(16th July - 30th October, 2009)





:: July 15th - August 11th - Britain & Ireland ::


  July 15 -16


July 16. Arrived Heathrow 06.45 Although I had travelled Business Class, and therefore I was not exhausted, I was still a little weary, and I remembered Bill van Rensburg’s good advice: “Don’t bother mentally exchanging local currencies into Rands, just indulge yourself.” So I went in luxury by Taxi to the Bachmuths’ flat in Kennington. I first met Seymour Bachmuth at the University of California, Santa Barabara, where he was a Maths professor, and we both used to run at midday. Later Bernard and I met Seymour’s wife Claire, at concerts.

When we lived in UK in the 1990s, we used to allow friends to use our London (Kennington) flat when we were in th country. Seymour and Claire several times stayed there. When we moved to South Africa in 1999, S & C bought their own flat, in the same area,and this is the third time that I have stayed in their pleasant, quiet, comfortable and most convenient flat, an ideal base for my visits. S & C are indefatigible, going to concerts, opera, theatre, art exhibitions, and Claire writes insightful, critical, reports for her friends.

After showering and settling in, I went by tube to Tottenham Court Road, first for a Caffe Latte at Pret a Manger, then to buy a chip for my cellphone.

Bernard and I met Thelma Sanders in the early 1970s, when we often stayed at her Nairobi home (former residence of the Barclays Bank Manager). Thelma, as several of you know, is a renowned lithographer; Bernard and I bought some outstanding examples of her work. On this day I went to have lunch with Thelma at her Islington home. I do not know how many times Bernard and I, then later I on my own, have sat at Thelma’s congenial circular table, enjoying, always, excellent talk and delicious food - this time I had grilled salmon, new potatoes, broccoli, salad, cheese, Macon wine. Thelma had been ill and - to the dismay of both of us - can no longer tolerate alcohol. I had no restrictions, returning to Kennington by two buses. The Bachmuths have no TV, good practice for me, as I am considering giving up TV when I return home - I watch so little. I was glad of an early night.

bachmuth's flat

July 17. Wandered around the West End, getting oriented again, and doing errands - checking train times, finding an Internet Cafe (I do not have a laptop), buying Euros for Ireland and France, booking a Prom. July 17 is our anniversary (55 years) and while I did not wish for a large celebration, I preferred not to be on my own, so I invited Jason Sumich to join me for dinner at Amici’s, our local good Italian restaurant (run by Iranians). Jason is from California, majored in anthropology at UCSB (long after my time) and was doing a study of tourism in Zanzibar. I helped to supervise him at UCT, as I did when he moved to LSE to pursue a Ph.D: Jason did a creditable analysis of elites in Mozambique, and is now on a post-doc research fellowship. Jason, like many UCSB students, might look like a surfer, but he is bright and good company, we both had a good evening.





 July 18 - July 20






























































July 18. Up at 03.30, to meet my minicab driver at 04.00 to drive to Heathrow for my 07.00 flight to Dublin, where I was met by my “cousin”, Murray Osborne, 38 years old and an architect, whohad tracked me via email. He is interested in family history, and I gladly handed over the role of Brokensha family historian to Murray. We had communicated happily on email, and when we met we became, instantly, good friends: I now feel that I have known Murray for years.


Murray drove me to Whelahan’s Cottage, in the Bog of Allen, 1 & ½ hours west of Dublin. This is a charming early C19 cottage, which he and his Irish partner, Patrick, (also an architect) have modernised in a sensitive way, keeping many of the original features: I even had a peat fire in my bedroom. I was sorry to miss Patrick who is working in Dubai

At the cottage we were welcomed by Ned, the alert, playful Jack Russell. Having learnt that Murray was interested in china, I had brought him the Dresden china Blue tit that I had taken from the Gauleiter’s home at the end of WW2; I told Murray to think of me when he looked at it.


Murray offered me a G & T, then realised that there was no tonic, so we drove a mile to the local store. The shopkeeper had no tonic on his shelves, but he produced a half-full bottle from his personal fridge, so we could enjoy our libation. Murray told me that he and Patrick met with such friendliness everywhere.
When I arrived in Dublin, Murray had taken me to see the recently completed residence (which he had designed) of the Sisters of the Divine Mercy. Murray is not a Catholic, but was warmly welcomed by Sister Kathleen, the New Zealand nun in charge of this small group. I noticed that she asked fondly after Patrick.

Murray is the grandson of my first cousin Patricia, daughter of my eldest uncle, Carne. Despite the difference of two generations, we got on very well, I now look forward to Murray and Patrick visiting me in Fish Hoek in April 2010.

Sunday July 19 Murray drove me to Dublin, for a walkabout, it still being fine, a visit to the National Gallery where I admired the early Jack Yeats, and a long walk in a park. Then time for the comfortable, two-hour, train journey to Belfast, where I was met by Helen Nicholl and her 21 year old daughter, Kate. I had met Helen in Cape Town, when she visited her brother, Martin West. Kate, a second year student of social anthropology at University College London, was thrilled to learn (from reading Brokie’s Way), that I had been a student of Professor Evans-Pritchard, one of the outstanding anthropologists of the C20; Kate had been reading his books. I was equally thrilled to discover that “E-P” was still being read and admired. It also gave me a chance to tell some E-P tales, of which there are many.

Time for a drive around Belfast before going to their home in Holywood, dinner, and an early bed. .

July 20. 07:30 A good one hour walk with Helen along the sea shore. Helen’s friend, Arthur, drove us on a scenic tour, seeing: the C12 dramatically ruined Cistercian Abbey at Inch; the (Protestant) Cathedral at Down, supposed site of Saint Patrick’s burial; the gardens of Castle Ward, and the house at Mount Stewart where we were conducted around by a tiresome garrulous guide, making me wish for a “Lettice and Lovage” approach. A lavish picnic lunch overlooking Strangford Lough, then the short ferry ride to Portaferry, where we had a Power’s Irish whisky at the tiny Dumigan’s pub.

inch abbey

I had time for a restorative nap before catching the 9 p.m. flight to Heathrow, the tube to Waterloo, where I waited for a bus to Kennington. By this time, about 11 p.m., a group of yobs passed, one of then shouting "Wanker" at me and hurling a small object at me. No harm done, just a salutary reminder of the dark side of the world. For a moment, I considered remonstrating with the yobs, then I heard Bernard's calming voice telling me not to be stupid.

I had time for a restorative nap before catching the 9 p.m. flight to Heathrow, the tube to Waterloo, where I waited for a bus to Kennington. By this time, about 11 p.m., a group of yobs passed, one of then shouting “Wanker” at me and hurling a small object at me. No harm done, just a salutary reminder of the dark side of the world. For a moment, I considered remonstrating with the yobs, then I heard Bernard’s calming voice telling me not to be stupid.




  July 20 - 27

July 21. Settled in by now at Kennington flat. I had greeted the day porter, Sonny , an Indian former school teacher from Durban, and the night porter, Kofi, from Ghana, both of whom remembering me from my previous visits. .

To St.Martin's-in-the Fields at Trafalgar Square for a lunchtime concert: the Sirocco Saxophone Quartet, four accomplished young musicians playing an arrangement of Bach's Italian concerto, and four modern pieces, all very pleasing. .

Across the road to the National Portrait Gallery for the unusual exhibition of "Gay Icons". Ten selectors, each of whom was a "a prominent gay figure in contemporary culture and society " had each named six persons ( who were not necessarily gay) to be photographed and described. Selectors included Elton John, Ian McKellen, Billie Jean King,and the icons included David Hockney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Tchaikovsky, John Lennon, Rostropovich, Mandela, Harvey Milk, Walt Whitman, Benjamin Britten, Alan Turing, Edwin Camerson (a judge on South Africa's Superior Court.), Denton Welch, Virginia Woolf - a diverse group. Photographs were excellent, and the descriptions written with wit and insight.

Time for a late lunch (Gazpacho andalusia, crispy ciabatta and a glass of Rioja) at the pleasant, quiet and relaxing National Gallery Cafe, then home on the familiar 159 bus.

July 22. Another lunchtime concert, at St. Anne and Agnes Lutheran church near St Paul's Cathedral. A trio played Bach on harpsichord, viola da gamba and recorder for a very serious and erudite audience, a bit too austere and recondite for me, but causing no pain.

I found a bus (360) to take me from Black Prince Road, very near my flat, all the way to the Royal Albert Hall, for a Prom, Sir Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with choirs from Cambridge colleges, including the boy choristers from King's College. They sang Vaughan-Williams' "Five Mystical Songs", with the glorious baritone Simon Keenlyside as soloist. The final item, after some modern choral works, was Saint Saens' Organ Symphony, with the huge organ nearly blasting us out of our seats. I was as impressed by the spellbound audience as by the music. The Hall was full (I had paid £26 for an excellent seat) with nary a cough or other sound from the audience, many of whom were young, (paying £5 to stand in the crowded arena). Encouraging.

July 23. I took a minicab (£15) to Euston station; the Ugandan driver spoke Swahili, as well as excellent English. I had my first (of four) days First Class, travelling in solitary comfort in a 42 seater Virgin Trains carriage, with complimentary Times and continental breakfast ("All our hot drinks are Fair Trade Certified"). I recalled my very first British train journey, going in 1945 with my brother Paul to meet our sister-in-law Margaret in distant Caithness, on an overcrowded, noisy, dirty train, and I was glad that I can now travel in comfort.

July 22 - 27. With Paul and Pat Baxter in Bramhall, near Manchester. I had met these old friends in Cambridge, in 1948, when Paul and I were in our second year, reading social anthropology; Bernard and I - now just me - always call on them when we are in the UK. Paul has been a major figure in my life, helping for me to get my first academic post at the University of Ghana, then supervising my D.Phil dissertation.

Part of the established routine of my visits to P & P is a pub lunch, although Paul pointed out that many real pubs are closing, and those that remain are often run by chains, more vulgar restaurants, with a small pub attached, nothing like the genuine article, However, we found a gem, The Church House Inn at Bollington, on the edge of the peak district, where we enjoyed a "Pensioner's Special " (two courses,for £8). I had my first (this visit) pint of Real Ale, a Spitfire. .

In the evening I was most impressed by the hour-long Channel Four news, with time for in depth interviews, it made the BBC World News that I watch in South Africa seem trivial and superficial. And Jon Snow, whom Bernard and I used to watch in the 1990s, is still going strong.

I have been so fortunate - so far - with the weather, having encountered only a few short sharp showers, One evening, it was warm enough for us to enjoy our sundowners in Pat's long ,well tended garden, in the twilight. Much of our time was taken up with conversation and meeting P & Ps family including my breezy godson, Adam.

On Sunday Paul drove me (in a light drizzle) to the Catholic church, where - as usual when I go to new parishes - I am grateful that I have the good Father Bram, and our friendly Simon’s Town parish, at home.




























July 28 - Aug 5

July 27.Train to Edinburgh and on to Inverness, where I spent the night at the old Station Hotel, now grandly called The Royal Highland Hotel.

July 28 to August 1. An early flight from Inverness to Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands, where I met Agnes Klingshirn, whom I had met in Ghana in 1962 where we were both studying the people of Larteh.


Agnes has an isolated cottage in North Rea, right in the north of the main island, near the peninsula of Fedhaland. There was no TV, no newspapers, no landline, no cellphone coverage, a pleasant change for those few days. We did have electricity and water. For our few days, we mainly talked and walked, and visited the first class museum at Lerwick, which provides a great overview of the history, ecology, geology and social life - including the 1970s discovery of oil off the Shetlands - which led to considerable improvements in the social and physical infrastructure. Bertha and Douglas, Agnes' friendly neighbours, answered my questions. e.g: "Are there any predators?". Only stoats and ferrets, which kill poultry. And otters. .

There is a proposal to install 150 huge (nearly 500 feet high) wind turbines in the Shetlands. The islanders oppose this, saying they are agreeable to generating enough electricity for their own needs, but do not wish to be a major supplier for the mainland - citing the usual objections. We saw inspiring scenery, fantastic rock formations, collected wild mushrooms for our supper - no eating places for miles, but we lived well, thanks to Agnes - e.g. our first meal was salmon (wild, not farmed) and new potatoes with a bottle of Penfold, then the next evening the mushrooms and spaghetti with Douglas Green Cab Sauv/Merlot. I would have liked to have seen more birds, but we did see a few - oyster catchers, cousins to our South African Black African oyster catchers, and also skuas, which. I had last seen in the Falklands, in 1978. None of the iconic puffins, though I'd seen these earlier in Caithness. I have always much enjoyed my visits, over sixty years, to Caithness, to the open space and the clear light, and the Shetlands are even more so.


August 1. We had winterised the cottage the previous evening, as Agnes will not be back this year, and left at 7 a.m. for the 1 + 1/2 hour drive ( 60 miles) to the airport at Sumburgh, from where Agnes flew to Aberdeen and back to Frankfurt, and I to Inverness, and train (3 & 1/2 hours) to Thurso, to be met by my niece Deirdre. I have done this train journey several times, find it enthralling, particularly the final northern stages, where the population is sparse, and the moors begin, with an occasional sighting of deer.

August 1 - 5, with Deirdre and Peter at their home in Halkirk, 8 miles from Thurso. My bedroom overlooked the River Thurso, which provided our salmon supper this first evening - again, warm and light enough to sit outside, with Peter having thoughtfully provided Bruce Jack's good Fish Hoek Chenin Blanc. .

Meeting with three of D & P's sons, my great-nephews, and their families, and also with my sister-in-law Margaret Thurso, who lives in a lovely house right on the sea, next to the ruined Thurso Castle. Margaret, at 90, is a great model for me, I hope that I will be as fit and bright as she is, at that age. .

Again, we have an established ritual for my visits, involving a drive - either west or east - admiring the scenery and finding a good place for lunch; this time it was west, to Sunderland, following the dramatic coastline, beyond the Kyle of Tongue to The Craggon Hotel at Melness, where we sat outside and enjoyed fresh scallops from the nearby Loch Earhon.

August 5. An all day pleasant and scenic train journey (still using my First Class pass), leaving Thurso at 06.45, changes at Inverness and Edinburgh, arriving at London Euston at 19.30.

































































Aug 6 - 11

August 6 & 7. Day trips (by train, standard class, quite satisfactory) to Oxford to see Kim Lake and to Pewsey (not far from Salisbury), to see Michael and Monica Turner, all of them friends of many years - in Michael's case dating from our time at Durban High School in the mid 1930s. Although invited to stay overnight, I preferred, where possible, to sleep in my own bed, so on each visit we had a few hours to catch up (partly over a pub lunch,) with at least the highlights of our lives, and of our families.

August 8. I met Jean la Fontaine at the National Theatre for a light lunch on the terrace, watching the jolly crowds enjoying the sunshine. We saw a matinee of "England People Very Nice", directed by Nicholas Hytner, director of the NT, a superb production. The play looks at immigration in Spitalfields, London, starting with C17 French Huguenot weavers, then C19 Russian Jews, C20 West Indians and Bangladeshi and C21 Somalis. It was great theatre, rivetting and moving, with a compelling ensemble cast. Jean had a special interest in the play, because she is descended from these French immigrants. Jean, like me, is a retired (from LSE, London School of Economics) social anthropologist, but is still doing a study of witchcraft, specifically accusations in Britain of child witches, among West African immigrants.

By bus to Jean's home in Camberwell, where we sat in her garden sipping Flagstone "Rose Window". (Jean had visited Appelsdrift Farm, and was delighted to find that Majestic Wines made a special offer of an assorted case of Flagstone wines.). Jean several times got up to chase the squirrels -"They eat my quinces". Dinner at Caravaggio's restaurant in Camberwell (where we had dined twice before), an old fashioned Italian restaurant, the middle-aged waiters all most professional and serious, the food (guinea fowl) and wine (d'Abruzzo, in memory of our mutual anthropologist friend Bernardo Bernardi) excellent. Caravaggio's reminded me of Musso and Frank's in Hollywood in the 1970s, one of our favourite Los Angeles restaurants. I was able to get a bus to take me home to Kennington.

August 9, Sunday. 8 a.m. Mass at St.George's Cathedral in Southwark, a 1/2 hour walk. Unlike the previous two Sundays, here the congregation was mostly of non-British origin, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, with a few East Europeans. The priest was a young Nigerian, Fr.John Eze. .

Bus to Brixton, then a short train ride to Beckenham, Kent, where Dan Taylor met me. Dan took me - and the Scots terrier Alfie - for a walk in the leafy local park I had first met Dan in the early 1980s, when I was external examiner for his Ph.D dissertation (at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London)) - which was on Zulu Indigenous Knowledge of vegetation. Dan and his doctor wife Pippa are both South Africans. Once again, we were able to have our lunch in the garden; I begin to appreciate what a comparatively rare treat this is in Britain. Dan and Peter Castro and I will be editing a collection of essays on "Climate change from Below", looking at how local people, who are threatened, view this phenomenon, and what coping strategies they have. . .

Dan and Pippa and I share many reading interests, I was able to recommend some of my favourite ethnic detectives, and Pippa lent me her copy of Frank Gardner's moving autobiography, "Blood and Sand". I knew that Gardner was Security Correspondent for the BBC, having seen him often on TV, but I had not known that he was a paraplegic, having been shot by Al Qaeda in Riyadh in 2004. By great good fortune he was attended to by Dr.Peter Bautz, a South African doctor whose experience of gunshot wounds in the Cape Flats had made him a leading expert - and he saved Frank Gardner's life. I read a third of this gripping story last evening. I am being sensible - "for a change", Bernard would drily say - and not trying to do too much in one day. So, after my lunch meetings, I am happy to retire to the Bachmuths' comfortable and quiet Kennington flat, to rest before my next sally.

August 10. By Bus (# 59 + #38) to have coffee with Thelma Sanders in her welcoming Islington home, where Bernard and I have enjoyed many happy gatherings.

Later, by train and bus to Richmond, to meet Paula (daughter of my Fish Hoek friends Martin and Val West) and her husband Magnus Walter. Paula still on maternity leave after the birth of their younger son Philip, now six months old. We walked, along secluded alleys, to The White Horse for an early supper, with Alexander (2 & 1/2) very lively but also obedient. .

Magnus -and their nanny - speak German to the little boy, who switches happily between his two languages. Back at their flat (on four floors) Magnus produced a bottle of very smooth John X Merriman Rustenburg Cab Sauv. I knew that JXM had been Prime Minister of the Cape in the early C20, but I had not known that he was also a winemaker. .

August 11. By train from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour, to meet John Gretton for our ferry journey from Portsmouth to Santander in Northern Spain. I had an anxious time waiting for John, through a misunderstanding, but he arrived in his Lexus 15 minutes before the ferry was due to leave, and we drove on to the M/V PONT-AVEN; this ferry has a capacity of 2,400 passengers, but fortunately was only about 1/4 full. We had a comfortable en suite cabin, with a large window. The 24 hour voyage was fine, with smooth seas, excellent service and well-behaved passengers, no lager louts aboard. .

John and I had last met in 1963, in Ghana, when he was teaching at Achimota School ("the Eton of Africa") and I was at the University of Ghana. The voyage gave us a good opportunity to catch up with each other's lives - John has been twice married, twice divorced, has two daughters, retired a few years ago after establishing - and selling - a successful business providing supply teachers for English schools. He has lived in France for several years.

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