obit (the dust) of the month: tom sharpe

Tom SharpeTom Sharpe, who has died aged 85, was in the great tradition of English comic novelists and his bawdy style and vulgar approach were said to have made bad taste into an art form. Sharpe did not start writing comic novels until he was 43, but once he got going he gained a large readership. Surprisingly for a comic writer and such a jovial character, Sharpe came to attention first as a hero in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He had written many symbolic – and unproduced – plays while living in South Africa, which was enough to bring down on him the wrath of the Bureau of State Security, but he was, he said, as surprised as anyone when in just three weeks he wrote the novel Riotous Assembly (1971), a dazzling comic send-up of the South African police. The inspiration for the book came from hearing about the old-fashioned English colonial aunt of a friend of his who lived near the police station and complained that the screams of tortured prisoners disturbed her afternoon naps. In a marvelous piece of irony, Sharpe dedicated the book to “the South African police force whose lives are dedicated to the preservation of western civilization in southern Africa.” Sharpe continued his noble crusade against racism in South Africa with Indecent Exposure (1973) – personally, one of my all-time favorite books. Readers thought Sharpe perhaps a one-subject writer, but with Porterhouse Blue (1974), set in a Cambridge college, he proved that he was a true comic novelist in the great English tradition. Born in Croydon, south London, Sharpe had a most unusual and troubled boyhood. His father, the Unitarian minister Reverend George Coverdale Sharpe, was a fascist, a follower of Oswald Mosley and a great believer in Adolf Hitler. From the start of the Second World War, the family was continuously on the move to avoid the father being interned with other British Nazis. Read the full obituary HERE.


wishlist: singita

Consistently awarded top local and international honors, Singita Game Reserves has introduced an added value promotion that will move Africa to the top of your wish list: free nights at four of their low-impact, luxury African lodges in South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The Singita Ebony and Sweni combo package offers a complimentary flight between the two lodges as well as one free night when booking two nights at each lodge. Located in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, Ebony Lodge features superlative views plus suites with private swimming pools along the Sabi River. Just a short flight away, seductive Sweni Lodge is nestled within a riverine forest on a private concession in the game-rich Kruger National Park. Intimate and romantic, Sweni has dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass walls and private viewing decks.  Alternatively for anyone who wants to unpack and stay put for a few days, a free night offer is available at either the stylish Singita Lemombo, overlooking the N’wanetsi River, Singita Pamushana, perched high atop sandstone cliffs overlooking the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, or Singita Grumeti Reserves, located in the vast landscape of Tanzania’s Serengeti plains. All of the lodges boast unmatched game viewing, haute cuisine, and high style – along with an uncompromising dedication to conservation and sustainability above all else. It’s enough to make me wish I had waited to book next week’s trip to Kenya. Yes, that’s right, dear readers: I’m off to Ireland next week, followed by Africa the week after. From a tent in the Masai Mara I’ll be watching the great migration of wildebeest across the plains. My postings, needless to say, might be a bit intermittent.


african skies

016_13AAfrica is many things, least of all a destination.  For the lucky, it is a journey – one both literal and metaphoric – into the wilderness and a chance to step outside the quotidian grind and see the world with fresh eyes.

Be it the heart-stopping sight of a hundred thousand wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti or the solace that comes from acres of stars crowding a midnight sky, there is something to be gained from recognizing one’s own insignificance in such overwhelmingly spectacular surroundings:  the mind sheds the useless baggage of modern life like a layer of dead skin.

Yet it also expands the heart, freeing it to redefine what’s possible from what’s anticipated.DSCN0471 The sun may reliably rise each morning to stir life on the plains, but its setting also awakens a mysterious jungle world that thrives in the dark.

Africa may be just a step on an ongoing journey – one of altered perspectives and acceptance – but oh, what a natural step it is.

004_2In an open-air cabana along the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, the smoke and thunder of Victoria Falls lie in sight as you lay on the table for Ukuchina (90mins, US$153), a traditional Zambian massage combining Thai and Swedish techniques along with hot exfoliating towels. It is utter bliss, in one of the most unspoiled places on earth: a herd of zebra grazes not fifty feet away, while vervet monkeys and baboons play in the trees and across the river the sun descends over neighboring Zimbabwe.

The Royal Livingstone, Mosi-oa-Tunya Road, Livingstone, Zambia

DSCN0514Bubble away in the Baker’s Retreat (30min, R350) an open-air hydrotherapy bath overlooking a watering hole that is perfect for one and even better for two.  Scrub up with an assortment of Africology organic mud and bath products or lie back with a smoothie, enveloped in the sounds of the wild.  Noises start to fool you, until you snap to and realize that, yes, an entire family of elephants are walking across the field not twenty yards away. This is what spafari is all about.

Vital Source Spa, Tintswalo Safari Lodge, South Africa


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