My business card describes me as a Writer, Journalist, Adventurer, General Labourer and Elephant Man which I suppose, sums me up. I have always wanted to write and with sixteen books to my name, can probably rate myself as a successful – if not particularly well paid – author as I come into my dotage.
In the first decade of this century, I was employed on a freelance basis by the Sunday Express and my job was to report on the farm invasions in Zimbabwe. I did that for eleven harrowing years but apart from bringing a number of atrocities to the notice of Express readers, I fear I didn’t achieve much. Nor did I change the situation in Zim.
As for labouring, in order to make ends meet I ran a small Cotswold gardening business for many years. I can’t say I enjoyed toiling in other peoples’ gardens but it did provide an income. Nowadays I do as little gardening as I can get away with!
It was shortly after I finished one of my Sunday Express stints in Zim that I was invited to address a local Probus Club on the Zimbabwe situation. A little to my surprise I enjoyed the experience and nowadays, I give up to fifty talks a year. My repertoire has expanded over time and I now address audiences on subjects as varied as the African Elephant, Lions and the fact that we are Never Too Old for Adventure.
Perhaps trying to justify the title of that last talk, I periodically get a bee in my bonnet and head back to Africa to challenge the countryside and myself in a number of ways. I have walked, cycled, rowed, kayacked and hitch-hiked so far and in the process had a number of frightening moments but made myself a load of memories that will entertain me well into my dotage.
I was well into my sixties when a young man named Ed Stafford walked the length of the Amazon River and his feat fired my imagination. If he could do that, I was sure I could walk the Zambezi. I approached the Royal Geographic Society who assured me that they had no record of it having been done, so with sponsorship from Cowbell Zambia – makers of Irish powdered milk would you believe – I duly set off on my journey at the tender age of sixty-seven.
Three years later, I reached the Indian Ocean, battered in mind and body but quite proud of myself. Nowadays I am often asked what I will do next but perhaps I really am too old for adventure now.
We shall see.
I consider myself privileged to have been brought up in some of the remoter parts of Africa to enlightened parents. They encouraged me to walk in the bush and despite the dangers posed by wildlife, their only stipulation was that I wear a hat! In the course of my wandering, I developed an interest in elephants that burgeoned into a lifelong passion. Elephants are in desperate trouble and I have travelled all over Britain to talk about their habits and the fact that they are verging on extinction.
Something I find very saddening but I proudly class myself as an Elephant Man.
As I said, that business card sums me up.