Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Boxing and Africa - Two Great Loves

From: Nick Blackford

I shared a flat with Chris in the 2nd year of Edinburgh, and have many happy memories. 

You probably know that he was quite keen on boxing. What you might not know is that I watched him go toe-to-toe with a guy who went on that year to win the British Universities Championship for his weight. The battle only stopped when Chris twisted his ankle. We all knew something special was going on as the rest of us in the boxing gym stopped what we were doing to watch, something which had never happened before or since. 

He inspired me to carry on boxing after Uni, and I went on to box on and off for 15 years... on the rare nights that I did well, buzzing with excitement, I would think of Chris and how pleased he would be. Likewise when things were not going so well in ring, I would imagine him telling me to stop running away and get stuck in. 

Back in 1996 (or 1997) I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful summer with Chris, Rick Laird and Venetia Wingfield travelling around South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. We had a wonderful time, going on amazing safaris and travelling through landscapes that seemed out of this world. I have copied some photos using my iPhone...

This first photo is of Chris and Vinnie climbing what was apparently the biggest sand dune in the world, Dune 7, Sossusvlei in the Namib desert. The sand was so hot it burnt your skin when touched, I think Chris went up either barefoot or in flip flops.

This photo is of Chris after a large meal in Chobe National park in Botswana. He and I shared a tent. One evening was very memorable: there were lions nearby having a row, it sounded like they were right outside the entrance. Apparently they won't attack a tent if the zip is done up...
There were also a lot of elephants about... 

This one was also from Chobe National Park in Botswana. It was the end of the dry season, but the rains had not yet come. Our camp site had a hose pipe, and this elephant wanted us to turn it on. We took it in turns to see who could get closest. Chris won by quite a margin. The rangers did not let us give the elephant water, they did not want to encourage them visiting the campsite. 

Both of these photos were taken in Sossusvlei, in Namibia. We had rented a tiny white Mazda in Windhoek and driven across the Namib desert to get there. The car was given the nickname Marjory-Motherfucker, a joint creative collaboration between Vinnie and Chris. 

Final photo! This one is of Chris and Rick Laird in a place called Chimanimani in Zimbabwe. We climbed up a mountain all day long to reach a giant plateau at the top of which was a game park where we spent a lovely couple of days camping. A very special place indeed.