Welcome. I'm a novelist, travel writer and photographer based in the UK and West
Africa. Most of my fiction is for children, so I regularly visit schools, festivals and
libraries in the UK. My travel writing is generally for adults; my focus is Africa.
Life in Guinea-Bissau
2012-14 have been tumultuous years for Guinea-Bissau. All sorts of political
shenanigans, including the abduction of the former prime minister by the army, have
had a widespread impact. For two years, we waited... and waited... for elections,
while people's lives and livelihoods ground to a halt. At last, they've taken place
peacefully. The country has a new president, Jose Mario Vaz (aka Jomav).
Meanwhile, the country's spectacular cultural traditions (particularly those of the
Balanta people) have been part of the inspiration for some new fiction.
Here's a taster -- fanado (initiation) and kusunde (a dance competition). Truly extraordinary. For more pics, go to the photo gallery.
SCHOOLS AND AWARD NEWS
Guinea-Bissau has taken up a lot of time over the past year, but when in the UK
I've fitted in plenty of school visits. They continue to focus on the Egyptian Chronicles,
and my new Egyptian jewellery workshops have been going down a storm!
Here's some feedback from schools:
"Thank you so much for a fantastic day, lots of positive emails from parents"
"The children are still buzzing"
"Thank you so much, it was excellent... They all loved it... The necklaces have been
worn ever since!!"
It's been great to talk about The Sacred Scarab, the third in the Egyptian Chronicles
series, which won the primary section of the Historical Association's Young Quills
Award for historical fiction. What's great about this award is that the shortlist is
chosen by children themselves.
For more about this book and the others in the series, click here.
Malaria, a mugging, endless exhausting hours on motorbikes -- that's the untold story behind my latest publication, which you wouldn't even recognise as mine until you open
the cover. Such is the fate of travel guide updaters: I'm responsible for the 2nd edition of the Bradt guide to Burkina Faso, which has now hit the shelves.
Despite the rigours of doing the update, Burkina became one of my favourite African countries. Unsurpassed welcome, fabulous food and the best chance of seeing elephants in the whole region. Great mud architecture too.
A kusunde is a heartstopping
show of machismo, in which rival
groups of dancers perform their
hearts out. The group that attracts
the biggest audience wins.
A fanado initation ceremony
involves sacred horns being
paraded around the village.
Initiates eventually troop into
the sacred wood, where no
one else may follow...