LET SLEEPING LIONS....

BOB CURBY

Author, Editor & Publisher

My first published book was LET SLEEPING LIONS LIE.... Published in 2010

Memoirs of a colonial boy.

My job once took me all over Britain, occasionally into Europe, and regularly to the USA. Although born in England of English parents, I grew up in equatorial Africa. Elements of my job mean staying in hotels for several nights at a time, and I found myself thinking back to my childhood and teenage years, sparked off by a chance remark from a bank manager about my accent. The story moves from modern day events to vivid and striking memories of sometimes humerous, occasionally terrifying and frequently dangerous moments in my life.

 

The proverb advises to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, probably because suddenly waking a sleeping dog gets a person bitten. Apply the same rule to the king of the jungle, the magnificent, majestic and ruthless lion and the result is terrifyingly catastrophic! My memories are likened to a sleeping lion and I’d rather they’d stayed that way, but that chance remark had been like a kick to a sleeping lion. The memories flooded back with terrifying recall.

 

Thus the story travels with me going from hotel to hotel where I saw or heard things that reminded me of an event of the past, and I wrote them down. One minute the story is in the present, describing the hotel and its guests, the next it’s in the past, reliving perhaps the time that the family home was blown up by terrorists, with me, a 6 year old being saved in the nick of time, or the time I got lost in deep, dark caves. The frightening near death situation of facing the ruthless unafraid killers of the bushveldt, Cape Buffalo and the mining accident four and a half miles underground.

 

I was traumatised by the destruction of the World Trade Centre, the Twin Towers, now commonly called “9-11”, believing at the time that my son was on the first aircraft that hit. The agony and pain I felt, followed by the relief when my son contacted me to say he wasn’t on that flight.

 

As the story builds, each of my memories intertwines with my modern life and job involving national security, to the extent that I find it difficult to separate the past from the present, asking myself whether and event was yesterday or forty years ago.

 

Following a horrendous traffic accident involving a 40 ton 16 wheeled juggernaut, I had to rebuild my life…….

......... To whet your appetite an excerpt follows.....

 

LET SLEEPING LIONS LIE..... - by Bob Curby...

A true life drama, events that really happened.

Chapter 1

 

The assegai (a small hand-made spear) made a slight whistling sound as it passed by my cheek, grazing it slightly before its honed blade bit deep into the tree by which I was standing. Raising my hand to feel the warm blood oozing from the fresh abrasion, I made as if to move away but was held fast to the tree by my shirt collar. Before me were five or six men, one of which was running toward me with another spear held at waist level, its blade pointing straight at my body. I recognised it's bearer as the same man I'd seen earlier in the bar at Kalomo, a South African of Afrikaner stock with a face that looked like it was made out of dried leather. Why had this group decided to follow me out into the bush and now threaten my life? I looked at them as they advanced. They were a surly bunch with an obvious intent of killing me, right there, right then.

The South African spoke first. "Hey Boetie, this is for all the trouble your father has caused me..." He cursed as he violently thrust the long thin blade of the spear at my stomach. I grabbed at it in a frantic effort to prevent it from slicing into me, the sharp blade cut deep into my hands and blood began to run down my fingers.

It dripped onto the earth beneath my feet. I couldn't remember ever being so scared in my life. I was convinced that it would end in death, my death. My fingers were beginning to lose their grip and I could feel the blade beginning to slide towards my stomach. The man had a sardonic grin on his face and was totally committed to plunging the steel blade deep into my body. He adjusted his grip and pulled the assegai back to make another thrust. I knew that I would not be able to hold out against another thrust. I wriggled and twisted, trying to break free from the spear holding me to the tree behind me. I knew that if I could just tear my shirt I could at least parry a little, but no, it was too strong. Then suddenly a shot rang out and the men faltered. They were clearly startled. There was some shouting and leather-face dropped the spear as they all fled into the forest.

A friend, seeing the men follow me out into the darkness, was swift on their heels, his rifle in his hands. He had saved my life that night. I fail to remember now just which one of my friends that was, but if you ever read this book, well, you know who you are and I am eternally grateful to you. That was more than forty years ago. Now greying at the temples with slight laughter lines around my twinkling eyes, I sat looking out at the evening sun dipping behind the Cornish landscape. I turned and looked at myself in the mirror.

"So, where are you now eh?" I asked myself.

There was a hint of a smile on my lips, and any observer might have thought I had seen something amusing out in the gardens of Western Castle Hotel. They would not have imagined that I was thinking back to a conversation I had had earlier that day, in the local branch of a high street bank. There, a young woman had expressed the thought that I had a South African accent, "You've got a bit of an accent - are you Australian, or is it South African?" she asked.

"Neither, actually," was my reply, "I was born in England but I grew up in Zambia. I did go to South Africa to work but I was invited to leave after less than two years."

"I knew there was something in your accent. I had a friend from South Africa."

"Yes, there are similarities - but I prefer not to be called a South African, not after the way the jack-booted police threw me out of the country in 1967!"

"What, they threw you out?"

"As I said, I was invited to leave."

"You were invited to leave...you mean, thrown out - what did you do to warrant that?" she asked in almost disbelief, and her eyes grew wide as I told her my story and the reason for my unplanned departure from the troubled country back in 1967.

"Wow, that is some story, you should write that down and let people read it!"

I smiled and said "Some-day maybe."

"Let me be the first to read it, - please!"

"Well, that I can't guarantee, we'll wait and see eh?" (I'm sorry you weren't the first to read it.)

We had been discussing South Africa in the "60s and I explained some of the things that I had seen and even the way I was treated because I was English. I made it clear that I knew there were many people who had much to say about the apparent inequality of man within that regime's political operations, but I'd always tried to be neutral, impartial, and during the discussion remained so. I was smiling to myself, because the young woman had suggested I write a book about my expulsion.

If only she had known the half of it. I seldom talked about my childhood in Africa, and for good reason, I was trying to forget a large amount of it. There had been good times and unfortunately some very bad times. I had managed to push all the bad times into deep recesses in my mind and if anyone prodded and poked about in those recesses, the bad memories arose like a rudely awakened lion, snarling and growling. The expression "let sleeping dogs lie" means not stirring up past experiences that might actually make things worse for us. Apply that analogy to a lion and the consequences might be worse for the arouser.

The conversation had come about during a business visit I was leading in her office and over the final cup of coffee before I returned to the hotel. As someone whose job took me everywhere, I spoke to many people in my travels, which had become a routine yet essential part of my working life. I could be in Wales one week and Norwich the next, or maybe Los Angeles, Istanbul or even Rome; but at the time of the discussion I was in the much visited Cornish Riviera, and was quite looking forward to two or three days of business in the wel-coming area.

As I washed and prepared to join fellow hotel guests in the dining room, I smiled again and nodded as I thought about that young lady's suggestion of getting my past anecdotes down on paper for others to read. No - one talking to me, with my soft Southern African accent, would be able to guess the multitude of happenings in my life, or how I came to be there in that friendly hotel. Most people who talk to me and hear my accent are surprised to know that I am an Englishman. That I was born in Norwich, though they nod knowingly when I then explain that I was taken abroad by my parents in 1950, to South Africa and then northwards to the Rhodesias. Finally arriving at the area known as the "Copperbelt" in what is now Zambia, close to the Congo border. I felt a slight chill pass over me and I shuddered for a few seconds. Was it because there was a cool breeze as the evening sun slipped below the rim of the hills above the hotel, or rather was it because I remembered that one particular night when I was arrested near Johannesburg? ............

 

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