About a book – ‘The Bottom Line’

The first book I finished this year was The Bottom Line. It was the cover that attracted me, the red soils and farmland taking me back to my childhood, spent on a farm not far from where Richard Winkfield was writing.

The book is made up of short articles, written by the author some three decades ago, for The Farmer magazine in Zimbabwe. As well as being a columnist, Richard Winkfield used to run the Agricultural Research Trust (ART) farm, outside Harare. He was the director there from 1985 – 2000, the years covered by this collection of articles, years that began with such hope for Zimbabwe’s farmers.

I know about that time, but for much of it I was outside the country. I missed the day to day, and was not present during the destructive years that ripped the farms and the farming communities apart. Reading The Bottom Line took me back there.

The stories and advice are aimed at fellow farmers. Minimum tillage is a big theme, alongisde personnel issues, and glimpses of what’s going on in the rest of the world. The book is full of resilience and hope, and refuses to let go of that hope, despite the anguish it refers to at the end.

I found the read both easy and unsettling – a bit like watching a storm develop off a shore that cannot see what is about to hit it.

If you’re interested in Zimbabwe’s farming story I hope you’ll be able to find a copy of the book. I only wish I had bought more than one. In case it might be of use here is the ISBN: 978-0-7974-4688-5.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Book Update: Innocent Victims – Rescuing the stranded animals of Zimbabwe’s farm invasions – by Cathy Buckle

What a book!

Here’s the update: the book, first published as a hardback in 2009 by Merlin Unwin, has been published again this year as a high quality paperback. The publishers say that “it is most readily available throughout Africa via The Book Depository which has the title available for £14.99, with free delivery worldwide”.

Innocent Victims is a true story, based on the first hand accounts of the Chief Inspector for the ZNSPCA (Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Meryl Harrison, who, in the early 2000s, travelled widely around the farming districts of the country as they were being wrenched apart by land reform. Supported by a small team, her mission was to rescue the animals from farms where the owners had been forced off by unpredictable, aggressive mobs, often in situations that had spiralled violently out of control.

It was an emotional, empowering read for me, as much about courage and loyalty, as it is about mayhem, and at its core is Meryl’s persistent, brave determination to help the stranded animals.

In the audio clip below I say a little more about the book, and read the first four and a half pages of Chapter One. These start with the dog that inspired Meryl and her team to begin their rescues.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2021

Book Review: The Zambezi Trilogy – Book One – The Horns by Jill Baker

The Horns – Book One of The Zambezi Trilogy by Jill Baker

This copy was given to me by a friend.

I finished The Horns on a Thursday, and that Friday, the day I set aside to review the book, Mugabe died.

The news hit me like a wave full of debris – no joy, no relief, no anger – it just thudded me on to a shore that was no longer there.

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