I wrote this in Kenya, way out in the bush, while researching baboons for Baboon Child.


I couldn't sleep. I groped for my torch and looked at my watch. 3.15 am. I shuffled out from under the mosquito net, opened the door and went outside. It was cool and the grass was wet with dew. The stars were more brilliant than ever, the milky way a pale gash across the sky. I walked a few paces away from the house, listening intently in case there were elephants about. I thought how dull our western senses have become. I sniffed the air, aware of an animal smell, of something moist and earthy, but I didn't know what it was.  Suddenly from far away came a rough cry, not like a lion, more like a hyena. On the horizon, lightning flickered.

      Then, near me, I heard something breathing. I looked round, but saw nothing and went back to bed.

      We got up at 5.30, lit the lamps and had tea and toast. By six o'clock we were going out to the landrover. Huge fresh droppings were at the side of the house, a few metres from where I had stood a couple of hours before.

      "Didn't you hear them breathing in the night?" said Lusueiti. "There were elephants around us all night. They were eating the leaves of the trees from our compound."