Monday, May 14, 2012

The Grandfather Diaries IV

I've posted before extracts from my grandfather's journal of a 2 month walk he did in July to September 1945 when he worked for the game department in northern Rhodesia. I’ve written about it here and here and here .

My grandfather’s name was Norman Carr. He was born in 1912 in Chinde, what is now Mozambique, and grew up in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He is commonly known as one of the forefathers of conservation in Zambia and the founder of walking safaris. He was one of the first people to realise (and implement) - in the 1950’s - the now common practice that conservation cannot work without the local population benefiting from the wildlife in some way.

He lived in a time when men wore cravats, listened to the wireless, and where walking was still a common mode of transport (when he heard that World War II had broken out he walked 80 miles to try and sign up). In his own words:

On the third of September 1939, I was on patrol in Kambwiri's country in the Luangwa Valley. News of the outbreak of war did not reach me until nearly two weeks later. 

It was presented to me in a typical 'cleft stick' by a District Messenger sent out by the District Commissioner in Lundazi. As I was still on the strength of the King's African Rifle's Reserve in Nyasaland, I was misguided enough to think that my services were urgently required to defend the Empire. Without further thought and in spite of the fact that I had already done a long patrol that day starting at dawn and arriving at Msekeni's village after noon, where the DC's messenger caught up with me, I packed a haversack and prepared to trek to Lundazi, nearly eighty miles away, where I had left my motor vehicle a month ago....

So began one of the longest walks I have ever undertaken. With one of my best carriers as a pace-setter we started off walking continuously through the night and arrived at Lundazi Boma at noon the next day. Taking into account the twenty miles I had covered before Msekeni's, I must have accomplished a hundred mile trek in just over thirty hours. I have never before or since slept on my feet, but during that journey I found that for mile after weary mile I walked automatically in a subconscious daze, with no recollection of time or space.

I need not have troubled. It was an entirely wasted journey. For when I eventually reported to the Provincial Commissioner in Fort Jameson, I learned to my sorrow that I was not required for the moment and should return to work and await normal instructions; if I were needed I would be called up, like everyone else, through the usual channels.

Despite the telegrams I sent to military headquarters hoping to by-pass these orders, I could not persuade anyone that my services were sufficiently important for the War Office to call me up at once. One thing about living on your own in the bush for months on end is that you are in no doubt as to your own importance. It is surprising, therefore, and rather irritating to find that others also have their problems which take no account of yours. It is also rather salutary.

He wrote many books, including one called Return to the Wild, about the two lions he raised. The quote above is from The White Impala as is this one below, one of my faves:

I have sat in the shade of a magnificent evergreen trichelia on the banks of the Luangwa River and watched the impala come down to drink, materialising from the shadows one by one on the far bank as though by spontaneous creation; I have watched a skein of sacred ibis, in perfect arrow formation, flying down a river which the setting sun has turned to a shimmer of molten gold; I have seen a magnificent kudu bull on an anthill, silhouetted against a dawn sky; I have smelt the fragrant scent of the wild shrubs at sundown, when the world hesitates before handing over to the lords of darkness; I have lived with the night noises – the eerie plaintive call of the hyena, crying with the pathos of a lost soul in purgatory, and the music of the King of Beasts proclaiming his undisputed rule over his domain; I have seen a pure white impala.

All these and many more idyllic memories return to me and I cannot help but contrast them with the turmoil of Regent Street in the rush hour.

I know I have no regrets.

I was going to quote more from his journal but I think this is enough for now, don't you?

...although if you do want to read more I love this post of my sister's


Robyn said...

no, it is not enough-more soon please. A magical land is Afica, but even more magial in the bush in the past. Magical words

Robyn said...

thank you for the link to your sister's post!

Angela said...

I even HAVE the book "The white Impala". Think I ought to read it again. I will picture your dad as he tried to make me see a magic cube during our visit. You weren`t born then.
He was very patient.

Anonymous said...

Bliss. What lyricism and understanding. Must run in the family....

Amanda said...

'when the world hesitates before handing over to the lords of darkness'

that is pure poetry... i would love to read more.

Val said...

an exceptional man and exceptional life; so many people donot know how to do this. thanks for these posts Miranda - i love the words and the photos xx

Anonymous said...

i met you at janelle's blog- just spent a lovely span of time reading your posts. you have art and earth in your hands, together as one. such good stuff!


Miranda said...

Robyn - ok, more soon - at least these posts don't require much thinking!

Geli - yes I should re-read it again too

Mud - you are too kind!

Amanda - Will post more bits and bobs as and when!!

Val - yes indeed. He taught us so very much.

Sherry - thanks for the visit! Am popping over to yours now!


Hope said...

Miranda, I am devastated that I have only just discovered your blog and haven't been avidly following for months now. This post is my favourite so far- your Grandad sounds like one of a kind and an extraordinarily humbling and inspiring man.