Recently I found my grandfather’s old travel journals, and in particular the ones he wrote when he went to East Africa and South Africa in 1951. During the trip he went to Masasi in Tanzania to visit Wilfred (Mum and Rosalie’s brother), who was a linguistics professor specialising in the languages of the area.
Each page of the journal is written meticulously. It fell open at the following remarkable entry:
Saturday May 12th
Last night the Liwale [governor] of Masasi sent a letter to the Jumbe [chief] announcing his coming visit on Monday. He asks if the man-eating leopard has been killed. If it hasn’t been killed by the time of his arrival there will be trouble.
This morning (9.15) all the men are assembling for a baraza [council].
Bird: calling ······ like a wood-pecker but higher pitch, longer continued. Tuft on head: warm brown cheeks, yellow breast, black over neck.
9.45 The Jumbe has just returned from the funeral of his sister – killed by leopard. A goat was sacrificed. Probably ceremonies went on all day yesterday. Now preparations for baraza: possibly some arrangements for leopard hunt.
I was amazed by the drama contained within these short paragraphs. I also love the fact that he interrupted his narrative with a description of a bird that caught his attention! (With a bit of sleuthing, it’s possible he might have seen a crested barbet).