I just read a very nice review of Travels with an African Husky in AlgarveBlog.net. I think Alyson sums up my book honestly and fairly and made me smile and wince, well it’s true to say she made me smile more than wince and the wince evincing comments were more than justified.
We were staying at a place called Champagne Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains) in Natal in South Africa. Our thatched cottage had a big fireplace and although it was warm enough to swim during the day, at night it was cool, and so each evening we lit a roaring fire. The cottage looked down onto a field with horses and every day Thomas would walk down there and sit on the fence. One horse took a shine to him and would wander over and say hello in the hope of an apple. Of course Thomas was only too happy to oblige.
Thomas has an strong affinity with animals. It is as if there is a conversation going on between them that most of us can’t hear or understand. It is as if they are reaching out to him and saying “Hey, it’s all going to be OK”.
GET THE BOOK!
Well I’m very pleased to say my book Travels with an African Husky is now in a form where it’s ready to read. If you are up for having a look, I’d be happy to send you the first hundred or so pages in the form of a PDF. Email me and I’ll send it by return.
Living in the middle of a thriving tourist town has some drawbacks. Noise is one of them. Often wonderful music played by travelling musicians, but all too often drunken people at four in the morning who, by this time having lost the ability to speak, have been gifted by Bacchus with the ability to shout very very loudly as they stumble home. Often passing backwards and forwards, as they are completely lost, but absolutely convinced they are going in the right direction. The true champions of this sport for the alcoholically enhanced are the Aussies closely followed by the Irish. Sometimes literally. Intent on trying to outdo each other with the most witless conversations imaginable.
Of course occasionally our beloved American cousins get in on the act too. One night at about three o’clock two American girls decided to have a “I’m fucking sick of travelling with you” chat in the street outside number 12. They went on and on sinking lower and lower into a tarpit of nastiness. As an aside dear reader, it is interesting to me that drunk guys just punch each other be done with it. On the other hand girls take things a step further. These two were going through something truly cathartic. The evisceration – by tongues as sharp as knives – of their former love for each other was laying bare every little thing they had been bottling up for two months spent on the road. After a while I had had enough of this unpleasantness, got out of bed and walked to the terrace overlooking the street.
My initial intention was to suggest they go away, but then I realised that at my feet was a bucket of water. Looking at the bucket and then looking at them, it dawned on me I didn’t need to say anything at all.
The water made a pleasing sound as it landed on their heads and to my satisfaction conversation stopped in mid-sentence, if not mid-word. I was immensely chuffed. Not a bad shot if I say so myself, especially as it was from three floors up. I tottered off to bed and fell asleep in blissful silence.
When my wife Harriet was sick our dog Ian became remarkably thin. I was never sure if it was because he was picking up on what Harriet was going through, or because I forgot to feed him for two months.
I feel sure that dogs can tune into things like sickness and in Ian’s case, because he was so close to Harriet, he suffered along with her. Looking back now I am sure he was depressed and this is why he did not eat.
See newspaper article about cancer detecting dogs: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/08/cancer-detecting-dogs-nhs-trial-milton-keynes-prostate
The dog in the following video link reminds me of Ian – a wonderfully mad beautiful dog. Harriet got him for me, but he ended up becoming her dog, and the Jack Russell we got for her became my dog.
The video and the original Huffington Post article:
PHOTOS OF IAN THE DOG:
It seems that dogs have been part of the life of humans for 15,000 years. Starting perhaps with curious smaller, and hence less threatening, wolves living on the periphery of human camps eating up scraps, eventually becoming part of the tribe as protectors, early warning systems in the face of dangerous threats, aids in hunting, sacrificial beings, shepherds and much loved pets. We have loved our dogs for a long long time.
This piece of music brings back such strong memories of my nightly drive to Southampton Hospital to see Harriet when she was very sick. I would always be in a rush to get out of the house and sometimes I wouldn’t have eaten because I didn’t have time. Once I even wrapped a piece of salmon in tin foil and put it on top of the car’s engine in the hope it would be cooked by the time I got to the hospital so at least I would have something to eat … it was partly cooked but I was so hungry I ate it anyway. Road sushi.
So back to BLACK AND BROWN CHERRIES – this crazy piece of music. I took such strength from it because it symbolised what was happening in our life at that time. The music starts in harmony and is quite pleasant to listen to, but then it slides into chaos. After a while, just when you think you’ve had enough of the racket, all the instruments come back into sync and everything is alright again. I would play it at full volume and, as there was nobody to see me, I would allow myself to cry. To weep. There is pathos in this piece, but it also gave me strength. It gave me the courage to believe that although everything was going so badly, after a while everything would be OK again. I just needed to be strong while chaos reigned. Soon there would be harmony again.
Abdullah Ibrahim’s BLACK AND BROWN CHERRIES will not be to everyone’s taste, but for me it is one of the most moving pieces of music I have ever heard. I have added a more palatable piece by the same musician below – it is called MANNENBERG and is, for me at least, a joyful and iconic piece of South African music.
BLACK AND BROWN CHERRIES: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UHuxyL0qrA
Some background on Abdullah Ibrahim and the significance of Mannenberg: http://www.kalamu.com/bol/2008/03/17/abdullah-ibrahim-“mannenberg-is-where-it’s-happening”/