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Aidan Hartley rss

Aiden Hartley is the Spectator’s Wild Life columnist.

Wild Life

22 July 2009

Indian Ocean Coast I am woken at dawn by bastardised Australian and Swahili. ‘Wakey wakey hands off snakey,’ says Abo. ‘Comin’ out, malango?’ These are my surfing buddies: Daudi, Tony,… Read more

Wild Life

24 June 2009

Kenya While staying recently on a lonely farm in the Highveld east of Johannesburg, I met a grey parrot that could sing ‘Die Stem’, South Africa’s apartheid-era national anthem. That… Read more

Wild Life

27 May 2009

Zimbabwe ‘Ah, and no cake to offer you!’ Mrs H— said. ‘I would have baked one if only I’d known you were coming.’ It was teatime in Zimbabwe. A golden… Read more

Wild Life

15 April 2009

Laikipia As our farm manager Celestino Sikuku drove home with two other workers last month a gang of bandits waylaid their vehicle. It was an inside job. Somebody had revealed… Read more

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Wild Life

18 March 2009

‘Where’s Ajay?’ My producer Ed and I are making a film about India’s coalfields. ‘Ajay is busy.’ I complain, ‘But he’s our fixer. Why isn’t he out fixing things?’ In… Read more

Wild Life

18 February 2009

36,000 feet When I was a teenager on a flight to Nairobi I sat next to a pretty Kenyan girl the same age as me. We got talking. Out of… Read more

Wild life

11 December 2008

Africa I found the former President of Sierra Leone sitting beneath a mango tree outside Freetown. Valentine Strasser wore ragged shorts and nothing else, not even shoes. Sweat streamed down… Read more

What I learned from the Somali pirates

3 December 2008

Aidan Hartley says that Somali piracy is very well-organised and efficient and is opposed publicly only by militant Muslims — who may yet seize power in Mogadishu The ceaseless piracy… Read more

Wild life

26 November 2008

The Kenyan Highlands The Great Depression hit Kenya hard. European settlers were often as poor as the ordinary Africans they were supposed to lord it over. When commodity prices collapsed… Read more

Wild life

22 October 2008

Yemen For a fortnight our group has spent nights on the desert beaches east of Aden, looking out to sea. We strain to hear voices above the waves. At dawn… Read more

Wild Life

1 October 2008

Wars never get easier. Since Georgia, I have had flashbacks of an elderly woman crying her eyes out after being driven from her village by Russian bombs. When I was… Read more

Wild Life

27 August 2008

The ‘No’ republic Georgia In Gagra, where Stalin had his Black Sea dacha, a dog bit my producer Alex. Since the USSR’s collapse Gagra has been in Abkhazia, an illegal,… Read more

Wild Life

23 July 2008

Laikipia With a concussive ‘thunk’, another bird flies against our new farm house on the African plains. This happens a dozen times daily. They must be following flight paths established… Read more

Rural poor

26 March 2008

Laikipia Gabriel Barasa was a week dead and already trouble was brewing. I could tell that as I stood at his grave on the farmstead. In 1966, Kenya’s government allocated… Read more

Ambushed in Somalia

20 February 2008

As we entered the old city, the heat shimmered off coral towers half reduced to rubble by cycles of war. We had just exited Mogadishu’s presidential palace after a morning’s… Read more

Look and learn

23 January 2008

Somalia I am in a refugee camp of 200,000 war victims on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The muezzin call to prayer drifts across a sea of plastic tents set among… Read more

When elephants fight, the grass suffers

9 January 2008

As I write this, the crackle of gunfire is audible from the veranda of our farmhouse. Warriors of the Pokot and Samburu are fighting a mile away. A bushfire engulfs… Read more

Down Mexico way

12 December 2007

Nogales, Mexico After the purgatory of Arizona, I was so happy to cross the Mexico frontier I could have French-kissed the filthy streets. It was just like home in Africa.… Read more

Mid-life crisis

31 October 2007

I had an epiphany at 5.30 a.m. the other day in a Shanghai club packed with gangsters, prostitutes and flat-bellied Thai transsexuals. I watched a little guy, in his forties… Read more

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The terrible secrets of Beijing’s ‘black jails’

10 October 2007

The author’s arrest while investigating Chinese prisons A crowd of faeces-stained, starving figures with haunted eyes stared at us from behind the bars. Some looked cold and wet, as if… Read more

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Blot on the landscape

3 October 2007

Malindi I watched a nest of baby turtles hatch on the beach in front of my mother’s house recently. What a hellish start to a life, I thought. You burrow… Read more

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Bread and circuses

5 September 2007

Beijing I am in Beijing making a film about the Olympic city with an ex-Lancashire police constable named Andrew. We spend our days aimlessly zooming around vast building sites. Most… Read more

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Home truths

15 August 2007

Laikipia I ask my neighbours how one fixes a chimney. Laikipia I ask my neighbours how one fixes a chimney. ‘Throw a live, flapping turkey down it,’ says one. It… Read more

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Raid rage

25 July 2007

Northern Kenya I sat down to write this next to the skull of a Samburu cattle rustler who recently fell in battle. Nothing remains of him for us to bury… Read more

Flying high

30 May 2007

Kenya I have hated flying since 1989, when I was in a Boeing 737 that crashed into an Ethiopian mountain, lost its wings and burst into flames. Surviving that one… Read more