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Lynne Harkes: Spinach Soup for the Walls

*** Click on the ISBN number to order this book. ***


A sprig of basil, washed, disinfected and given a new lease of life from its former grubby home and elephant dung fertiliser, was now beginning to spread its bruised wings and sprout roots in a recycled tomato tin on the patio. Only close inspection revealed the army of ants that were also now setting up residence, traipsing through the lumpy soil on a mission to turn the leaves into a delicate, nibbled piece of green, aromatic lace. Even at this early stage, it was completely unfit for human consumption. Perhaps it was telling me something. Everything familiar to me was going to be entirely challenged in this place.

Gabon, West Africa and 144 days under the belt. I’m trying hard to tone down my obsession for liking things in meticulous and controlled order. I need to embrace the wonders of this jungle around me and continue with the job of improvisation. Many days I struggle. I’ve even begun to resent the dog’s little grey water dish, transformed now to a makeshift pen-holder. It is filled with a handful of felt and biro pens and sits incongruously beside a historic looking company-issue telephone on a thickly over-varnished windowsill, looking silly.

A few weeks earlier, when I placed it there, I’d been so thrilled at my ingenuity. All the childhood years of watching Blue Peter had paid off.

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