Dooley and the Duke: Our friend, Andrew Dooley, a Liverpudlian with a wonderful sense of humour, worked for the local Maun newspaper, The Okavango Observer, as a journalist, among other things. Andrew would say it was more of the other things.
He picked up the rumour that the Duke of Edinburgh was at the Maun Airport, about to fly into the Okavango Delta. For obvious security reasons, royal visits were meant to be hush-hush, but the Delta was a favourite getaway for people usually pinned in the spotlight.
Andrew rushed to the airport armed with his camera, to find the Duke hiding under a large sombrero, about to make his way to the small plane.
“Hey Dook!” yelled Andrew, “Take off your hat!”
After a pause, the Duke replied, “No!” and stalked away to the plane.
Marimbas of Shakawe: The headmaster of Shakawe Junior Secondary School, Steve Harpt, an American teacher who had come to Botswana in the ‘80s, bridged the gap between local music and Western traditional music by concentrating on the marimba, which were not only played at the school but also made there from local Mukwa wood (Pterocarpus angolensis). The group so formed called themselves Shakarimba. In December 1998, while doing a couple of gigs in Maun, the band stayed a few nights with Sheila and me. They became well known throughout Botswana and beyond.
Well, Buckingham Palace is beyond, isn’t it?
On a visit to the Delta in 1999 with Prince Charles, Prince William was so enamoured with Shakarimba that it was his request that the six-piece band and their instruments be brought to the Palace to entertain at his “Out of Africa” themed twenty-first birthday in 2003.
That same year, they played for South African President, Nelson Mandela. At home, lodge owners hired them to play for tourists and they also played at weddings.
Prince Harry: The Okavango River Lodge was a popular watering hole for locals, and the nearest pub to where we lived. It was the only pub at which I saw , twice, although apparently he has visited it several times. He was very relaxed, mixing in with young folk of the town of his own age, and accompanied by an Australian friend of his. When we shared a glance we nodded at each other, but what interested me as a writer was meeting a man more my age called Ian, who turned out to be one of Harry’s security minders. Obviously he restricted what details he could tell me about the house the entourage hired when in town, except that there were apparently only two officers necessary on this job, considered low risk, but they were in constant radio contact with their superiors in the UK.