It happened again the other day. Perhaps my mind was full of the chapter I was writing about orchids; or perhaps it was completely empty. Either way I heard a loud shriek and for an instant I was back in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.
An instant later – the whole thing taking less than a second — I was back in Norfolk, perfectly aware that I was listening to a jay. But in that lost moment I heard a lilac-breasted roller, one of the signature birds of the Valley and I was looking for those impossible colours at the top of a dead mopane tree so I could show our guests one of the loveliest birds they would ever see.
I’m used to it. This morning the distressed state of a bush in the garden had me back in the Valley, even though this bush had been munched by the muntjac and Chinese water deer of the Broads, rather than the bushbuck and impala of Zambia. I don’t wish I was there — and anyway we’re planning a trip later this year — it’s just that I’ve never really left.
It’s no great inconvenience, apart from the time when I saw a couple of lions under a Norfolk willow or when I heard hear an irritated hippo under the sallows. Mostly I take it in stride: and if you ever get to the Valley yourself, forever after you will have moments of Luangwa dreamin’.