Africa House Revisited: a second Shiwa Ngandu Snippet

Another big hole in my Africa posts, about to be part filled at last. As you may remember, we had such difficulty with internet access while actually staying there, posts were skimpy and infrequent. No such problems now, although come to think of broadband is not brilliant in Parwich either…

My memory was jogged by a delightful comment from someone called Jamie (and I presume a vet and not a wine maker) from Margaret River, Australia. He had apparently been lying by the pool while on holiday in Bali, idly googling names from his past. He had typed in ‘Tink Robey’ and immediately themarionfsblog popped up, with the post about our time shopping and hospital visiting in Kasama, and our bone-shaking drive with Tink and his wife Jen to Shiwa Ng’Andu, the ‘Africa House’ of Christina Lamb’s book and the subsequent film of that name. Tink and Jen had run a veterinary surgery in Margaret River many years ago,

We stayed in the house itself, guests of Charlie Harvey (grandson of Sir Stewart Gore Brown, and whose mother I remember as a young girl when  I myself was a much younger one) and his wife Jo. Together they run the Shiwa estate.

Sir Stewart Gore-Brown
Sir Stewart Gore-Brown

For me our stay here was a reconnection with old family links and faint childhood memories as well as a unique adventure – a real meeting of the past and the present. 

For John it was his first taste of real Zambia, plus all the joys of exploring the area and his bird spotting adventures with Jo Harvey a keen and very knowledgeable birder, with eyes even sharper than his own, if that is possible.

One of the many beautiful birds seen at Shiwa
African Kingfisher

So – two happy people! We soaked in the atmosphere, pored through just some of their archives and photograph albums, found photos of my parents – and even me as a baby on my first visit to the Gore Browns at Shiwa. We needed to stay far longer – we never even started on Sir Stewart’s diaries.

We talked galore with Jo and Charlie, whose company we really enjoyed. We visited Lake Shiwa with Charlie, enjoying the inevitable sundowner by the shore, we visited Tink and Jen for tea, we could have gone riding had we wanted to, we sat in the Shiwa garden revelling in the colour, and watching bushbabies in trees, and when – all too soon – the time came to fly to Mfue for the best stage of our trip we had to help shoo the wild animals off the runway so that the little four-seater plane could land.

Shiwa House, from the gardenThe house itself is probably much as it was in the days my parents used to visit. It is of a style these days probably described as ‘shabby chic’ – slightly tired but very comfortable, lots of family portraits and books. It being winter, and cold until the sun came out, log fires blazed in every fire place (we even managed to keep ours in our bedroom going all night!). We were so well cared for, for within the constraints of national shortages of things that in this country we take completely for granted.

The Dining Room at Shiwa House
The Dining Room at Shiwa House

Jo and Charlie are respected locally as being both influential and ‘being the first to know what’s going on’. Our first morning a very smartly dressed, strikingly beautiful Zambian advisor to the president arrived for a working breakfast, accompanied by a retinue of six or seven including two nannies for her babe in arms. She was obviously highly intelligent and well-informed and John and I kept a very respectful silence having absolutely nothing to offer.

The next day three palaeontologists – one American, one Dutch and one French, called in to discuss the possibility of doing some research on the lake. Funnily enough, we bumped into them again on our visit to Kapishya Springs, which Charlie’s brother, Mark, runs but that little trip will have to wait for another day (hopefully tomorrow)…

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Marion Fuller-Sessions

Recently retired after a busy and varied career, now retired and downsized in theory and enjoying more time for family, friends etc, keeping in touch via my blog

2 thoughts on “Africa House Revisited: a second Shiwa Ngandu Snippet”

  1. All your comments bought it all back to me. How nice to see bush babies . Yes they get some interesting visitors don’t they. Such a cross section of people must stop by. We found Joe and Charlie delightful and very interesting as well.

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