Knowing so intimately the endless fragmented memories that comprise a childhood, one may risk, by proximity, being blinded to the magic of the stories woven across these years. So it was for me, and I therefore owe, first of all, great debts of gratitude to Patti Waldmeir, who said that here was something to write about, and to Michael Holman, for making the next leap: insisting there was, moreover, a book to fill, and relentlessly encouraging me as I began the daunting process of excavating the memories, and learning, by trial and much mortifying error, how to assemble them into a form fit for the page.

To my family, I owe thanks for so many things, beginning, of course, with their inadvertent gift of this story. For their conscious role, I am above all grateful for the enthusiastic support I received from the moment I declared my intention to commit their characters to the page; testament, if nothing else, to the survival beyond this story of their addictive cocktail of reckless confidence in one another and an astounding ability not to care what the world might think. Pages could not do justice to their and others’ many, varied contributions, but suffice it to say that the book could not have been written without the tireless assistance — recollecting, inspiring, critiquing, and fact checking — of Linda, Keith, Lulu, and Damien. My grandparents Joan and Terry McCourt, and Jonathan Scott, Christine Sievers, and Henry Scott also provided invaluable help and guidance.

Many others who helped in this book’s creation appear too in its pages and I would like to express my gratitude to Seloma Tiro, Charlie and Robyn Sheldon, Lyn and Melaney Nevill, Nomsa Mbere, Jean van Riet, Jean Kiekopf, the Blair family, Jenny Dunlop, Tiffany McGaw, Laura Hudson, and Nicola Anderson. For steering me away from some of the myriad traps that face an expatriate writing about Botswana, I owe an additional special thanks to Seloma and Nomsa. In this respect, I have also found valuable Denbow and Thebe’s Culture and Customs of Botswana, with which I cross- checked relevant parts of the text. By its nature, however, a story told through the eyes of a child and a teenager, informed mostly by the experiences of one eccentric family, will inevitably produce a selective portrait of a country. I hope the reader will understand and forgive it as such. To everyone else I write of, I owe thanks too: a story is only as good as its characters and I am fortunate to have grown up surrounded by so many fascinating people, leading lives to rival fiction. It is here appropriate to note, too, that in a few instances where necessary to protect identities, I have used fi ctional names. Finally, at least amongst those who shared the Botswana I write of, I would like to thank Ann O’Connell and Karan and Raj Chathley, who, though not mentioned in this text, were so generous to Ivor and Betty, and who made such a great difference to their final years.

Since the conception of this book, many others have given generously of their time and knowledge. For their counsel and support, I am grateful to Christine and Robin Whaite, Sangeeta Puran, Janet Ginnard, Drazen Petkovich, Tulsi Bramley, Lauren Lindsay, Jack Turner, Alan Williams, John Parr, Peter Sievers, Chris Sherwell, Ian Harrison, and the whole Unite and Feinstein clan; for their invaluable critiques of the early text I am indebted to Michela Wrong, Caroline Penley, and Sidney Buckland, as I am, for their encouragement, to Alexander McCall Smith, Peter Godwin, Samantha Weinberg, Judith Todd, and Phillip van Niekerk, and, for their inspiration, to Jacobus Pansegrouw and the remarkable members of the Group of Hope.

To thank all those who have played a part in the publishing of this book is impossible, but I am, in particular, deeply grateful to Ann Godoff at The Penguin Press, for her brilliant editorial touch and wisdom; Alexandra Pringle at Bloomsbury; Jeremy Boraine at Jonathan Ball; Arabella Pike; David Eldridge, Sarah Hutson, Lindsay Whalen, Kate Griggs, Mary Morris, Colin Midson, Trâm-Anh Doan; and to all the wonderful people at DGA — Sophie Hoult, Charlotte Knight, Kerry Glencorse, Kirsty Mclachlan, and Heather Godwin — agents and friends, who have worked so hard for this book. I am especially indebted to the wise and tireless David Godwin — lion and alchemist of agents — whose enormous levels of determination and creativity only rise when the road becomes bumpy, and who has played such a crucial role in making this book what it is. Lastly, I owe infi nite thanks to Mungo Soggot, who believed I could write this book, helped in its writing, and with such good humour survived me as I wrote it.