Thursday, March 31, 2011

The grandfather diaries

My grandfather with his two lions, Big Boy and Little Boy

Do you do this I wonder? Have Stuff to do but instead start Tidying? 

I've been meaning to clear out the office for ages so although I didn't get said Stuff done, I did get one tidy office and one tidy bathroom. And while doing this I re-found an old journal of my grandfather's written in 1945. Its a diary of a 2 month walk he did through a couple of game reserves, over the escarpment in Northern Rhodesia when he worked for the game department. 

The papers I have are photocopies of the real thing, which has thin-thin pages, see through and slightly bruised like an old lady's skin. Seeing his handwriting flings me back in time to when I was a child, an adolescent, a young woman. His always-have-a-notebook-in-your-pocket lectures, his what-bird-call-is-that. You know how smells can immediately transport you back somewhere? It seems his handwriting does the same for me!

The journal is full of matter of fact accounts of rhinos and porters and having to shoot elephants that have been raiding villagers' crops. Interspersed with letters to the Director of the Game and Tsetse Control Department and various District Commissioners with recommendations for the parks. 

A random excerpt: 
Wednesday 22/8/45
Continued eastward (on leaving of approx 118 degrees) along old Fort Jameson - Serenje track. This was the route used by the Angonis on the raids against the Lala and Awisa. Through typical valley mopane country and camped on Luangwa at site of Saidi's old village. Elephant, buff, rhino tracks littering the country most of the way but didn't see any myself - the carriers in the rear saw two herds of elephant. The game on the Luangwa is magnificent  - the best I have ever seen I think (including the vast herds one sees on the Kenya and Tanganyika plains. Though there are greater concentrations in these countries, they lack variety). Within half a mile I saw the following - often in sight at the same time or at least within a few minutes of each other: impala (too many to count), puku (ditto), roan (2 herds of 20 + 8), 2 herds of zebra(20 + 12), a beautiful kudu bull silhouetted on an anthill plus 8 cows and a warthog (which chased and was in turn chased by puppy!) Add to this some baboon and vervet monkeys seen perviously and the hippo which are  plentiful in Luangwa at this spot and you get a pretty good list which it would be difficult to beat anywhere.

I've always wanted to retrace this walk, see how things have changed.  Maybe one day I will.

Anyway, I could go on but need to get cracking with my day! More soon. 

Picture window. Misty this morning


Gillian said...

Miranda, Gillian (long time no comment but still faithful reader) here - born and brought up in Ghana, now living in UK? I just wanted to say how thrilling I find things like your grandfather's diary and the amazing photos. Reading the extract I'd also say it would be a valuable piece of history to have published - PLEASE publish the diary as a book with your biographical 'bookending' and inserts/explanations, with the photos - even if it's just online! I'd buy/read it!!!!

Gillian said...

PS - the photos you've been putting up recently of your childhood have been so poignant and evocative for me. I wish we could have a drink and a chinwag over our shared photos a reminiscences of childhood in the african bush...and I'm so glad your daughter is growing up there, and envious! Lucky girl!

PurestGreen said...

What a treasure to have such a story like that in your grandfather's handwriting. I agree with Gillian that it would make a wonderful book. :)

Angela said...

We still have his book "Return to the Wild" about how he brought up his two lions and later returned them to the Wild - one of the most amazing books ever. I wonder if it is still sold. I bet many would like to read it! As much as a new one of your own.

Anonymous said...

Such a family treasure. I was in SA at the weekend listening to my grandmother's memories of a similar time and place. Seems eons ago - but so rich in memory. Lara is a lucky, lucky girl for sure.

More please!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post - love those pics!

Val said...

wonderful pictures of an extraordinary person and place; do the book Miranda and interweave it with your own stuff; it will be awesome!!

Angela said...

I am already looking forward to Lara`s blog.

Shiny said...

Oh, how lovely. And fascinating. And we had mist too x

Barbara said...

The photos are stunning.

Linda Sue said...

Oh WOW nothing is more important than gathering your Grandfather's amazing writings and photos and POSTING Them- I feel So lucky to be able to read your posts and have a glimpse into your life there in the far away wild...intriguing, important and astonishingly beautiful. Keep doing what you are doing tidying up can certainly take a back seat...forever, in my opinion. Fabulous post- His hand writing and photos- just WOW!

Miranda said...

Gillian - yes a drink and a reminisce would be awesome! Good idea about the book. I still want to retrace the walk, write my own notes, take pictures, maybe even film it... one day!

PG - yes, it is an awesome thing to have. I only found it a few years ago, just before some huge floods that we had - lucky!

Geli - its not been republished but you sometimes find copies in second hand bookshops!

Mud - I LOVE lsitening to old people's stories! Hope you had fun! x

Rob - they're great, huh?

Val - yes I should. Want to film the walk too. Think it would be awesome. Starting in Luangwa, over the muchingas, into bangweulu, ending up in mpika, can't remember the order, but still beautiful country.

Shiny - mist, but no gorillas

Barbara - I have more. I'll post them!

LindaSue - will post more soon. If you'd like more info on him there's lots out there on the net. just google Norman Carr

Lori ann said...

i have it! i have your grandfather's book. this is an awesome post miranda, i'd love to read that journal too. and oh how i'd love to do that walk. i hope you make it happen.

tam said...

I have an Idea. We must talk.

I remember when there were roan at the salt pan. sigh. no more.

Gillian said...

Ha! Thanks to all who mentioned 'return to the wild' - have just nabbed a copy on Amazon! Really looking forward to reading it Miranda. Your drama production this year is fantastic, but PLEASE listen to all our comments and make the retrace/reweave/publish-republish project your next one!!!

Lemon Gloria said...

Miranda, I absolutely love this. Those photos and the journal are just extraordinary.

Robyn said...

Wow this post and especially the photograph of your grandfather with the lions, gave me goosebumps.

Truely magical... thank you for sharing this.

I'm here via Lori and I'm pleased she alerted me to this post.

best wishes

family affairs said...

Just amazing. My uncle met those two lions when they were cubs!! Lx

Celeste said...

Miranda this post bought so many memories flooding back. Norman was one of the first people I met when I arrived in the valley, I feel so lucky. You really should retrace that walk and add your own thoughts and observations, I think that is such a perfect idea.
Thank you for sharing your family treasures :)