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Showing posts from August, 2009

Happy 19th anniversary, Brian

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Brian Keenan was an Irishman working in Beirut when he was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad. He was released four years later, on August 24, 1990.

I will never forget his words when he was released. He described being a hostage as like "a man hanging by his fingernails over the edge of chaos, feeling his fingers slowly straightening".

I wonder if he spent time in prison, planning his release soundbite? I'm sure I would have. That's not intended to sound cynical, especially as I read An evil cradling, the book he wrote about his experiences, and was moved by his raw honesty and brutally truthful descriptions of his life as a hostage.

I remember when he said those words as he arrived back in Ireland. It was a crafting of words that felt like a sword, stabbing sharp into my mind. And as a journalist it made me remember all the times I'd asked the inane questions that journalists do, interviewing people who have gone to hell and back: "So, how do you feel, are you happy…

blog connections

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Julie at Moments of Perfect Clarity calls them "blog crushes" and I've had a crush on her blog for a while. It's even developed into a connection. I wanted to say friendship, but although we've sent emails and even gifts, I feel a bit like its still very much a surface friendship... kind of like the connections you make in your first week at a new school (yes, I can remember that far back).

Another of my blog connections is Meri at Meri's Musings. She often comments on my posts, and I on hers and I think our lives have taken some similar paths.

Some of the blogs I read are people whose lives are totally, enviously different to mine, like Chinua with his stunning photography and incredibly beautiful children.

(My children are incredibly beautiful too...)

Others are going through different life stages to me and I feel connected to them and their experiences. Helen is like that.

Others, like Jack, I have "met" on other forums and in other places (all virtu…

the writer formerly known as...

Twenty years after I was born a Brooks, I became a Wilson in one of those happy-ever-after fantasies that didn't quite work out the way I had planned.

But Wilson was a nice name, and eminently preferable to Brooks (which in Afrikaans means underpants or knickers and led to horrible teasing at school) and I quite enjoyed it. It was one of those anonymous names that everyone could spell and I liked the fact that it was totally normal at first look, but had a secret history. The great grandfather of the Mr Wilson I married had emigrated from somewhere near Moscow to the US and like so many others with unpronouncable or "difficult" names (I think it was Tobinofsky) he was given another one. One of the legends is that Wilson was chosen from the phone book, another is that he particularly admired a Wilson (couldn't have been Harold).

So, for the next 25 years or so, I built my name and reputation as the journalist Lynne Wilson ... until I met and married my new happy-ever-a…

talking of trees

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trees in the Kruger Park provide sancturies of relaxation



surprising beauty



examples of tenacity



are attacked by termites



and somehow survive



make us feel small



continue to surprise us by their beauty, even in death



and are destroyed by elephants!

signs on the way

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We saw some fun signs while we were away. Like this one at Letaba Camp in the Kruger Park:


here's what a sausage fruit looks like, in case you were wondering.



and this one at the God's Window lookout at the Blyde River Canyon was my favourite:

predators large and small

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We left Skukuza when the gates opened at 6am, fortified by some strong coffee sold by an enterprising guy at the gate in the predawn chill. It was Greg's first trip to Kruger, and I was really hoping that he'd get to see some lions so I was really pleased when we came across this group, right on the edge of the road. The biggest male (not in this picture) turned and looked right at Greg as he was taking his picture. The resultant shivery hands are the reason that the photo was too much of a blur to publish here! One becomes very aware that the car provides a very false sense of security, and the lions could break their way into them if they realised what tastey morsels were travelling inside!



Less than 100m down the road, we met this group of affectionate giraffe. We noticed during our stay that giraffe tend to travel in threes. Not sure why.




Greg's breakfast toasted sandwich at a picnic spot on the way to Satara was a great attraction to the yellow billed hornbill.




They rem…

boiling frogs

When we returned to Blue Jay after our three days in Kruger, we met a mother and son from Zimbabwe who were staying there too. Two things struck me about them... the first was that the son was incredibly well behaved and the second was that the mother was overwhelmingly positive about life in Bulawayo where she lives and works as an accountant.

"There's just so much going on," she said. "There are businesses opening, big developments happening, and we even have a choice of meat in the butcher!"

I was interested by her enthusiasm, in part because it was so different to anything I'd heard about Zimbabwe in a while. Its also a very different impression to the one that my old boss, Wilmot James, got when he was on a fact-finding mission.

The fact that we parted on bad terms doesn't mean that I don't respect his judgement or his insights, so I found the contrast between her impression and his particularly intersting. His views are here

When we were chatting …

day three, belatedly

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The internet connection was so bad that I decided that work, and my blog, would have to wait until I got back.

Day three saw us up bright and early so that we could be at the Kruger Park gates when they opened at 6am. We actually got there at about 5.45, but there were already 11 cars ahead of us.

The game reserve is a great place to observe human behaviour too... we were amused by the strategies of people who wanted to be first in the queue to check in. Some double-parked right next to the reception hut. Others dropped off the sprinter in their party, who rushed up to the door. We couldn't see the point of all the oneupmanship, so we ended up about 20th in the queue at reception. And it really made no difference at all... it was still dark when we got through the final entrance gate anyway!



We saw lots of elephants, in their natural setting. No chance of checking their teeth!



this is a saddle beaked stork at a waterhole near Skukuza, the camp where we spent our first night in the pa…

up close...

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Today was the second day of our holiday, and it was totally unforgettable. Yes, that is a real elephant... his name is Casper and he is 23 years old... not yet fully grown.

He was bought by a Namibian farmer who realised that he had taken on far more than he could handle when Casper and his brothers reached adolescence and, like any adolescents without adult supervision, began wreaking havoc. He was rescued from being shot by the Elephant Sanctuary, where he now lives.


It was a incredible privilege to get a chance to see elephants (Casper and a 10-year-old, Kitso)so close, and to touch them and really interact with them.



I kept feeling that I should ask permission as we were shown their amazing, wrinkly hide and were able to feel the delicate smooth skin of their ears. I even touched his tongue... it felt like a marshmallow!



The elephants are fairly... but not completely tame, so you always get the impression that they are allowing you to interact with them, rather than being forced to.…