Never say to your autistic child: “Can you pass me a brick wall so I can bang my head against it.” Taking it literally, DS1 pushed my head into the wall. “There you go,” he said. I won’t make that mistake again. While taking the meaning of an expression or an instruction literally is a common autistic trait, DS1 usually grasps the concept rather than taking it at face value – unless trying to be

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TANZANIA 2018 Turning off the main road we head up a windy incline into the foothills of Kilimanjaro towards Kahawa Shamba, a family run coffee farm. ‘Kahawa Shamba’, incidentally, means ‘coffee farm’ in Swahili – it must have taken a long meeting to decide on the name.  I quickly slip (literally) into my first off-road driving experience as we bump along a narrow track to the farm, at the gate of which we are greeted

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Until recently I still viewed DS1’s inability to leave the house at the weekend – sorry, I should focus on his abilities: DS1’s ability to lie on the sofa watching television all weekend – as a major concern. Whatever we tried, he invariably dug his heels in and railed against the barrage of ‘stupid’ suggestions we made in the perverse name of having some fun, venturing outside… or doing his homework. But I have now

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MALAWI: April 2018 The alluring smell of herbs, music blaring from a house, goats bleating. The lap of the water on the shore, the long stretch of untouched sand. The splash of a paddle in the water, the freshness of the air. The heat of the sun, the warmth of the people. Fishermen casting their nets out on the lake, others tending theirs at the water’s edge. The stench of fish laid out on long

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MALAWI: April 2018 There’s something about travel that encourages me to try new activities – the sort I’d never contemplate having a crack at stuck at home. Having exhausted snorkelling and kayaking and general lazing about in the relaxed atmosphere of Kaya Mawa resort – on the picturesque Likoma Island in the middle of Lake Malawi – my attention turns to the paddleboards that lie invitingly on the sand, next to the still, aquamarine water.

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MALAWI: April 2018 As we watch a scrub hare scurrying across the road in front of us, before it just as quickly disappears into the vegetation, Whyte Mhone, our guide on the Nyika Plateau, turns to us, ready to impart another of his wonderful tidbits. “Hares are so clever,” he smiles, a twinkle in his eye. “People hunt them with dogs, and when a dog is the hare will wait until the last second before

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MALAWI: April 2018 Acha Chawinga, as well as extolling the virtues of his country – not unexpected seeing as he works for the Malawi Department of Tourism – likes a good story. The phrase ‘kaya mawa’ – the name of our resort on Likoma Island – is the local equivalent of  ‘mañana’, along the lines of I could leave Likoma today, but maybe I’ll go tomorrow. The wiry Acha explains the meaning in a more

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MALAWI: April 2018 “We need to make Malawi an experience in one country,” says David Kelly, general manager at Tongole Wilderness Lodge in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. But he adds that he would rather see Malawi promote its diverse ecosystems than go down the big game park route. “Malawi can offer a complete safari in one place – the Lake, wilderness, mountains, mopani forest. There are varied landscapes that Malawi could sell, but it has

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I sip a cool drink, perched on a barstool at Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, overlooking Lake Malawi, barman Luke Kakhongwe tells me he was born on the island and has always lived here. Although members of his family have moved to the mainland, he seems to have no desire to do so. And looking around me, why would he – he has a great job in the perfect surroundings. As

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MALAWI: April 2018 “The translocation programme started in 2015, when African Parks took over Nkhotakota and Liwonde,” says Marnet Ngosi, education officer for African Parks, as she talks me through the largest transfer of elephants to a single reserve ever undertaken. Dubbed ‘500 Elephants’, the initiative saw the conservation NGO African Parks, together with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, move more than 500 elephants to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in the north from Liwonde

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MALAWI: April 2018 “I was attacked by a leopard when I was around seven years old,” says Emmanuel Kandiero, a guide in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. We are sipping rather generous measures of Jameson whiskey (well, I am, Emmanuel’s drink of choice is a ‘Green’ – a Carlsberg to you and I) around the campfire at Tongole Wilderness Lodge, while telling stories. I have a feeling Emmanuel will trump the rest of us with this

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MALAWI: April 2018 James Lightfoot, a tall, blonde Englishman appears to love his lifestyle. Co-owner of Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, a Malawian outpost that lies in the Mozambican-owned waters of Lake Malawi, he is also co-founder of Latitude Hotels. A backpacker in the ’80s and ’90s, like myself, he wanted to recreate the experience for that generation of travellers now that they had ‘grown up’. Although, we both agree, we haven’t really grown up.

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MALAWI: April 2018 Christopher Mvula, known more affectionately as Mr Christopher, is an engaging character. He oozes charisma and has one of those faces that you don’t forget – the sort you know has a thousand stories to tell. I’ve met him before – in Liwonde National Park on a previous trip to Malawi – but on that occasion I didn’t get the chance to sit and chat; this time I don’t miss the opportunity.

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“You can use this to cure nosebleeds,” Whyte Mhone – our guide from Chelinda Lodge, high up on the Nyika Plateau – informs us, picking up a porcupine quill he has spotted lying abandoned on the track. “If you burn the end and sniff it, it aids clotting.” As if this doesn’t seem far-fetched enough, he tells us about a friend of his at guiding school who came to the aid of a colleague who

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MALAWI: April 2018 I have a T-shirt from the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa that states: “Football is life”. For many people around the world this is certainly the case – and Africa is no exception. Africans are obsessed with the game. Not so much with their own teams but with overseas leagues – the English Premier League, in particular; their allegiances often influenced by African footballing exports. They are fiercely proud of

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MALAWI: April 2018 As I buckle up for the flight that will take me from Addis Ababa to Lilongwe, I fall into conversation with my neighbour. Abraha, who hails from the Ethiopian capital, is on his way to Malawi for the first time. I can see the sense of excitement etched in his craggy face; maybe a touch of apprehension too. I’m full of anticipation as well. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to Malawi

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“Hurry up,” DS1 messaged the wife. Given that the wife was only a couple of feet away from him at the time and on her way out of his bedroom, having been chatting to him while he lay in bed ill, she was somewhat flummoxed. “What with?” she replied digitally. “Leaving,” he responded. I think it was at this point that she regretted giving him his phone, so that if he needed anything he could

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“All Tottenham and Arsenal fans over 18 will be murdered,” said DS1. “If they are under 18 they will go to prison, then when they become 18 they will be murdered.” Although, obviously, I don’t condone killing people, I couldn’t be more proud of his need to dish out a punishment for such a heinous crime. Perhaps, I should explain. This term’s theme at school is ‘Crime and Punishment’, and DS1’s class had been tasked

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