Kate Nicholls, a very beautiful British actress with a brood of young children, came to Maun, Botswana in the mid-90s to work for Women Against Rape. She duly arrived at my second-hand shop REDWOOD HOLDINGS (Pty) Ltd. to furnish her cottage home, buying odds and ends like cupboards, a fridge and so on. It was the start of a friendship that lasts until today. Hers became a fairy tale life of living in the Okavango Delta with her new boyfriend, lion researcher Dr. Pieter Kat, home-schooling her kids there and involved in the study of the decline in the immune systems of the big cats. (Feline HIV.)
In mid-May 1999 Sheila and I were invited to join a couple of other friends, Andrena Teed, Cathy Zerbe and Dave Bodington, to spend the weekend with Pieter and Kate and her children at their camp home on the Gomoti River where they were surveying the Santawani lion pride.
Pieter had not yet made it back from a shopping trip to Maun when we arrived, so it was 15 year-old Travers McNeice who took us on a game drive for an unsuccessful look for the pride, despite the use of the radio-collar tracking device. He, brother Angus (13), sister Maisie (11) and little brother Oakley (5) were being home-schooled by Kate.
So well were they schooled, with such a huge well of intelligence and curiosity from which to draw, it was small wonder that the elder three were able to each contribute to a wonderful book aptly called The Lion Children, published in 2001 by Orion Books Ltd. My ex, Greet Driver, and our daughter, Nicci Earle, visited us in Maun soon afterwards, during which time we went to enjoy a delightful night stay-over at their camp with Kate and Pieter in the wilds.
The idyllic life of Kate and Pieter in Botswana was eventually to end in a nightmare where Kate was assaulted and Pieter badly hurt in a traffic accident; but these stories are not mine to tell.