knew from the outset that I was going to explore the true meaning of the word safari through the various stories. OK - I admit I was also tempted to spell Tales as Tails, but that was too stupid right? Better than Safari Bums though - a throwback to our first safari where a lot of the time our photos as an album collection could have been entitled Bums of Africa because that's what we saw most of some days...
And here we are in 2013 and I've finally got the first draft and edit done and dusted and so I've progressed to getting in feedback and reviews from literary friends scattered across the globe and starting to get serious about pushing my baby out there. Hello blogdom! I use various writing styles in the Tales, but the main warp holding the weaving together is a diary/journal style for 2 of my central viewpoint characters, so this is as good a place as any to use a sorting centre for various things among which will hopefully be a dialogue with the readers that I'm hoping Milele Safari (An Eternal Journey) will attract.
We'll see anyway - enough for a first post. I'll try and get something more fascinating added soon. This year, I promise!