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
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.
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 20
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
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
Time for a drive around Belfast before going to their home
in Holywood, dinner, and an early bed. .
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
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
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.
20 - 27
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
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
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,
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.
28 - Aug 5
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.
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.
6 - 11
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
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. .
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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