Shortening Shadows


The flamboyant drips red into the pool below. Like blood.

I’m glad it’s in flower. Full fat flameflared flower. It bore only a few shy blooms last year.

And then the tree next door fell down and, as if to make up for the loss, or just because it no longer had competitive, crowing, colourful audience, it has come into glorious hot blossom.

Stark redblooded contrast to the dead baked biscuit grass.

We have been home for two weeks. Hat and I.

Our feet barely touched the ground, our suitcases barely opened and we were off again.  Sometimes Outpost life is so slow moving you can barely hear it breath. And sometimes it whizzes past in a blur of bags and trying to remember to pack your toothpaste this time.

My middlefordiddle is ensconced in her Home Counties boarding school and braving her first imminent winter and I am trying to distract myself from long shadows. It feels all wrong that she is not here: a gap where we should be five. A full house five.


Long Shadows for blog


But eldest is home for halfterm. And I have a writing gig.

It meant four days in the glorious bush bound seclusion of Katavi, in Tanzania’s Wild – wildest – West.

Where the sun is high and shadows are shorter.


blog wild wild west


So from England’s autumnal winter and ever thickening woollies, it was to still, steaming afternoons which melted in the broiling heat; you could hear the hiss of cicadas, like too many insistent pressure cookers on the agitated boil.   Sometimes the breeze gave an impatient sigh. But that was all.   One tiny, tired puff.


blog somnolent lions


Lions lay somnolent in the deep shade of Tamarind trees; hippos hunkered as low as they could in chocolate mousse mud and crocodiles’ smiles grew wider as they lay inert, hideous, jaundiced mouths ajar.


smiling crocodile


‘Is that so that they can catch a passing bird?’ asked Hat.

‘No’, I said, fanning myself with a road map, ‘that’s so they can keep cool’.

‘I think they look mean’, observed Hat, and she began to sing, never smile at a crocodile …

She missed three days of school. She learned to tell the difference between a male and a female hippo; she spotted a python in a tree, an owl on a dust spangled evening game drive, four lionesses crossing a river (hop, hoppity hop they went: cats on a hot tin roof, or over a murky water way where they could not see crocodiles lurking log like and treacherous in the shallows).


blog python


She lay in her tent at night and listened to the soft tug and pull as passing elephants grazed close to where she was trying to sleep. She wasn’t scared.  ‘Isn’t it funny’, she observed at breakfast the next morning, ‘such big animals and you can’t hear them unless they’re eating’. Cushioned pads pillow their footfall and muffle the sound to softest silence.  

Three weeks ago she was listening to the rush of London traffic, the beat of feet on fast city streets, the reverential hush of the National Gallery, the entertainers in Covent Garden …


blog london's quickening feet


And now we really are back. No more safaris on our immediate horizons. Just a powder blue sky which yawns to white hot as I scan optimistically for scudding clouds: it’s that time of year. It’s the ‘when’s it going to rain’ time of year.

And Hat is doing maths homework.

And I have finally finished unpacking.

And the flamboyant is dipping her scarlet painted fingers in the pool and tracing a crimson pattern.


red fingered flamboyant

9 Responses to “Shortening Shadows”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    I love the photos, but not as much as the word pictures.

    Weclome home, I missed you.

  2. Grannymar Says:

    I did mean WELCOME home!

  3. Momcat Says:

    I enjoyed your post and the contrasts. I love the lion photo but then I’m a sucker for cats! And the Flamboyant is gorgeous. We have then in SA but never in such vibrant bloom.

  4. Rob Says:

    Welcome back. Photos are great. Is the writing gig on line or mag/paper only?

  5. ann Says:

    Wow, the flamboyant is certainly, well, flamboyant! A world away from here in Lincolnshire where the nights are drawing in and the skies are getting lower. Brrrrr. It never ceases to amaze me that we can be so far away and yet so close.

  6. janelle Says:

    and who really IS the lucky one, eh?? you globe trotter you! that flamboyant is BEAUTIFUL. golly. it’s HUGE. and lucky little fishes to go to katavi! sending much love toujours xxx j

  7. R. Sherman Says:

    Ditto on the welcome back, though some of the photos, i.e the croc and the lion seem a little too close to the “business ends” of those beasts for my comfort.


  8. Rummuser Says:

    You do lead a fascinating life. In India we have two trees with similar colourful flowers, one is the flame of the forest ( and the other is the Gulmohar(

    Both, when in bloom are magnificent.

  9. Paradise Says:

    What a lovely post & stunning pics. Thanks.

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