Sunday, November 02, 2008

Letters from Africa 

Who remembers Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’, broadcast weekly from 1946 until Cooke’s death in 2004 at the age of 95? As a teenager, I used to listen to them sometimes on Sunday evenings, delighting in his gift for moving effortlessly from the specific – some personal experience during the previous week – to the general - informed and insightful commentary on America, its politics, or on humanity in general.

Now there are letters coming from another continent. My son Paul and his wife Rachel have started blogging their experiences of teaching in Zambia.

It looks as though he faces ‘interesting times’ ahead, whatever the outcome of the Zambian presidential by-election:

“If Banda does prevail, and that is the result most White Africans and foreign nationals are hoping for (many justify their preference with a catalogue of clichés: better the devil you know, the lesser of two evils), then with Sata’s overwhelming support in Lusaka there is likely to be trouble in the capital. If Sata is victorious then, in short-term at least, problems are less likely. But in coming years White Africans and foreign nationals might find Zambia an increasingly difficult place to live and work.”

Pleasure though it is to read them, and much as I wish him every success in both his teaching and his writing, I rather hope his letters don’t span the half-century-plus which Cooke managed - we’d rather like to see them both again somewhat sooner than that!

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