On this whirlwind UK trip, we explored Chester, my mother’s original home town though she’s spent almost her entire adult life in Zimbabwe, where I spent around seven years as a child — broken into three segments, by intervening periods in Zimbabwe where I was born and have lived most of the rest of my life.
Outdoor with Rosie Mitchell
This included an interesting walk round the ancient city walls guided by my knowledgeable cousin Anne, and of course, tracking down a few geocaches — there are over 400 of these in and around the city centre alone!
We also thoroughly enjoyed a lovely family reunion party she had thrown in our honour, which gathered the clans of my mother’s siblings, their children, and in some cases children’s children, all now either at university or working.
They are a delightful lot and the extended family through the generations share certain interests universally; long hearty walks in the country; bird spotting; wildlife in general, a passion for caring for the environment and local history.
We spent a wonderful day at the world renowned Chester Zoo, where my cousin Vivienne, her daughter Nicky and nephew Craig all work, well demonstrating the wildlife passion that seems to be genetic!
By special dispensation via Viv, who has worked there a long time, we were allowed to spend a little interactive time with the lemurs while they were fed; an absolute delight.
Since visiting Madagascar in 2007 and encountering several species of these absolutely enchanting primates in the wild, we have been entranced by them and take any opportunity we can to enjoy them, wherever we can.
We also enjoyed a close-up view of African Wild Dogs, so much the focus of current urgent conservation efforts back home. Zoos may not be the ideal setting or home for the wild animals we enjoyed but I fully see the need for them and the important conservation role they play globally.
All zoo animals are bred in captivity and careful global inter-zoo programmes ensure diversity of gene pools.
Given the level of wholesale outrageous slaughter, even today, that is going on in the wild, of the last remaining wild animals still living there, much of this driven by ignorant beliefs in magical or medicinal powers associated with horns and other animal parts, zoos actually ensure the survival of many species and indeed in some cases are the only place today where certain species are found.
Neither can the role of zoos in wildlife and conservation education for those living in industrialised nations be underestimated.
An English country wedding
The delightful Dorset country wedding we were in England to attend and photograph, enjoyed glorious sunny weather, much to the relief of all, and was idyllic. Hugo, a young sub-lieutenant in the Navy, was supported by some of his colleagues who looked dapper in their naval uniforms and provided a “sword arch” for the newlywed couple as they left the picturesque English village church in Iwerne Minster.
They were married by Hugo’s Anglican grandfather and priest Tony Ashdown, once, many years ago, the vicar of Kadoma, where Hugo’s mum Deborah and I would run wild in the school holidays, riding generous other people’s horses through the bush and farmlands, exploring, cycling, playing and, as I recall, giggling a great deal, to the some-time irritation of the grown-ups!
In true old English tradition the bride Helen walked through the quaint little streets under a “bower” — an arch made of flowers, held aloft by her bridesmaids, with her smart, beamingly proud new husband.
This wedding was a drawn out affair, with a wedding “breakfast” for 40 (actually a lunch), the speeches, a brief recess, then, on to the big evening bash with around 150 guests, which included superb live entertainment by the bridegroom’s sister Bryony, an outstanding young singer, a firework display, and later, a disco. It was tremendously enjoyable all round, made even better by the gorgeous weather holding out just long enough. The following day, the heavens opened!
Now in Holborn, central London, we watch newscasts about floods elsewhere in this country and flood warnings and are relieved to have got here without being so far affected.
We seem to go in for being in England during freak weather conditions, having also a couple of years ago been in London during heavy, settled snow, the likes of which had not been encountered in nearly two decades!
So far, in our evenings we’ve enjoyed the inimitable Simon Callow in The Mystery of Charles Dickens, a superb new one man play examining the life and inspirations of the famous author, and the smash hit West end musical show that’s been running for years, Mamma Mia which incorporates Abba’s timeless songs into a feel-good story, and left us beaming from ear to ear.
We’ve also dined in culinary legend Raymond Blanc’s fabulous new Covent Garden restaurant, Brasserie Blanc — but that story has to wait!