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For many years, I was head of the Department of Geographical and Environmental Sciences and a faculty dean at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa. Now retired as Professor Emeritus, I have slipped into another life in the pastoral setting of our small farm in the often mist-shrouded midlands of KwaZulu-Natal.
In many ways, this life parallels my previous existence as an academic. In those seemingly far-off day as a natural scientist, my teaching and research interests turned initially on atmospheric science and then on the broader issues relating to environmental management. 'The Weather and Climate of Southern Africa' (Oxford University Press) is a co-authored book that dates from this earlier period in my life. I also have numerous chapters in books and scientific journal papers that map my research interests at the time.
I no longer view environmental and social issues from the detached viewpoint of the academic. Now I live them. Our horses need food, water, exercise and care. Our fields must be managed. Water is a scarce resource. Bushbuck, reedbuck and duiker are frequent visitors that cannot resist my roses. Monkeys raid the vegetable garden whenever our backs are turned. Caraculs (lynx family) are frequent visitors, and we think it was a passing leopard that spooked our horses so badly that they flattened a sturdy pole fence in their desperation to escape. Meanwhile the local council raids my bank account for politically-determined land taxes, exorbitant electricity charges underline the complex nature of energy issues, my landline telephone no longer works because of ongoing cable theft for the copper content, and the political debate grapples, often hopelessly it seems, with issues common to most developing countries. The sum total of this privileged existence is something I would not change for anything.
My writing no longer targets academic journals. Part of a metamorphosed life is doing different things. Fiction writing falls into this category.'Return of the Leopard' and 'The Man Who Kept His Head' are set in the environment in which I live. The genre is mystery/thriller/romance. Hopefully they reflect the ambience and flavour of the area. 'Sunstone:The Boy and the Dragon Princess,' is written for young adults. It is fast-moving and exciting with a subtext that juxtaposes issues of conflict, intolerance, corruption and power-lust with generosity, courage, reconciliation and enlightenment. A sequel will appear soon. Naturally, I recommend them all.