“This reminds me…” we chorused, and then of course both lost words in simultaneous laughter.
“Every time I’m in woods at dusk I think about that time” said R as she drove through the trees as the light disappeared leaving only eery black forms.
“What time?” piped up the elephant’s firstspawn of ‘satiable curtiosity from the back of the car.
It was when R and I had walked and hitched the hairpin-bended road up Zomba plateau to the Ku Chawe Inn, discovered we couldn’t even afford a coke, ambled around and admired the view for a bit and then waited for a lift down. And waited. And waited. And realised, very belatedly, that there weren’t any vehicles and it was going to be dark very very soon. So we set off on foot and, since the light was failing fast, took the short cut known as the Potato Path which runs precipitously steeply directly down the side of the plateau.
So you get the general picture. No idea where we were going, no torch, dark, cold, treacherous near-vertical near-invisible path disappearing into the unknown. We hurtled down in short bursts of headlong uncontrolled descent between tree trunks, having deliberately to crash from one to the next to have any chance of staying on our feet. The next day we were battered and I, certainly, could hardly walk.
“I bet you didn’t know,” I said to firstspawn, “that R and I gallivanted around in Africa together.”
“No” he said, in an ominous tone. “There are many, many things I don’t know about you. I want to know all of them. Now. Start at the beginning and tell me everything.”
I declined on the grounds that I might incriminate myself. And it was probably something best shared after he’s passed the age of criminal irresponsibility and parent-grey-hair-inducing behaviour. However it would be good, I think, for R and I to sit together and go through our photographs and memories of that time. It’s been twenty years now and we’ve never done it. R, for instance, had forgotten about new year.
We were camping outside Malindi at the time. R remembered very well the time a giant millipede wandered through the tent and over our sleeping forms in the night. But not lying in the dark listening to the extremely British voice of the BBC World Service news reader wishing a happy new year to all listeners in a catalogue of different countries each hour as the turning world meant their time zone moved through the significant moment.
We nearly missed it entirely this year, we were having such a good time. Someone sensible, me I think, suggested we turn on the radio. Tuned to some random station, we were treated to a rather surreal minute or so of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture up to the top of the hour before hearing the first of the bongs and drowning out the rest with our party poppers and carousing.
(Back from balmy-weathered, friend-filled, beach-based, internet-free new year in Wales…
I hope everyone had a joyful and celebratory time.)