English: Caravan approaching Timbuktu in 1853 (from Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa by Prof. Dr. Heinrich Barth, vol. iv, London 1858) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently a friend asked why I’d chosen Despatches from Timbuktu as my blog title?
I explained that I’d dreamed up and discarded lists of prospective blog titles. Somehow The Foxed Page, Lexical Kedgeree, or From Vellum to Paperback weren’t right. None of them blew my hair back. And then, from who knows where, in floated Despatches from Timbuktu. I liked it. It was unusual, without being twee or crazy. It reflected the fact that I’m writing from the African continent (let’s not get picky about the fact that Timbuktu is 6000 kilometres from Cape Town; I did say Africa remember?)
For as long as I can remember the name Timbuktu has had the aura of a place very far distant, immeasurably far away, an exotic foreign destination. In fact, as a child, I thought Timbuktu was a mythical place name that denoted beyond the back of beyond, if not the ends of the earth itself. It wasn’t until much later in my life when I realised that Timbuktu genuinely existed – what would we do without National Geographic? Thanks to DSTV’s Travel channel I was able to see its spiky towers, low mud houses, the dusty palms, the white robed turbanned figures, the whole North African thing … but it was still distant and exotic. Tick that box.
The more I rolled the name around in my head, the better it felt. I wanted to write about travel, about the unknown, about books, about life, about anything and everything. I liked the word ‘despatches’. It speaks of bulletins from bands of explorers – urgent communications from brave warriors sending news home from the battlefront – carrier pigeons, Morse code, crackly radio messages, sand-scoured bottles containing tightly curled parchment, rolling up onto the beach to be read by incredulous beachcombers …people and events strange and distant, mirages hovering on the edges of history and dreams.
Lately I’ve noticed in an upswing on hits to my blog, particularly from unusual places like Egypt, I suspect it’s all to do with the troubles in Mali, the Islamist insurgents roaring around that part of Africa. Sorry guys – nothing in this blog about historic/scholarly/religious topics. Just book reviews, travel pieces, opinion pieces, a sprinkling of short-short fiction, and (no doubt, baffling to earnest political types) the exploits of my four-legged companion, the inimitable Chocolat.
My blog name will remain as is, unless I have another flash of inspiration and choose to change it. Chocolat suggests we change the name to Cat’s Chronicles, or Paws for Thought, but I’m ignoring her. So the religious zealots, the political plotters, the poli-sci students, the bearded weirdos, will all have to continue grinding their teeth in frustration as they troll through my blog, hunting for the elusive nugget of information they’d hoped to find. Perhaps, en route, they might even enjoy a little of what they’ve read in their searches. I hope so.
That takes care of the casual searchers. And now to my Regular Readers: thank you for following my myriad posts, for slogging through my travels, enduring my rants, reading my stories, mulling over my reviews. I hope to continue entertaining and amusing you for many years to come.
Viva, the 100th Blog Post!