Dry grasses rustled as we carefully skirted the gorge of Ethiopia’s biggest river, the rumbling, crashing sound of the water far below rising as we neared the edge, where a dirt track led several hundred metres down to flatter ground adjacent to the river itself. The light was already very low and fading quickly, as we were only 9 degrees north of the equator. Unseen animals lurked in the thorny scrub alongside our trail. . . .
That phrase seems to recur surprisingly quickly around this time, and not just for birthdays. For example, it’s only a few weeks since the swallows came back here – over a month late compared to earlier years. They are one of the reasons that I’m here now, as their forbears were twittering on the roof ridge when I came with my younger sister to take a look at the house.
As the uncle who disappeared for lengthy periods, usually in winter time to India, I was curious about what my very young nephew thought I might be finding in such a place. It may have been his exposure to the enigmatic Scottish poet Ivor Cutler, but he only had to think for a second or two and announced that there were probably egg trees.
In the slightly rising gloom outside I could hear a muffled coughing and grumbling, and the background clatter of hooves on the road nearby. As I had so many times before, I dragged myself out of bed in the dark and tried to wake myself to appear as if I knew what I was doing. What followed was quite an eye-opener.
The first book I remember reading that involved travel to far flung locations was one written by an old colonial hand, Fred G Merfield, with the alluring title ‘Gorillas were my Neighbours’. Looking back, I now see it as the memoirs of a casual racist, (amazingly quite acceptable at the time), with caricatures of tribal rituals, cannibalism and bush meat in Equatorial Africa. However, it was a considerable eye-opener for an eleven year old boy and certain phrases from it still loiter in my mind.
Join the dots and make a picture, win a major prize !
As the caption always read in the children’s comics puzzle page I used to love, I’m a great one for connections. Searching a page of scattered pinheads for patterns drove me crazy but the lure of the (never-won) prize was of less importance than the discovery of hidden forms. It’s hardly surprising that his has spilled over into a lifetime of travel, and I wonder how widely this affliction or condition is felt. Perhaps it’s a form of synaesthesia, where a person can hear a word that overwhelms them with colour, or may be able to see the wind passing.
I’ve had the delight over the last few days of m’learned friend’s company.
There have been some new features on the Amateuremigrant website today – I’ve added in feeds from Instagram and also embedded the podcast version of posts to make them more accessible. You will already know I like to champion Alt Text with images, for the benefit and enjoyment of visually impaired users.
M’learned in question is Alex Dunedin maestro of the Ragged University – check out this charity which among other things organises meetings, lectures and learning lunches.
Ragged University curates a vast array and amount of information, ideas and all sorts of contributions to a website which is accessible and open to ideas and submissions from people who have some knowledge they feel useful to share.
He, like me is a high functioning version of a host of imperfections and the internet is his forte. He built the website I run and has been of immense (slightly baffling . . ) help, along with his eccentric and eclectic ways which mask my own foibles marvellously.
I’m also posting this from my mobile app – another new experience – other bloggers could give it a try !
Cheers Alex, a redoubtable figure.
Having spent so many years working in travel, I’ve lost count many years ago of the number of times I’ve left the front door not knowing if I’d ever see, or be seen again by those I care for. Of course, in reality, we all do this, every day, accidents happen, symptoms strike haphazardly and in a certain frame of mind even the most bizarre unlikelihood seems as possible as any other.
Few things have simultaneously puzzled, intrigued, tortured, enraptured, dominated, bedevilled and promised enlightenment and salvation to the hapless human race than religion.